Someone Left a Negative Review. Now What?

March 1, 2020
Posted in Blogs
March 1, 2020 Melissa

Taking control of your online reputation is a business imperative. To succeed in business today, you must have your best foot forward at all times. For local businesses this can be entirely dependent on the reviews that show up when a potential customer does a search for your business.

What’s the impact of a negative review?

The occasional negative review is nothing to be alarmed about, however acting quickly to mitigate any damage caused by a scathing review is a must. Bad customer reviews can directly affect your reputation and your business’ bottom line.

A study into online consumer reviews on local businesses found a business’ online reputation heavily impacts purchasing behaviour.

  • 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business.
  • The average consumer reads 10 reviews before trusting a local business.
  • 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
  • Positive reviews make 91% of consumers more likely to use a business.
  • 82% of consumers will be put off by negative reviews.

Customers are basing their buying decisions on the user-generated content they read. Whether you should have an Online Reputation Management strategy is not up for debate. In a 2018 study by Trip Advisor, 97% of travel and hospitality businesses stressed the importance of online reviews and 98% said a positive online reputation management is critical to their business.

Aside from deterring potential customers, bad online reviews can damage your business’ rank in Google. Since online reviews account for up to 10% of algorithm decisions in local search, negative reviews can push your website down the search engine results page, snatching away your competitive advantage.

Do negative reviews really drive away business?

An in-depth analysis of transactions and online review data from more than 200,000 local businesses found that negative reviews drive away business. One negative review drives away 22% of prospects. The percentage of lost customers increases with businesses losing 59% of prospects to three negative reviews; and more than four negative reviews deterring up to 70% of customers.

Yes, online reviews really do impact business revenue.

What if the negative review is obviously fake?

If the review is fake, you can take some steps to have it removed. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee, but for the sake of your reputation, it’s worth a try.

Firstly, quickly and calmly respond to the review for the sake of your reputation. If it’s fake, state your evidence that’s it’s fake, then ask the reviewer to edit or delete it. Reviewers get a notification when you reply to their review. Give them 24 hours to read your reply and edit their review. If the reviewer is uncooperative, you can flag the review as a violation of the site’s terms and conditions.

You have the best chance of getting the review removed by the site owner if the review breaches the site’s terms and conditions. Otherwise, if you can demonstrate that the review is fake or has been left by a competitor or disgruntled former employee, the site owner may agree to delete it.

Google is notorious for avoiding content take-downs. If things get desperate, fill out the form for a legal removal request.

Note that some types of negative content are illegal, such as defamatory language, false or misleading information or intent to damage your business reputation.

Cyber investigations can be used in extremely difficult reputation management cases.

Court may be used as a final resort. A dentist in Australia made headlines for taking Google to court for the right to learn the personal details of an anonymous account that left a damaging review about his practice on Google.

The review’s not fake, so what now?

It’s time to understand your detractors.

Harsh feedback can be difficult to hear, but it is a perfect opportunity to learn more about your audience and what is/isn’t working in your business. Negative reviews can be a chance to fix the problems causing customers to defect from your business.

Get in touch privately and take the complaint offline. If you are at fault, apologise. If there’s two sides to the story, explain your side calmly. Taking responsibility and demonstrating that you care enough to listen can do wonders to neutralise a situation. Once you’ve had a chance to resolve the customer’s issue, ask the reviewer to edit their comments.

What steps can I take to improve my online reputation?

More positive reviews will drown out the negative voices. 85% of consumers think local reviews older than 3 months aren’t relevant, so one of the best defences is to earn more positive reviews from customers.

Online Reputation Management platforms, such as Orbit, give you the tools to run surveys and request reviews via email and sms. Feedback campaigns can help to identify customer advocates and remind them to leave a review. Going forward provide friendly customer service that welcomes both good and bad feedback.

As they say prevention is better than the cure, so ensure that you implement good practices going forward to prevent a potential future crisis. Links on your website, social media accounts and email signatures can encourage customers to review you and direct reviews to the websites you value most.

In addition to generating more positive reviews, create other content that will rank highly in search results and counter negative mentions. Suppression is an SEO strategy used in Online Reputation Management to push undesirable content down in search results. The process aids new and existing content to move up the ranks. Over time, the best content is most visible in searches.

Is it time to go green?

An evergreen strategy creates a constant flow of good content on owned channels, such as social media, blogs or business listings. Do this and monitor the digital environment closely and continually. A pre-emptive approach is the best way to mitigate risk to your online reputation.


Melissa How M.COM(MKTG) M.E.I. founded Marketing Wise in 2010 and has delivered digital marketing projects and campaigns for more than thirty organisations. She is a thought leader on Online Reputation Management for local businesses.