Google reviews have a huge impact on your small business’ digital marketing and local SEO strategy. Connected to your Google Business Profile, Google reviews are used to rate and rank your business in the local search results. Although you probably dread finding negative reviews, understanding when those reviews impact your local SEO helps ensure your online reputation remains intact.
Surprisingly, negative reviews aren’t necessarily the downfall of your business. As long as you are quick to respond, you can manage damage control and help your business appear in a more positive light. Here we look at how negative reviews impact your local SEO strategy with a few tips to make them work in your favor.
A Few Negative Reviews Aren’t the End of the World
Most people understand negative reviews should be taken with a grain of salt. Cranky customers might have a bad day, while customers with extremely high expectations are simply impossible to please. Also, it is possible someone might write a bad review for their own benefit, i.e. a competitor or even a disgruntled ex-employee. As a result, the odd negative review can’t completely wipe away all the positive reviews you have.
There are a few reasons why:
- Number of reviews: Search engines look at the overall number of reviews when ranking you in the SERPS. This includes the bad ones. Google considers the number of reviews because two positive reviews don’t make a company stellar, while 500 positive reviews with two negative reviews don’t make a company terrible. Google sees it this way: The more reviews you have, the more social proof there is to legitimize your business as a local company. Therefore, a mix of reviews, with the majority positive, gives you credibility.
- Rating versus reviews: Most people look at the total number of reviews and the average rating as opposed to reading the individual reviews and comments. This is the quickest way to size up a company without having to read too much. As a result, that one finicky little review casting dispersion on your business has very little impact, even if someone seeks it out and reads it.
The Good, the Bad and the Timing of Reviews
There are a few different ways Google looks at reviews. First, a few recent overall reviews are better than 500 stale reviews in Google’s eyes. Google likes to see fresh content, so having new reviews is very important. Next, having only a few very positive reviews is worse for your business than having a few negative reviews among several overall reviews. This goes back to Google considering how many reviews you have in total when ranking you in the SERPS. Last, having a smattering of negative reviews or lower star ratings is better than having all positive reviews, as this raises suspicions.
To help maintain a positive online reputation, you should ask your customers to rate and review your business. This ensures you create an ongoing flow of updated reviews that are authentic, fresh, and reflective of actual customer experiences.
Possibly Fake Negative Reviews
If you feel a review is fake, you do have the option to flag it. This is sometimes a risky move because the last thing you want to do is flag a legitimate complaint as fake. Also, too many flags will negatively impact your SEO. So how do you know when a review is fake? There are a few tell-tale signs:
- The reviewer makes specific mention of a competitor
- You recognize the reviewer as someone with a gripe with you or your business, such as an ex-employee or competitor
- You usually have good reviews, but suddenly a bunch of negative reviews come in at once
- You search the customer’s name, and they don’t appear in your customer database
If you find any of these signs with negative reviews, you can share your suspicions with Google to explain why the review was flagged as inappropriate.
People are suspicious at heart. Consider the blind date set-up. The more a friend builds up someone they want you to date, the more suspicious it feels. Instead of thinking wow, that person sounds great, your reaction is more likely, okay, what’s wrong with them? The same applies to online reviews. If you have nothing but positive reviews, people aren’t comfortable with that idea. No one is perfect, so your reviews seem fake.
Negative reviews actually help your business seem more credible because it shows your positive reviews are more likely legit. A moderate showing of positive reviews actually tracks better than excessive positive reviews. Too much happiness gets the skeptics doubting, while well-rounded reviews with varying degrees of comments feel much more believable.
Build Stronger Relationships
Negative comments can help build stronger relationships and, in turn, improve SEO. Google encourages business owners to respond to negative reviews and ensure the needs of the customer are met. Often bad reviews come from an atypical scenario with customers looking for resolutions. If you ignore negative reviews and low ratings, you tell customers you don’t care.
On the other hand, if you are quick to respond and find a resolution, you demonstrate your commitment to customer service and satisfaction. Also, you can add a little plug for your company saying you are committed to customer service and take all complaints very seriously.
Providing your contact information and encouraging the reviewer to reach out to you personally also takes the conversation offline. Once the issue is resolved, you can ask the customer to update their review to show people you were able to provide a solution that made them happy.
Negative Reviews Can Make Your Business Stronger
Another “benefit” of getting negative reviews is that you’re also getting feedback about your business. This is an opportunity to turn complaints into actionable improvements. An issue might occur because something is lacking in your products or customer service. You can look for ways not just to satisfy an unhappy customer but also to ensure it never happens again.
Negative Reviews are More Accurate
When customers are disappointed, there could be a very legitimate reason that has nothing to do with you. For example, someone might say they arrived at your store only to find you don’t carry a certain brand or product. You can clarify this has always been the case and even recommend a local company that does carry that product. The type of complaint is very important, as it has nothing to do with how you run your business.
Other issues that aren’t your fault might be someone arriving at your doors when you are closed, despite the fact your hours have always been clearly listed on your Google profile or complaining you sold out of a product when you actually took the time to post you’re out of stock on your social media, website, and Google posts. You gain credibility by sharing accurate information about your business, products, and services to avoid misconceptions and help establish trust.
Negative Reviews Provide Ideas for Content
Negative reviews could indicate your website, Google Business profile, or social media need more information. You can use the review to either create or update content, so your audience understands you better. Whether you failed to deliver something, your promises didn’t meet expectations, or your information is vague, you can make amends by creating more robust content and product/service descriptions to avoid future misunderstandings. The reviews might also provide great content for your FAQs.
Can You Remove Negative Reviews?
The simple answer is yes. The longer, more accurate answer is yes BUT it is challenging. Google understands it is possible someone could purposefully create an offensive or inaccurate review. You have two courses of action to take:
- Approach the reviewer: You can ask the reviewer to take it down, although this is not likely to see the results you desire.
- Tell Google: Google has strict review policies they expect users to follow. If you find the review does not align with Google’s policies, you can bring it to their attention. Google will have to consider your complaint as they are committed to protecting users from issues ranging from conflicts of interest to spamming and from offensive content to irrelevant content. Although Google uses spam checkers that automatically remove spammy reviews, you do have a right to bring inappropriate content to their attention. To help speed up the process, be sure you report your concerns right away. It can also be more effective to send reports from multiple accounts, such as customer service team members, friends, and customers. This makes the concerns about the review breaching Google policies feel more urgent.
Be very careful that you don’t make matters worse for yourself. Remember, as mentioned above, flagging a review too often can negatively impact your SEO.
As you can see, Google reviews are much more involved than meets the eye. Understanding how negative reviews do and don’t impact your SEO ranking can help you make better decisions on your online review management strategy.
Do you need help with your online review management? We have the solutions for you!