We often get asked this question by frustrated businesses who feel the review was unwarranted or worse, not legitimate. There are a few directions you can take to improve the impact of the negative review, both with your overall star rating and with it being visible to potential clients. In some cases, a poor review can deter new clients and this may be reflected in the number of enquiries rapidly dropping afterward.
Legitimate bad reviews
If the review is from a customer who has had a poor experience, the first step is to address it. Be polite, and professional and offer the client an apology where appropriate. Ideally, once you have done this, offer to take the issue offline and investigate the situation properly. Provide reassurance and a solution or compensation. Prospective clients aren’t so concerned if they read a bad review when you have managed it well and they can see that you genuinely care about your client’s experience and how you deal with them. Also, this may be an opportunity for you to take on board the negative feedback and change how you do something to improve customer experiences.
Another tactic is to drown out the negative reviews with lots of good reviews – genuine ones. If you encourage your satisfied customers to add a photo, then these tend to stay at the top of the listing and naturally will push down the negative review.
Spammy and fake reviews
If you are receiving fake or spammy reviews, you can report these to Google. Make sure you respond initially to show customers that you take all feedback seriously. If you don’t recognise the customer, you can politely mention that you don’t recognise them and that their review doesn’t accurately reflect your business. Sometimes competitors may attack your business and we have seen examples where there was a flurry of negative reviews that were more like a personal attack and it was clear that they hadn’t even visited the place in question. The best action here was for the owner to reiterate that their facts were incorrect, politely and professionally, and that they didn’t think they had stepped foot in their business due to the inaccuracy of their statements.
How to report a review that isn’t legit
Google has a review reporting mechanism in place where you can report a negative review that fits into any of the following:
- Off topic – Review doesn’t pertain to an experience at or with this business.
- Spam – Review is from a bot, a fake account or contains ads ad promotions.
- Conflict of interest – review is from someone affiliated with the business or a competitor’s business.
- Profanity – Review contains swear words, has sexually explicit language or details graphic violence or other illegal activity.
- Bullying or harassment – Review personally attacks a specific individual.
- Discrimination or hate speech – Review has harmful language about an individual or group based on identity.
- Personal information – Contains personal information such as address or phone number.
From experience, Google often leaves a review up as it’s up to their discretion. However, we have seen notifications out of the blue where Google has deemed a review as fake and just removed it on behalf of the business, without it being reported. This is because they see that it as a policy violation.
Legal action on reviews
If you’re receiving negative fake reviews that are damaging your business – this may be a case where you need to take up legal action.
Not all negative reviews are ‘bad’
Fun fact: Studies have shown that a 4.6 star average rating will outrank a 5.0 star average rating, all other factors being equal. The theory is that Google knows that even the best businesses have disgruntled customers sometimes, so that score is more authentic. Also, the number of reviews is one of the ranking factors for Google Business Profile, so a new poor review helps to get your overall count up. The presence of an occasional bad review can be good for your business. If there are no grounds for reporting it then instead write a friendly, clear reply and carry on.
Reviews and reputation management
In summary, your objective is to make sure you have a review and reputation strategy in place. This will help with your local SEO and ranking, plus help build trust with customers in your business. If you need help with yours, then get in touch with us.