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Online review management: The complete guide

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negative reviews

This post has been modified to reflect new information since its original publication.

Online reviews are the new word-of-mouth referral. As such, what customers say about you on the internet can either make your business a success or completely tarnish your good name. While your company’s online reputation is largely in the hands of your customers, there are things you can do to influence the online conversation.

The impact of the online review

Online reviews directly affect your bottom line by placing your name where potential customers are most likely to be looking. According to a BrightLocal study, 98% of people use online review sites, company websites, and consumer forums to see what others think about a company or product before they make a purchase. Reviews are also the most visible results that come up when consumers search for businesses online, often popping up before the searcher even has a chance to click on a result.

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Additionally, reviews have the power to influence consumer behavior. In fact, roughly 50% of consumers will pay more for a product if the business has positive reviews, and negative reviews cause a staggering 94% of people to avoid a business. As such, it’s in your best interest to ensure that your patrons are saying good things about you online.

Where to look for your business’s online reviews

Consumers talk about your business in a variety of online locations. Here are some of the platforms you should be monitoring:

Review sites

Some of the most popular venues for consumer reviews are online review sites. As a business owner, you likely know the biggest ones: Google, Yelp, Angie’s List, and BBB.org, among others. Google is the most popular venue, but each of these sites is designed to make it easy for consumers to post reviews about your business.

Social media sites

Social sites make it easy for customers to tell their friends (and their friends’ friends) exactly what they think about your business. Facebook is the most popular social platform for online reviews, but Twitter and Instagram are also popular spots for consumers to post business reviews and ratings.


Numerous online forums and communities like Quora and Reddit provide an outlet where people can talk about products and services that they have purchased as well as their overall experience with a business. As such, it’s important to periodically check these conversations for mentions of your company name.

Consumer complaint sites

Sites like Pissed Consumer, Ripoff Report, and Complaints Board bill themselves as legitimate complaint-resolution platforms, but these companies don’t vet reviewers or provide ways to remove fake or defamatory posts. In fact, just being associated with one of these negative domain names harms a business’s reputation.

Online blogs

There are entire blogging websites dedicated to reviewing products and services. Many businesses may just end up with reviews on consumers’ blogs instead of simply on review platforms.

Your options for dealing with online reviews

It’s impossible to please everybody, so your business will always have a mix of both good and bad reviews. The important thing is to have a process in place to manage your reviews and make your reputation the best it can be.

When developing a plan for dealing with reviews, ask yourself these questions:

  • How should you handle unhappy customers who have left scathing reviews online?
  • What can you do to get more glowing feedback?
  • How can you even begin to know what’s being said about your business online?

Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Closely monitor your reviews

You should always be proactive with your online reviews. Don’t just read a few of them when you feel like it. Schedule time regularly (weekly is a good goal) to scan the internet for new reviews. Also, when looking at various review sites, take note of how recent your positive reviews are; the older your reviews are, the less impact they will have on readers’ opinions.

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You can also implement review monitoring tools to streamline the process of managing your business’ online reviews. While this strategy can make it easier to gauge what your customers think about your business, it should never take the place of actual review monitoring. Someone—whether it’s you or a member of your staff—should always personally keep an eye on your online reviews.

2. Claim your listings

Owning these listings gives you better control (and oversight) over what people are saying about your business. It also gives you a chance to present the best version of your company to potential and current customers, which can translate to increased earnings. In fact, 36% of companies that claim listings on four or more review sites experience a 36% rise in revenue.

3. Make negative reviews a positive

No business owner wants to receive negative reviews online. But what if you could leverage a bad review to make it work for you instead of against you?

One of the simplest ways to turn negative reviews into a positive is to respond to them—and to respond right away. If you come across customers who express displeasure about their experience with your business, the worst thing you can do is ignore them. Responding quickly sends the message that you care about customer input and are taking steps to resolve the problems mentioned in their reviews. As a result, more than 2 in 5 reviewers would reverse their overall rating of a business and revise their negative review into a more positive one if a business responded appropriately.

Whether your outreach is private or public, thank your customers for their patronage and feedback. Then, apologize for the poor experience. Explain that you’ve identified the source of the problem and fixed it, and that you’ll do your best to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. Maybe even offer a refund or a discount on future services.

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Addressing your consumers’ complaints and demonstrating how much you value their business will go a long way towards earning their trust. And you’d be surprised how many positive reviews are born out of negative ones that were addressed properly and in a timely manner.

In the end, it’s well worth the effort to turn your unhappy customers into happy ones. After all, it’s easier (and cheaper) to keep an existing customer than to bring in a new one.

4. Give your reviews a boost

Of course, even if you respond to all your negative reviews, it’s better to have customers find positive reviews as well. If you have a lot of negative reviews and not many positive ones, you may need to be proactive about fixing that balance. Chances are you have many happy customers who would be more than willing to say good things about you. All you need to do is convince them to write an honest review.

