When it comes to a review profile, balance is key. Having too many 1-star reviews or 5-star reviews isn’t believable. Consumers want to find balance; they want to see the pros and cons side-by-side and make a decision from there. Well, according to a study of online reviews last year, balanced reviews most often come from productive reviewers. In other words, extreme ratings (1-star and 5-star) tend to come from people who only write a single review. Have a look at this chart:
That’s from Anonymity, Social Image, and the Competition for Volunteers: A Case Study of the Online Market for Reviews by Zhongmin Wang, a study published last year that looks at the review patterns at Yelp, Citysearch and Yahoo Local.
The chart (it’s hard to read due to size, sorry) basically shows that extreme ratings are more likely to be found at Citysearch and Yahoo Local than at Yelp.
The proportion of 5-star ratings at Yelp (24.2%) is less than half of that at Citysearch (50.3%) or at Yahoo Local (58.8%). The proportion of 1-star ratings at Yelp (5.9%) is less than half of that at Citysearch (16.4%) and it is also smaller than that at Yahoo Local (6.9%). Correspondingly, Yelp has much higher proportions of 2-star, 3-star, and 4-star ratings than either Citysearch or Yahoo Local.
It makes sense if you think about it: The more reviews a person publishes, the less likely those reviews will be extreme in their praise or criticism.
The study also makes the case that Yelp is the place where you’ll find the most productive reviewers: 71% of Citysearch users and 56% of Yahoo Local users have posted only one review, compared to only 9% of Yelp users who’ve written one review. Yelp, the study says, has the most productive reviewer community and the most balanced reviews. It’s really an interesting study and I highly recommend the PDF download if this interests you.
I wrote about it in much more detail — including an analysis of how Google fits into all of this — on Search Engine Land this morning: