Denial of Reputation Attack

Denial-of-Reputation-AttackCan a group of people deny a legitimate business of their online reputation? In the parlance of cyber-security, a Denial of Service Attack is when a hacker overwhelms a website with so much illegitimate web traffic, that legitimate traffic can’t get access to the site. The same idea can be used in social media to attack or even drown out public opinion. But now, review sites are being used to target individuals and their business essentially denying them a legitimate online reputation.

On July 28, news media reported a story about a dentist, Dr. Walter Palmer, of River Bluff Dental, who was also an avid big-game hunter. On one Dr. Palmer’s hunting jaunt in Zimbabwe, he shot and killed a beloved lion. Cecil, the affectionate name given to the lion, was living in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park where it had protected status and was collared as part of a long-term study. Cecil was a favorite among tourists and a point of pride for Zimbabwe. Palmer had paid more than $50,000 for this hunting trip and hired two guides who apparently misled him to believe that Cecil was fair game (and could be legally shot). While the guides have since been arrested, Dr. Palmer’s legal fate was yet to be determined. Legal or not, that didn’t stop the general public from avenging Cecil’s killing.

Thousands of reviewers have thoroughly destroyed Dr. Walter Palmer’s and his dental practice. A day after the story broke, his Yelp and Google+ pages logged well over 5,000 reviews in a 24 hour period. All the reviews were one-star reviews. A handful gave 5-star with very negative comments. Any legitimate review of River Bluff Dental was basically drowned out by what we call a Denial of Reputation Attack. Is this a legitimate use of review sites?

ReviewInc surveyed 1,000 U.S. Consumers on the legitimacy of writing reviews. Respondents were given multiple answer choices on the question of “You can legitimately write an online review about a business (on sites such as Yelp and Google+).” The possible answers included type of customer, employed by the business, just heard allegations or want to destroy their name. Not surprisingly, most of respondents recognized that current and former customers should be recognized as legitimate reviews. However, over 8% of respondents believed that current and former employees should legitimately write reviews even if they are not customers of that business. Slightly more than 5% felt that they could write reviews based on hearsay, while 4.5% felt they could write reviews just to destroy someone’s business.


Survey: When Can You Legitimately Write a ReviewReviewInc applauds Yelp’s stance on this matter. Yelp said in a statement that “Media-fueled reviews typically violate our content guidelines. One of these deals with relevance. For example, reviews aren’t the place for rants about a business’s employment practices, political ideologies, extraordinary circumstances, or other matters that don’t address the core of the consumer experience.”

The company added that Yelp reviews are required to describe a firsthand consumer experience, not what someone read in the news. “Our user support team ultimately removes reviews that violate these guidelines.” Indeed, a quick glance of some of the 6449 reviews on the one-star rated River Bluff Dental’s page, are from out of state.WalterJPalmerDDS---Yelp-Page-on-2015-07-29

As of this writing, Google+ reviews for River Bluff Dental have yet to be removed. As you can see in the picture, they are all mostly personal attacks on Dr. Palmer.

July 30, 2015, 7:25PM PDT:  It appears that Google+ has also filtered most of the reviews, however there are still around 200 reviews – most of which driven by the media regarding Cecil the lion.


ReviewInc can help businesses get more legitimate reviews everywhere and enhance their reputation. A large number of legitimate reviews can also help shield a business from personal attacks. For a no obligation consultation call ReviewInc at 877-9REVIEW or leave a note here and have an expert contact you.

Anonymous Reviews – Good or Bad Idea?

Anonymous Reviewer

Are Anonymous Reviews a Good or Bad idea?  ReviewInc put this question to a test. In July 2015, we asked 3,001 U.S. Consumers about writing a business review anonymously. We gave each of them the choice of multiple answers. In general, 63.1% of the consumers provided reasons in support of anonymous reviews where as 44.6% provided reasons that they would be against anonymous reviews. Reasons in support of anonymous reviews included:

  • Protected Free SpeechScales of Justice - Anonymous Reviews
  • Protects the reviews from retaliation
  • Makes it more likely that a review would be written.

Reasons against anonymous reviews included:

  • Undermining the Integrity of the Review
  • That it is wrong to hide one’s identity (when writing a review)
  • That is should be against the law.

