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What does the text in your Yelp reviews reveal about your business?

This is the question that UC Berkeley School of Information student Eunkwang Joo and computer science students James Huang and Stephanie Rogers recently sought to answer. Participating in (and winning) the Yelp Dataset Challenge – a contest wherein Yelp lets students use the site’s review data in new, insightful ways – Joo and company analyzed online Yelp reviews by using a generative probabilistic model for natural language processing. They discovered that, while Yelp ratings are represented by a single number (one to five stars), the text found in reviews can reveal a more complicated story.

(Check out: “How Yelp Drives Local Purchases: 82 Percent of Yelpers Visit Online Review Site Before Buying”)

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Their findings pinpointed specific areas of interest for Yelp-listed restaurants, and showed that Yelpers care most about service, value, takeout, and décor. Service was the most important element, having appeared in almost 9 percent of all the reviews analyzed. They also found a way to automatically reveal these areas of interest (“latent subtopics”) in order to predict the rating that a restaurant might receive on Yelp.

The study is called “Improving Restaurants by Extracting Subtopics from Yelp Reviews”. Here are some of the most interesting findings:

  • Restaurants are rated 0.4 stars lower when they’re at their busiest – meaning that users are less likely to rate restaurants highly during peak times.
  • Yelp users are ten times more likely to mention “Groupon” in a negative review than in a positive one.
  • Quality of food is highly correlated with service. This means that the perceptions of Yelp users when it comes to food quality are often influenced by perceptions of service – and vice versa.
  • When it comes to perceptions of service, Asian restaurants, particularly those specializing in Thai cuisine, tend to be the most polarizing, generating strongly positive or strongly negative reviews. Meanwhile, Western cuisine restaurants seem to successfully avoid the worst service lists, while making up a majority of reviews praising excellent service.
reputation monitoring

Here at ReviewTrackers we also analyze online reviews in order to help business owners improve their performance. Our review management and reputation monitoring tool features advanced analytics that enable clients to gain important insights from customers – and to respond in ways that positively impact bottom line. Want to take ReviewTrackers for a test drive? Sign up for a free trial today.

Migs Bassig

Migs is the Content Manager for ReviewTrackers. He's a creative writer who has helped numerous companies communicate more effectively online, and he loves sharing his local marketing knowledge to help brands and business succeed.

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