A negative review on Google, Facebook, or elsewhere can be devastating – we get it!
Online reviews form part of the crux of reputation management for small business owners. Word-of-mouth and referrals can boost their customer numbers. Business reviews, in particular, form an essential pillar of digital marketing for most modern businesses.
While a business may have a hundred positive reviews, one powerfully written negative Google review can tank the brand image. Did you know that one bad review can cost you up to 30 customers? It can take up to 12 additional customer reviews to cancel out this effect.
Scary? Yes. But this doesn’t mean a business owner should get intimidated, close shop, and retreat from their Google My Business listing altogether.
Yes, a negative review can damage your brand, but only if handled poorly. Businesses can mitigate the blowback to their credibility online by taking the right measures. But why should you even bother, you might ask.
Read on to discover why reputation management and Google reviews should be a focus area for you and the measures you can take to avoid and handle the daunting threat of a bad review.
Importance of Google Reviews For Businesses
Google reviews can drive an immense amount of business value for you and help you generate more leads.
You might think with Google in consideration; this is all just about search engine optimization (SEO). While the local SEO factor remains integral for your digital marketing efforts, Google reviews go beyond the realm of just driving up your rankings and getting your business listing bumped up.
Reviews also play an important role in customer relationship management. Whether you’re getting a positive review or a negative review – feedback is feedback. These insights can be used to help you develop your product or service and improve your relationship with your customers.
Customers, on the other hand, use Google reviews to gauge their perception of your business.
A business with far too many star reviews is almost unbelievable and may be put under the lens. It’s natural for customers to seek out a negative review. In a roundabout way, a negative review can drive authenticity for your business. After all, businesses are built by humans and are bound to slip up here and there.
However, having a large number of negative reviews in proportion to positive reviews is a red flag.
So, how can you manage this balancing act between positive and negative reviews?
How To Handle Your Reputation On Google
A business that ranks is a winner by Google’s standards. Getting yourself on the top search engine results of a relevant Google search query can take your business visibility to the next level. While building your SEO success is no easy feat, there are several ways you can create a stellar business reputation on Google.
Build upon that virtual real estate
The kind of search engine real estate that Google generates for keywords has now grown. There are several types of content results that can come up for your business name, ranging from links to your website to related news or your social media profiles as pictured below with the example of Taco Bell.
When people search the keywords related to your business, you want to be the first business that Google nudges in their direction for all those kinds of results. You want your brand to be owning that space.
An excellent way to get started, especially if you are a small business, is by doing your research. Do a couple of relevant Google searches and conduct an audit of the results that pop up. You might see a combination of organic and paid results, and Google maps results, as well as other forms as pictured above with Taco Bell’s example.
Do they link to competitor pages? What region are they specific to – local businesses, global businesses, or somewhere in between? What are they doing right that you can apply to your online content and presence?
After answering these questions, start making your presence known online through actionable steps.
Claim public profiles and create business listings
Once you’ve done your research, put it into application. If you haven’t already, claim and manage public profiles for yourself and your business. This includes (but is not limited to):
- Setting up your Google My Business profile
- Creating verified and branded social media accounts
- Appearing on industry profile spaces (like forums and professional networks)
The greater the online profiles and presence you build, the higher the chances of your SEO ‘ammo’ getting you the rankings, and ultimately the customers that you want.
Generate positive press and word-of-mouth
Did your business do anything news-worthy recently? Like go green with environmental campaigns or donate to a relief fund?
Promoting business actions that have a positive impact through a press release, social media campaigns, news story mentions, or other public platforms can drive up your visibility online. Remember that news results section affiliated with a keyword search? You might just pop up there!
Be active and respond to questions, reviews, and mentions
It’s not enough to just set up these profiles and remain dormant.
Engage, engage, engage.
One of the advantages these platforms offer is the ability to connect directly with your customers. Of course, this works both ways. Make sure you have a customer engagement team on top of the reviews and mentions your business gets.
Your customers want to feel heard and valued. This is one way you can show them how customer-centric you are and get yourself closer to those star ratings and positive reviews you want.
You can even drop a Google review link directly in engagements with happy customers in the post-purchase stage and ask them for a review.
Tips For Responding To Negative Reviews
Despite all your efforts to uphold a fantastic reputation online, one or two bad apples are bound to slip through. Not every customer may have an excellent customer experience with you. Some may even have a chip on their shoulder and take it out on your business with a bad review.
Your first instinct may be to panic, but don’t! Here are some tips to keep a note of when you’re faced with a negative review:
1. Calm down and evaluate the review
Before hitting the panic button, evaluate the authenticity of the review you received. Believe it or not, sometimes competitors or even absolute strangers who never did business with you like to have a ball and drag your business name through the metaphorical mud.
How can you verify this? Check your customer records and see if it matches up. If there is no record of any interaction with the individual, you’re looking at a false review.
2. Respond the right way
Want to bury the negative content away? You can, but that step comes later. First thing’s first: respond. And yes, you have to respond to even the fake reviews! Here’s why.
Customer engagement should be your priority, and don’t be mistaken, you aren’t only dealing with the disgruntled and fake customers here but also the potential customers who might see this review.
What do your customers want to see? Good service. How can you give them that? By addressing the grievance and fixing the problem.
If it’s a fake review, respond politely, and mention they do not appear in your customer records. Offer them contact information to get in touch with you. If the fake review persists, flagging it directly with Google is an option. You can do this by clicking on the vertical dots on the upper right corner of the review and selecting “Flag as inappropriate.” Worst case scenario, you can lawyer up and opt for a legal removal request.
But if you’re dealing with an honest customer, personalize your response by analyzing the root cause of their dissatisfaction and showing them that you care. Tell them you’re working on finding a solution and will do your best to prevent this from happening again.
Never just apologize and let it drop. An apology is not what your customers paid for. Know when to admit your faults, step up, and make it up with excellent customer service.
Turn that bad review around by showcasing excellent customer care.
3. Transform your keywords
Drown out the negative search results and reviews associated with your business by transforming the authority keywords.
For example, if you noticed a particular set of keywords in a negative review or even keywords that associate your business in a less flattering angle, take charge of the situation by creating new content and more positive angles to those keywords.
This can help you kill the noise and rank more positive content for those same keywords. It’s all about strategy with SEO and online reputation management here.
4. Ask for more reviews
Potential and new customers won’t single you out for that one bad review. Most of them do their research and look at the trend, timing, and overall customer service you provide. If your negative reviews are based from several months or years ago, they might not even notice!
The best thing you can do here is to ask for more reviews from happy customers.
You can ask for feedback on social media platforms, generate a Google review link and distribute it through email, and even showcase it on your website.
The more chances to garner positive reviews, the better it is for your brand perception and customer relations in the long run.
Managing reviews and staying on top of your SEO business strategy can be challenging for small business owners in their growth stage. However, if you nail these digital touchpoints, you can build a strong foundation for growing and managing your online reputation in the best, customer-winning way.
Keep a keen eye on your search results, star reviews, and even the bad ones. By showing your customers you can manage both the good and the bad, your business will emerge as an ultimate, and reputable, winner.