Knowing When and When Not to Leave Online Reviews

Something that has been top-of-mind for me lately is the phenomenon of online reviews. I’ll get into why, but first, let’s briefly look at the history of online reviews. It is not a new practice by any means, but it has evolved into quite a double-edged sword over the years. Before 1999, most online reviews were limited to merchant and product reviews on sites like eBay. The only business reviews you could find were on Better Business Bureau. In the early 2000s, we start to see review sites pop up or existing companies add online reviews to their large directory of businesses, such as Yellowpages. In 2002, Google Reviews was created and, in 2004, Yelp was founded. This undoubtedly changed the game for businesses, and it wasn’t even until 2009 when businesses were allowed to publicly respond to reviews.

Today, we are still seeing the impact of online reviews increase. Not only does feedback from previous customers have a psychological affect on us, but online search rankings are directly affected as well. According to BIA/Kelsey and ConStat, nearly all consumers (97%) use online media to shop locally, so businesses can’t ignore these stats. Did you know that Google has created something called a “Google Local Pack”, which are the top three local business listings that appear in response to a Google search for products or services provided by businesses in your area? Unlike organic search results, which are taken from Google’s index of websites, the listings in the Local Pack originate from the Google My Business directory. The second most important factor for Local Pack rankings, at 33%, are reviews. This knowledge is power—smart business owners will prioritize asking their clients for an online review after delivering a positive experience to them—but it is also a little scary.

Something that happened to Strictly Business recently is we got a 1-Star review from a bot-looking user that no one on our team was familiar with. They didn’t leave a comment, just the ranking. This took our overall ranking from a 5 to a 4.5. That is insane! There are bored and careless people in the world who go around leaving bad reviews for businesses they’ve never even worked with. I’ve also heard horror stories of competitors or disgruntled past employees leaving bad reviews or people making up accounts on a company’s review page as a way of personal vengeance against someone at the company. Just to hammer home how damaging this can be to a company, the latest data says that about 94% of people have let a negative review convince them to avoid a business ( This is why I encourage everyone to take the overall ranking score with a grain of salt. If you’re going to make purchasing decisions off of reviews, make sure you’re thorough about it. Also, it’s important to look at the company’s responses to the reviews they get, especially the negative ones. This will shed a lot of light on the situation.

I could go on about this topic because there are a lot more really interesting statistics around reviews that are beneficial for both the business and consumer to be aware of, but I’ll wrap up by encouraging you to take the time to leave genuine positive reviews for your favorite local businesses. On the flip side, if you do have a negative experience at a local business, don’t forget where we are. This is Omaha. We know each other here. Reach out to the owner of the business personally with your complaint, giving them the opportunity to make it right and change your opinion before you put a giant stain on their online image. Just think about how resilient a lot of local businesses had to be to get through COVID. Have some grace and be a part of building the local economy back up, not tearing it down. It’s good to hold businesses accountable and the option to leave an online review does create that accountability, but it should be a last resort. On that note, if you enjoy reading Strictly Business or advertising with us, please give us a review! If I’ve done business with you, don’t hesitate to ask the same of me.

I hope you and yours have a very Merry Christmas! Make time for praise and gratitude this month. It is truly my favorite time of the year because it’s a time of making joyful memories with friends and family, and it’s a time to praise God for all the blessings he has given us. After all, Jesus is the reason for the season!