Online Review Management: The Complete Guide

negative reviews

One of the many fantastic things about the Internet is the opportunity for people to express their opinions on almost anything. If you own a business, it’s an easy way for customers to comment on your services or products. Whether they love you or loathe you, your clients can post their comments on the web as online reviews. Your business’ reviews will typically go directly to your business’s website or social media pages, or to other sites which aggregate online reviews.

The fact of the matter is that the online review has become the new word-of-mouth referral. The reviews you receive can either make your business a success or completely tarnish your reputation. And with so many opportunities for consumers to make their reviews public, it’s hard to know how to handle them as a business owner. Online review management is your only way to move forward in this world full of five-star ratings and review sites.

The impact of the online review

Today’s consumers not only flock to review sites to leave comments about the businesses they patronize, but they also turn to the Internet when deciding where to take their business. With the Web, potential buyers can seek out online reviews of products and services offered by various companies all around the world—including people who have frequented your business in the past. And your prospective customers are doing this far more than you may think.

In its Local Consumer Review Survey, BrightLocal established that 97 percent of all consumers use the Internet to find local businesses and read online reviews about them each year. 12 percent of these individuals search online for businesses on a daily basis.

Reviews are the most visible results that come up when consumers search for businesses online, often popping up before they even have a chance to select a search engine result. What’s more, the things that consumers read online are likely to have a big impact on their choices. Positive online reviews entice 68 percent of consumers to use your business, while negative ones push a staggering 40 percent away. So with nearly two-thirds of consumers forming an opinion about your business after reading fewer than six reviews, you need to ensure that your patrons are saying good things about you online.

Where to look for your business’ online reviews

There are many different types of reviews on the Internet, and each of these reviews can have an impact on your business. As such, you should know where to search and what to look out for when perusing the Web for reviews about your business.

Social media sites

Although people often don’t leave full-on reviews on social networking pages, these sites make it easy for satisfied or completely unhappy customers to quickly let all of their online friends know exactly what they think about your business. And if you’ve claimed your business on social media sites like Facebook, there will be even more opportunities for your customers to leave reviews and ratings for the public to see.

Online blogs

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

Forums

There are tons of online forums and communities out there, and the people that are involved in these communities often talk about products and services that they have purchased as well as their overall experience with certain companies. As such, there may be reviews of your business on forums all over the Internet.

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: Yelp, Google, and BBB.org, among others. Each of these sites is designed to make it easy for even less-than-savvy computer users to log on and post reviews about your business.

Your options for dealing with online reviews

Never let your online reviews scare you. You’ll always have a mix of both good and bad reviews about your business, and that’s perfectly okay. But from the very best to the very worst, you’ll need to know how to manage and address your reviews if you are to take charge of your online reputation.

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:

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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 check for new reviews. Also, when looking at various review sites, take note on the recency of your positive reviews; the older they are, the less impact they will have on the opinions of others.

Another way to monitor your online reviews is to claim your business profiles or create ones of your own. If you own these listings, you’ll have better control (and oversight) of what’s being said about your business online.

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. Make negative reviews a positive

No business owner wants to receive negative reviews online. But what if you could turn a bad review around and make it work for you? There are ways you can make a negative review more favorable for your business.

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. When you respond quickly, you send the message that you care about customer input and are taking steps to resolve the problems mentioned in their reviews.

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.

What’s more, consumers are more likely to delete their negative reviews if they receive a reply from you. According to research from RightNow, 34 percent of consumers will delete their original review after hearing from the business. Responding to negative reviews will also entice many reviewers to do business with you again. In fact, 18 percent of these individuals ultimately become loyal customers.

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.

3. 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, you may need to be proactive about fixing that balance. Chances are you have lots of happy customers that would be more than willing to say good things about you. All you have 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. All of these tactics will increase the odds that happy customers will take the time to sing your praises online.

Encourage others to read your online reviews: 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 to review management.

Yelp

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.

In order 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 that you can take to petition for their removal.

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First, you should claim your business’ 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.

Even so, you can’t 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 refute 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, or 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, too. 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 online search engines. The more reviews you can have online, the more positive sentiment you create surrounding your business.

Yellow Pages

Yellow Pages is the most trusted review website among 10 percent of consumers in the United States, ranking just behind TripAdvisor and BBB.org. As such, it’s not uncommon to see negative reviews on the site. But can you get them removed? Actually, Yellow Pages is more open to removing negative user reviews than other review sites. That being said, you’ll need to go through a certain process to have your business’ poor 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.

Superpages

A bad review on Superpages can contain information that can scare potential customers away. If you see negative reviews about your business on this site, it is imperative that you learn how to fix them.

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.

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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.

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 and usually doesn’t work. Avoid any kind of tactic that could look like a bribe or generate a conflict of interest. Some customers are likely take offense and will 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, there are tools and services that can help. For more suggestions and assistance, contact us for a free consultation.

Contact us for a free consultation

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