Author | Chatmeter TeamDate Posted | June 19, 2019

The History of Online Business Reviews

Since the introduction of online local business reviews in 1999, the impact reviews have had on businesses and consumers alike has grown over time. Today, 20 years later, reviews are the most powerful marketing tool a brand has. Let’s take a look at how reviews have changed throughout the years and why online reviews are so important to a brand’s longevity.

20 Years of Online Reviews

Pre-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.

1999 – The original three review websites appeared online: Rate It All, Deja, and Epinions.

2001 – Citysearch and Yellowpages added online reviews to their already large directory of businesses.

2002 – Google buys Deja intellectual property such as Usenet search technology, trademarks and the code and systems that operate the Usenet service.

2003 – DealTime acquires Epinions as a way to help shoppers “pre-qualify” products.

2004 – Yelp was founded to help connect people with local businesses.

2005 – Yelp revamps to allow users to publicly share their reviews.

2007 – RateItAll teams up with Musestorm to create widgets. These widgets could be shared by users to display their RateItAll lists on websites.

2009 – Businesses are now allowed to publicly respond to reviews on Yelp, Google follows a year later.

Check out this hilarious treasure from 2009:

2012 – Businesses start using review generation tactics to earn more reviews.

2012 – Apple Maps and Bing are now powered by Yelp reviews.

2012 – Facebook takes the lead as the site with the largest quantity of reviews.

2014 – The controversial act of Review Gating is introduced.

2015 – Amazon Alexa teams up with Yelp to power local business listings.

2016 – Reviews now account for 8.4% of how Google ranks a local business.

2017 – Google surpasses Facebook as the site with the largest quantity of reviews. This is largely due to Google’s mobile push notifications.

2017 – Amazon’s fake reviews problem causes customers to lose trust in product reviews.

2017 – Reviews grow to make up 13.13% of how Google ranks a local business.

2017 – Yelp cracks down on review solicitation.

2018 – Yelp and Google create public policies against review generation and review gating.

2018 – Facebook changes from star ratings and reviews to recommendations.

2018 – TripAdvisor releases a study that shows responding to reviews does increase the number of positive reviews a brand gets.

2018 – Reviews grow to account for 15.4% of Google local ranking factors.

Stats on Online Reviews in 2019

97% of consumers read local business reviews.

95% of consumers read online reviews before making a purchase.

88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. This stat increases to 91% for 18-34 year olds.

Only 13% of consumers will consider using a business with a 1 or 2-star rating.

When businesses respond to a negative review, 33% of people will update their original review. 34% will delete the review.

Not responding to reviews or comments on social media can increase customer churn by up to 15%.

A one-star increase in Yelp rating leads to a 5-9% increase in revenue.

Displaying reviews can increase conversion rates by 270%

20 years after the introduction of online reviews, brands have found that reviews are a vital part of the longevity of their business. Today, every brand needs to be monitoring and responding to reviews, analyzing review sentiment, and applying customer feedback in-store. Reviews have grown to become an essential part of the business across multiple departments from customer service to marketing, operations, all the way up to the C-suite. From search rankings to customer acquisition and loyalty, reviews impact more than just your reputation.

Want to see how your review strategy stacks up? Click here to learn more about our review management tools for multi-location brands and agencies.