Do negative reviews matter? The impact of reviews on local SEO

Everyone’s heard the saying, there’s no such thing as bad press, but is it true? We guess the argument is that even if people are saying negative things about your business, they’re still talking about your business. However, let’s be honest, no one likes negative reviews, especially your local SEO strategy.

However, negative reviews might not be all that bad, and here’s why.

How negative reviews help SEO and your online reputation

Google states that positive and high-quality reviews are a great way to improve your local rankings. However another classic saying of ‘nobody is perfect’ is exactly why negative reviews can help your business.

  1. Balance authenticity

    If you’re an online user who comes across a business that only has many 5-star reviews with little descriptions, it’s fair to assume that something might be a bit fishy. A careful balance of a few negative reviews can help stop that doubt of authenticity and when managed appropriately can provide benefits and improve your reputation.

  2. Help improve and learn from your mistakes

    With the thought that no one is perfect, receiving negative feedback can teach you and your business about what you need to improve on. Sometimes businesses think that what they’re doing is right, however some individuals might disagree. By gaining this feedback and responding in the correct way you can learn about any changes you should be making to further develop your business and please your customers.

  3. Engage with your customers, especially if they aren’t happy

    How you respond to negative reviews can be crucial and essentially matters more than the review itself. We’ve all seen in the past those negative reviews which have then led to brands fighting back in an argumentative tone and trying to discredit the reviewer. Instead, a better response is that of asking for more information, discussing why they feel like this and if possible offering some form of compensation or outcome to rectify the situation and make the customer happy.

Other users then seeing this, get to see that a brand cares about its service, reputation and customers, helping to build trust.

Now we know that negative fake reviews can happen, and if you think this has happened to you, then we recommend reporting this to Google, and in the meantime responding to get more information rather than just ignoring it altogether. A response such as the following can help:

‘Thank you for your review and we’re sorry you’re feeling this way. We are struggling to find details of your ‘order/booking etc.’ and therefore ask if you are able to provide us with more information such as your order/booking number so that we can look into this further.’

If the review is genuine, the reviewer will be able to provide the details you ask for. However, if it’s fake, it’s likely they won’t respond, but for other viewers you have tried.

Power your online visibility with positive reviews

So whilst negative reviews, might not be the end of the world. Obviously, the more honest and positive reviews your business receives the better. Why?

Well, firstly reviews are user-generated content which other online users and Google like and trust. Reviews are also part of your Google My Business profile and can be shown in your local listings. Therefore if a user is searching for your products and services and you and a competitor are shown in the results, but the competitor has a higher rating and more positive reviews, the more likely the user is to choose the competitor over you.

It’s also important to note that if users include words such as ‘best’ or ‘top’ in their local searches then Google automatically defaults results to those brands who have a minimum of a four-star rating.

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So what are the best reviews to boost your online visibility?

Additional commentary

As well as a high star rating, you want your reviewer to leave a comment that explains why they gave you that rating. This then gives Google and other users more helpful content to decide whether your business is more credible and aligned with what they’re looking for.

Meaningful media

Reviews with images and videos can amplify their impact, as again they add more authenticity and credibility. It has also been noted that these reviews tend to be shown higher up than those without.

How to improve your reviews, and therefore your SEO

It’s important to gain new reviews and therefore businesses should have a process in place to do so. There are several ways businesses can get more reviews, but one of them is definitely not to incentivise clients. This is what Google would deem ‘deceptive content’ especially if the customer leaves reviews in exchange for discounts, free goods or even money. You can read more about this in Google’s guidelines on prohibited and restricted content.

    So what can you do?

  • Ask for reviewsIt might seem simple, but have you just asked? Quite often companies will be given positive feedback in person or over emails, and be happy with that. However, if you responded to this feedback with a simple ‘Thank you, would you mind leaving that as a review on Google’, I think you’d be surprised by how many would do this.
  • Motivate team membersThis follows on from asking, but rather than just making that one person’s job, instead, motivate your whole team to be responsible for gaining reviews.
  • Share your review linkMake it easy for people to leave you a review, by sharing direct links. For example, if you sell products then after your customers have received their purchases email them with a link to leave a review. If you are a service-based business you could do the same once your services are finished. Or send regular review links to your clients throughout your partnerships, perhaps after quarterly review meetings.

In summary, reviews can impact your local SEO, therefore they should be a part of your digital marketing strategy. Ultimately, you can’t stop negative reviews from happening, but what you can control is how you deal with them and hopefully, this guide will help you.