Protection of Free Speech was cited as the most popular response (at 35.6% of all responses), still, the second most popular response indicated that consumers recognized that anonymous reviews undermine the trust (or integrity) of the review.
Anonymous Reviews

There were some significant and interesting differences in responses when comparing demographics such as age group, gender and income level. It was interesting to note that 43% of  Millennials or Gen-Y (18-34 year olds) had a much stronger opinion about anonymous reviews being protected free speech when compared to older groups at 32%. The Millennials didn’t seem to feel that the integrity of the reviews would be as affected, but were nearly twice the opinion that anonymous reviews would protect them from retaliation which would also make them much more likely to write a review (if it was anonymous). Conversely, the older the age group, the more they felt that it was wrong to hide one’s identity (when writing a business review) and maybe should even be against the law.Anonymous Reviews by Age Group

In some cases, responses by gender were quite significant.  While both genders had a near equal opinion that anonymous reviews were protected free speech, men felt more strongly that anonymous reviews undermined the trust (or integrity) of the review. However women, felt more strongly that the ability to write an anonymous review would make them more likely to write a review.

Anonymous Reviews by Gender

When examining income levels associated with opinions about anonymous reviews there was a strange anomaly. On several answers, those with high earnings and those with little to no earnings seemed to respond similarly to those with mid-range incomes. Why?  Presumably, they had more vulnerabilities but for different reasons. Those with higher income were vulnerable financially because they are a larger financial target to something like a lawsuit and have more to lose. Those with little or no income were, well, are just very vulnerable to attack with no meaningful type of protection.

Anonymous Reviews by Income

While internet users can disguise or hide their identity, we agree that reviews associated with an identifiable customer, client or patient carry far more weight and value than do anonymous reviews. Reviews on sites like Google+, Yelp or Facebook have policies against anonymous reviews (as do many other review sites). However, even with a large number of anonymous unique reviews about a business that include detailed text descriptions (not just a rating value), consumers do get a clear picture of a business, establishment, product or service.

ReviewInc can help businesses get more reviews everywhere and enhance their reputation. For a no obligation consultation call ReviewInc at 877-9REVIEW or leave a note here and have an expert contact you.



Marketing Mix Investment Gap: Online Reviews

no hear no speak no see

Business owners and executives underestimate the value of  investing in online reputation management.  A new landmark study by ReviewInc reveals a significant gap in the preferred advertising and marketing mediums of businesses when compared to what consumers actually pay attention to. In May and June 2015, ReviewInc conducted a study of 1,020 U.S. business owners, general managers, executives and marketing managers. The study asked them to identify which advertising medium they believed was most effective for their business.  The study was immediately followed with a survey of 1,000 U.S consumers.  The same mediums of advertising identified by the business owners were presented to U.S. consumers in which they were asked which of them they trusted most.  Based on the results, ReviewInc was able to identify advertising mediums in which businesses appeared over-invested and mediums in which they were under-invested.  A gap of 5% or less was categorized as in line with a good marketing mix.  A gap of +/-6% to +/-10% was categorized as marginally in line with a good marketing mix. Anything above +/-10% would be out of bounds.  These out of bounds categories should be heavily considered for either increased or decreased advertising budget investment.

Advertising Investment GapOnline Reviews (such as on Yelp, Google+ and other review sites) were identified by consumers as the most trusted advertising medium by far.  However, business owners believed that their website and social media ads were more effective.  Only 11.1% of business owners identified Online Reviews as the most effective.  This resulted in a significant under-investment gap of 25.7%, the only gap above the 10% threshold – and by a long shot!

The second most trusted medium was traditional media (Radio/TV/Newspaper). Interestingly, this is still the most expensive adverting group.  Considering that reputation management with online reviews is one of the cheapest forms of advertising, the combination of the under-investment gap with the return on investment value clearly implies that businesses should increase their investment in online reputation management and online reviews management.
Consumer Trust in Ad MediumBusiness - Preferred Advertising Medium

Online business reputation is an investment. Smart businesses are already increasing their investment in online reputation management systems and online reviews management. Can a business afford to wait while their competitors take advantage of this dramatic shift in marketing strategy?

ReviewInc can help businesses get more reviews everywhere and enhance their reputation.  For a no obligation consultation call ReviewInc at 877-9REVIEW or leave a note here and have an expert contact you.

Is There Bias in Reviews and Ratings?

Bias In ReviewsBusinesses thrive or wither with their online reputation that is driven by their reviews and ratings.  And because 88% of consumers trust reviews as much as personal recommendation, business reviews are getting more attention than ever.  That’s why we wondered how consumers perceive reviews.  Are they balanced? Or, is there a bias in these reviews.

Bias Survey 2015A

ReviewInc asked 1,498 U.S. consumers to indicate whether online reviews were balanced, biased to the negative or biased to the positive based on a 7 point scale where the mid-point (“4″) was balanced.   While a significant population believed reviews were balanced, there was clearly a significant population that believed there was bias.  But, was the bias equally balanced between the positive and the negative?  The answer is clearly no.  A higher negative bias exists.   Consumers appear to be aware that there are more negative reviews than positive reviews.  Why?  It’s human nature.  When people are angry and dissatisfied they look to vent.  In the past, they’ll tell their friends, but now there are public forums that provide these angry people a place to satisfy their feelings.  They vent publicly, perhaps to exact revenge on a hapless business trying to eke out a living.