There are a few ways to do this:

  • Ask for reviews—You should direct all your customers online, where they can leave reviews for your business. Create a place for them to leave reviews on your website, hand out “please review us” cards at checkout, and send emails prompting them to leave reviews. These tactics will increase the odds that happy customers will take the time to sing your praises online. In fact, 72% of people who are asked to leave reviews will do so.
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  • Encourage others to read your onlinereviews—Display a link or button on your website, Facebook page, and anywhere else you have an online presence. You can even do this along with certain promotions like those on “daily deal” websites. Not only will potential customers read your glowing reviews, but your current customers will be more likely to add their positive feedback as well.

Addressing reviews on specific websites

Each online review site treats its review process differently, especially when business owners are looking to address their customer feedback. On some sites, you can petition for the removal of certain reviews. On others, you’ll need to take a different approach.


Yelp has given a voice to online reviewers, allowing them to share their experiences and express their opinions about the businesses they visit. As beneficial as this system is for consumers, it can create real headaches for businesses that receive negative reviews and ratings.

To protect the opinions of its users, Yelp doesn’t usually remove bad reviews from its site. However, if you see comments about your business that are defamatory, fake, or otherwise questionable, there are still steps you can take to petition for their removal.

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First, you should claim your business’s Yelp page. Then, select the flag icon adjacent to the offending review to report it to the site. Before doing so, however, you should be certain that the review has violated Yelp’s Content Guidelines. Yelp will only remove reviews if they contain inappropriate content, focus on something other than the customer’s experience at your business, or highlight the reviewer’s conflict of interest. Site moderators will typically assess each claim independently and determine whether the review in question meets the terms for removal.

Still, there’s no guarantee that Yelp will remove a review from your business’ page if you report it. You may need to address the review yourself by replying to the comments and refuting the user’s inaccuracies about your business.

Angie’s List

This site will only delete reviews under three circumstances:

  • If the poster removes it him or herself
  • If the review was handled through Complaint Resolution
  • If the site deems that it was a fraudulent post

In most cases, you’ll need to tackle your angieslist.com reviews in another way.

Positive reviews are a great way to ensure that your potential consumers are finding good information about you online. When you create positive reviews on angieslist.com, you create testimonials that will always be available online. If you like what one person has to say, you can also use this testimonial in print advertising. It’s important for consumers to hear honest feedback from customers, and reviews are the easiest way to achieve this.

Good angieslist.com reviews are also good for visibility because they boost your SEO and enhance your ranking in search engines. The more reviews you can have online, the more positive sentiment you create surrounding your business.

Yellow Pages

Yellow Pages is more open to removing negative user reviews than other review sites. However, you’ll need to go through a certain process to have your business’ bad reviews taken down from the site.

Here are the steps you should take:

  • Check the source to make sure the review was originally posted on Yellow Pages.
  • Look at Yellow Pages’ Terms of Service and Use for user-generated content.
  • Make your case as to why the review in question is false or misleading.
  • File a report using the “Report Abuse” link on the page.
  • Write a reply to the review while you wait—just in case Yellow Pages says “no.”

As you can see, petitioning for the removal of your business’ negative Yellow Pages reviews is incredibly easy. If they refuse, however, or if your situation doesn’t fit their criteria, you’ll need to counteract the negative reviews through an online reputation management campaign instead.

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One way to learn how to fix bad reviews on Superpages is to hire an online reputation management company. Not only will this company fix bad reviews, but also it will share review management strategies with you so you may apply them in the future.

Otherwise, you should proceed by responding to your bad reviews. After submitting your reply, you must validate your response before Superpages will publish it. The site screens all business owner replies to ensure that they meet both its Business Reply Guidelines and abuse policy. So you’ll need to compose a reply that’s free of abusive language, harmful intent, and disparaging comments about customers.

How not to handle your online reviews

As important as it is to understand the proper ways to deal with negative online reviews, it’s even more important that you know how not to deal with them. There are many mistakes that you can make when addressing your reviews, including the following.

Astroturfing (writing fake reviews)

This strategy will often backfire, even if you manage to create convincing write-ups. Review sites have protocols and algorithms designed specifically to sniff out fakes, and if you get caught, your business could get blacklisted by both customers and review sites. Moreover, posting fake reviews violates false advertising laws and can get you into legal trouble.

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Battling with reviewers

It’s not always easy to keep a level head when replying to negative online reviews, especially if the reviewer tries to drag you into an argument. If the situation begins to escalate, it’s important that you always remain calm and polite. Repeat your willingness to help fix the issue at hand and don’t let yourself stoop to their level. Future readers will notice your restraint and professionalism.

Bribing customers

Offering a small incentive seems like a harmless way to generate positive reviews, but this strategy is risky. Not only does it violate FTC rules, but it also creates a conflict of interest that might offend customers, causing them to post negative reviews in retaliation.

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In the end, it’s true that online review management can be overwhelming, especially for small businesses. Luckily, ReputationDefender has tools and services that can help. For more suggestions and assistance, contact us for a free consultation.