1-Star Reviews Have Increased on Yelp for 4 Years in a Row
Joy Hawkins

Yelp releases data every year that shows the star rating distribution for all reviews left on their site. I recorded the numbers that were listed in their reports for the last 4 years to see what trends they show.  There are two main things that stick out:

  1. The number of people that leave 2, 3, and 4 star reviews is shrinking.
  2. The number of 5-star reviews and 1-star reviews is increasing.  While the 5-star category did not grow at all in the last year, the 1-star category has increased for the last 4 years.
    Star Rating Distribution on Yelp

    Star Rating Distribution on Yelp

Why are Yelp Reviews so Negative?

According to a study done at Northwestern University in 2020, restaurant ratings on Google Maps are, on average, 0.7 stars higher than those on Yelp.  We constantly see businesses with lower average ratings on Yelp compared to Google and other sites.  For example, this business has a 4-star average on Booking.com, TripAdvisor, and Google, yet Yelp has them at 3 stars.

Here are a couple things that likely cause Yelp reviews to be more negative than Google’s.

  1. Yelp’s review filter removes a lot of positive reviews that are fake. This study by the FTC shows that fake reviews can account for about half of the higher average rating for low quality businesses on Google compared to Yelp.
  2. Yelp doesn’t allow businesses to solicit reviews.  This study done by Northwestern University in 2016 found that self-motivated reviews tend to be more negative, on average, compared to reviews that are solicited from the business.

If you’re interested in learning more about review trends, be sure to attend our next virtual event where Curtis Boyd will be talking about the data and analytics of 1000 fake review takedown requests.

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Joy is the owner of the Local Search Forum, LocalU, and Sterling Sky, a Local SEO agency in Canada & the USA. She has been working in the industry since 2006, writes for publications such as Search Engine Land, and enjoys speaking regularly at marketing conferences such as MozCon, LocalU, Pubcon, SearchLove, and State of Search. You can find her on Twitter or volunteering as a Product Expert on the Google My Business Forum.