In 2013, ReviewInc conducted a similar survey based on a 3 point scale (negative bias, balanced, and public bias).  While the biases existed, the negative bias was less pronounced compared to the positive bias.

Bias Survey 2015C

We compared that study to this one by grouping the negative bias groups (1 and 2) into one group, the more balanced groups (3,4 and 5) into another group and finally the positive bias groups (6 and 7) into a positive bias group.  It is clearly evident that in 2015, there is a greater feeling from consumers that reviews can be more negatively biased.

Bias Survey 2015D

Like in the 2013 survey, we wondered if there was a gender bias associated with the perception of reviews.  On the whole, there was no gender bias except for the negatively biased perception of reviews.  In that case, males were 50% more likely to suggest a negative bias than females.

Bias Survey 2015B

Your business reputation is an investment. With significantly increasing consumer traffic to popular review sites such as these (and many others), business owners and marketing managers need to take more control of their online reviews.

ReviewInc can help your business get more reviews everywhere and enhance your reputation.  For a no obligation consultation call us at 877-9REVIEW or leave us a note here and we’ll contact you.



The Most Trusted Website for Business Reviews and Ratings

Meme - Trusted Review SitesLast month, ReviewInc surveyed 1939 U.S. consumers on which review site they trusted the most.  Each user was presented with 7 random review sites and asked which of those 7 they trusted the most.    Google+ Local topped the results at 47.3% (unweighted) as the most trusted website for reviews.  A surprise 2nd place finish was the Better Business Bureau.  This was mostly driven by the 45+ age groups which placed Google+ and BBB as their top choices.   The 18-44 age groups placed Yelp and Yahoo as their 2nd and 3rd most trusted website for reviews.

Most Trusted Review SiteWith thousands of review sites globally, this survey is only the tip of the iceberg.  There are many specialty review sites that focus on particular verticals or locales.  None the less, it is a very good indicator.  More importantly, search engine results must be weighed against the trust scores.  For instance, the BBB receives 28% of its traffic from search engines compared to Yahoo which receives only 5.5% of its traffic from search engines.  A closer examination of search results compared to rankings shows a wide discrepancy between trust scores, search traffic, and even bounce rate.  No doubt, all these factors would be considered by advertisers.

Review Site Survey Trust Score (unweighted) Alexa Global Rank Rank in United States Bounce Rate Daily Pageviews per Visitors Daily Time on Site Search Visits
Google+ 47.3% 1 1 20.20% 19.53 18:12 0.80%
Better Business Bureau 33.0% 1,538 540 52.50% 3.58 4:41 28.40%
Yahoo 31.2% 5 5 29.30% 7.43 7:50 5.50%
Yelp 28.9% 132 32 39.30% 4.13 4:07 26.90%
Facebook 22.3% 2 2 34.90% 11.63 17:37 3.70%
TripAdvisor 21.9% 194 70 42.80% 3.83 4:42 30.00%
Angie’s List 21.8% 2,276 519 46.20% 4.11 4:39 23.20%
Bing 17.0% 23 18 31.50% 5.38 4:43 2.10%
YellowPages ( 13.4% 930 250 53.80% 2.39 2:10 31.10%
UrbanSpoon 9.9% 1,752 645 48.40% 3.47 2:13 32.50%
Glassdoor 8.7% 460 147 35.30% 4.51 4:14 22.40% 8.3% 3,183 1,524 54.10% 2.47 2:30 32.50%
CitySearch 7.3% 11,956 5,114 63.10% 2.56 1:50 20.90%
HealthGrades 7.2% 2,378 615 46.20% 2.68 2:47 36.40%
Foursquare 6.0% 947 997 53.00% 2.34 2:17 25.10% 5.1% 5,269 1,715 69.10% 2.17 1:49 28.10%
RateMDs 4.7% 21,720 9,016 55.80% 2.87 2:55 34.70%
ShowMeLocal 4.4% 12,499 21,098 43.20% 6 4:10 11.30%
TrustLink 3.8% 129,951 54,937 54.70% 2.7 2:20 25.70%
YellowBot 3.1% 15,939 14,458 54.00% 3.28 2:28 21.10%
MerchantCircle 2.9% 6,438 3,510 68.10% 2.68 1:56 33.30%
MojoPages 2.8% 39,461 14,827 19.10% 3.58 3:36 4.20%

To maximize their value, business owners are urged to make sure they are listed on as many review sites as possible.  Moreover, getting reviews from clients onto these sites will make those listings even more valuable.  The Google search engine prioritizes listings with a larger number of recent reviews over those with less reviews.

To find out more about how ReviewInc can help your business, call us at 877-9REVIEW or leave us a note here and we’ll contact you.