How to Handle Bad Online Reviews for Your Small Business
In this post, I’m going to share you how to respond and how to recover from negative reviews of your business that are appearing on the front page of Google.
Table of Contents
What Not To Do When You Receive a Bad Online Review
Deny the Problem Exists
When a customer has a complaint, insisting that they’re wrong in a public forum is a big mistake. Even if you’re convinced that the problem was on their end, you should acknowledge the issue.
Argue with the Reviewer
It’s only natural to feel hurt or angry when someone posts negative criticism about your business. But responding in anger could cripple your reputation permanently because information stays on the Internet forever. In other words, never do this.
Game the System
Some business owners, faced with multiple negative reviews, have paid people to write positive reviews and counter the impact. This is not only a bad idea, but also comes with the very likely possibility that you’ll get caught. Some consumer review sites, like Yelp, have systems in place to warn readers of suspected paid reviews.
While a few negative comments are obviously the work of people who just like to say nasty things, for the most part, ignoring bad reviews in the hopes they’ll go away is a poor strategy. It sends a message that your business doesn’t care when people have negative experiences.
What To Do When You Receive a Bad Online Review
In order to take action against negative online reviews, you have to be aware of any that exist.
It’s important to monitor your social media pages and respond to concerns there. But you should also check out major consumer review sites like Yelp to see what people are saying about your small business. The simplest way to do this is to set up a Google Alert for your business name. You can also use a free tracking tool like Social Mention to keep up with online reviews.
If you find any less-than-stellar reviews:
Take an Objective Look
If the review or comment is obviously not serious, or if the poster is using anger and abusive language, your best option is probably to ignore it. If possible, have it removed. Most consumer review sites offer a way to flag or report reviews that violate their terms of service.
Respond with Tact
When addressing a negative review, keep it professional. Passive-aggressive or sarcastic comments will only fuel the flames. You can choose to respond privately (useful when you disagree with a reviewer’s take on a situation) or publicly, which helps to demonstrate to other readers that you’re addressing the problem.
Apologize and Ask for Input
Most often, the best response to an upset customer is to say you’re sorry without qualifying the apology to redirect the blame toward the reviewer’s feelings. Admit that a mistake was made, and ask what you can do to resolve the situation.
Most importantly, keep it consistent. When you actively respond to negative online feedback about your small business, other potential customers can see that you’re engaged and that you care about your customers.
As an example we’re going to use Run Local Locksmith, which as you can see, has quite a few negative reviews on the front page of Google.
The first thing you want to do is see why people are leaving negative reviews, because if you don’t know that and you don’t fix the underlying problem, online reputation management’s going to be an uphill battle because you’re going to be constantly fighting negative reviews. What you want to do is click on a site like Yelp or Trip Adviser, if you happen to run a hotel or something like that depending on what’s already ranking, and you want to see what people are saying.
If you can fix these underlying problems, these negative reviews are obviously going to stick; there’s nothing you can do about that, but what you can do is prevent more negative reviews from piling up. Right now, that’s basically this locksmith didn’t do anything when these negative reviews started coming in.
Basically all they have are negative reviews and there’s really not much you can do when you just have an overwhelming number of consistent negative reviews that come into sites like Yelp, Trip Adviser, and other consumer review sites like that.
Once you’ve identified the problem and started to fix the problem that’s resulting in these negative reviews, you want to reach out to happy customers and encourage them to leave reviews. Here’s a little email template that you can use, and it basically is just an email to a customer. You can obviously call them or talk to them in person, depending on what your business is. You just want to start off by saying thank you for hiring them and offer more help. You don’t want to start off by asking for a positive review, or it comes off a little pushy.
What you want to do is remind them of the services you provided and let them know that you’re there for something. Then just say, “If you could just take a couple minutes and leave a positive review on Yelp,” in this case or whatever site you desperately need positive reviews on, you’d really appreciate it. Just say, “Either way, it was great working with you,” so that pressure is off of them. This is a great template to use.
These positive reviews are really, really important, because at least for the time being, these sites like Yelp and authoritative sites like this are going to be ranking for a while, because it takes a long time to do the other steps that I’m going to outline in the video. In the meantime, you can have some positive reviews. If Yelp is ranking Number 1, at least people see some positive reviews in the mix and they still might use your business. That’s the first thing, is to get customers to start leaving positive reviews.
After that, you want to start claiming your digital real estate. You can use a service called Knowem, which I go over in another video, to do that. Basically, all you want to do is put in your brand name. If you’re Run Local Locksmith, you want to put in your brand name, click on Check It, and then claim any social networks where it says Available.
You want to claim as many as possible and focus on the most popular first because those tend to rank highly in Google. Once you claim all the most popular ones, you want to click on Social Networks, which will show you all 550 social profiles that are in the Knowem database, and then claim as many as you can. The more social profiles you have, the more weapons you have that you can possibly rank on the first page and push those negative reviews down.
What you want to do, though, is focus on the top 5 or 10 networks that tend to rank, instead of all 550. What you want to do is stake your little real estate in all 550, and then focus on ranking a few at a time, with a particular focus on YouTube, because YouTube videos rank really highly, YouTube channels rank really highly. What you want to do is create a YouTube account, if you don’t already have one, and then create a channel that’s optimized around your target keyword; in this case, it’ll be your brand name.
What you want to do is create your YouTube channel and name it after your brand; it’d be Run Local Locksmith, and then create some videos about what you do, maybe interviews of employees, stuff like that. Just create a lot of content, because then that will encourage Google to rank it highly for a keyword and potentially bump some of those negative reviews off the first page. You want to do the same thing at popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, because these tend to rank highly in Google because Google wants to show these for people that are searching for your brand name.
Finally what you can do as a stop gap solution and to get some results very, very quickly on the front page is to write and distribute a press release. What you want to do is write a press release about something positive that your business is doing. Not only do these press releases tend to rank pretty highly in the short-term, but they can actually rank in the long-term as well, because they’re hosted on authoritative sites like PR Web, which tend to be more authoritative than some random sites like Sopl.us.
That’s all there is to managing negative reviews of your business that are ranking on the first page. The first thing you want to do is identify the problem that’s causing these negative reviews, and then get people who are happy customers to leave positive reviews.