5 Questions Answered by Reviews Online Study (2021)

For nine years, ReviewInc has asked consumers annually, “When choosing a service or professional (such as a doctor, mechanic, plumber, attorney, etc.) what is most important?” Over 40,000 survey respondents agree in the last 9 years that reviews are the MOST important source when choosing a service or professional such as a doctor, plumber, lawyer, mechanic, etc. This year, 41.8% of respondents chose reviews online over the six other options, which are word of mouth, online advertisements, referrals, ads in newspaper/TV/radio. Yellow Pages, company’s website, and Other. We are using the same definition of these terms as last year.

Online reputation is the most important factor for consumers when deciding on a product or service. This was the single question asked of consumers: “When choosing a service or professional what is most important?”

online reviews online reviews

A multiple-choice list was provided to each person, but respondents could only choose one answer. ReviewInc conducted the study this way on purpose to focus on which factor was the most trusted. All surveys were conducted in the same manner from 2013 to 2021.


Review sites continue to be the most influential source. This year, there was a slight decrease of 2%. We believe COVID-19 was responsible for some of the changes in other numbers. There was a 3% increase in trust in the company’s website, which came in 2nd at 22.1%. Before 2021, the influence of a company’s website had been slightly declining, but with many people still sheltering at home due to the pandemic, there is no doubt that visiting a business’ website would be helpful when deciding to use a service as visiting a business on location is no longer safe and convenient. Also, this could signify a regained trust in a business’ marketing or advertising efforts.

Trust in online advertising itself dropped almost 1% this year, along with newspaper and TV ads. There continues to be a distrust in marketing efforts such as advertising even though 45% of global consumers are spending more time on social media according to a study by Holland & Knight, where many of these ads are displayed. Consumers understand advertising is funded and produced by businesses to entice them to purchase. This year since there was a large decline in trust in referral and word-of-mouth, it will be interesting to see if these numbers will rise again as the country recovers from the effects of the pandemic. This year, advertising from TV, radio, and newspaper ranked lower than the Yellow Pages. The Yellow Pages declined in trust by almost 1% this year, and this decline has been steady since 2014. It is interesting to note that the newer categories of word of mouth and referral have dropped, probably due to less in-person socializing in 2020 and 2021, even though social media is prevalent.


This year, trust in company websites increased by over 2%, most likely because people are still sheltering-in-place and not visiting businesses in person. Customers likely realize that looking at a business’ website is a great way to learn about a business if they do not feel safe visiting their physical location.

reviews trusted by ageIS THERE A GENERATION GAP?

Baby Boomers have been growing in their trust of review sites – in our survey in 2018, only 36.8% chose them as most important. In 2020, there was also a sharp decline to 33.9%. However, trust rose in 2019 and again this year in 2021 to 38.4%.

The number of Gen Z, Millennials, and Gen X respondents to answered with reviews, however, is dropping in small increments, perhaps due to the influence of social media and an intermittent trust in the Yellow Pages.


The Yellow Pages is a curious case. From 2014 to 2017, there was a large decline in importance, however, in 2019, our survey results saw an uptick for Millennials and Baby Boomers. In 2020, Gen Z showed a spike for Yellow Pages at 10.2%. However, the numbers have dropped again this year in 2021 across all ages.

gender reviews


In the last eight years, women continue to answer that they trust reviews online the most when deciding on a service. This year, 46.42% of all female respondents chose reviews, which is slightly down from last year. The number of men who trust reviews (39.7%) is up almost 1% this year. It is significant that women trust reviews, as they make many purchasing decisions in a family, including gifts and professionals to do business with.


  • The online reputation of a business is more important to consumers than its website or advertising efforts.
  • Women, men, and consumers of all ages trust review sites when making purchasing decisions.
  • The growth of online reviews results in more revenue growth opportunities for your business.
  • Integrate social media with your online reputation management strategy to reach all ages.

Interested in a free consultation on improving your overall reputation management and getting more reviews online? Give us a call at 877-973-8439 or chat with us at ReviewInc.com to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

You can also request a FREE Reputation Report or eBook about Reputation Management today to learn more.