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Cameron Martel

Bad Reviews Don’t Have to Be Bad News

Here’s how to handle them to turn detractors into advocates and potentially earn new business too!

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GOOGLE, FACEBOOK, YELP!, Amazon, and seemingly every other online platform in existence have all made user reviews a focus of their strategy. This isn’t news to you.

Being on the receiving end of a bad review can sting, however you can leverage them to your benefit. Let’s look at how you can handle negative reviews and turn criticism into opportunity.

How Google Views Reviews

Google is on a mission to deliver a best-in-class experience to its users on all platforms.

Looking at search specifically, a great experience for a user involves having their questions answered in an intuitive and pleasant way. In this way, reviews mix with “traditional” SEO, as both SEO and reviews serve to help Google better understand the experience a business provides.

Contrary to popular belief, Google doesn’t immediately tank website rankings when they receive a bad review. If a sprinkle of bad reviews become a deluge, then you should be concerned about your SEO. But if that is the case, then I’d posit that your business has more pressing concerns…

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What Bad Reviews Are (& Aren’t)

Focusing on how reviews mix with content, let’s clarify how Google treats bad reviews.

1. Bad reviews are natural and often unavoidable. Google is made up of people, and those people understand that you can’t please everyone.In fact, Google’s Quality Raters — people who review search results and provide Google feedback — are told that even the best sites/businesses get bad reviews.

2. Bad reviews are representative of a single experience, not your business in general. Considering that most people are rational and nuanced, it stands to reason that most people that come across a bad review or two take it into consideration but don’t place toto much emphasis on it. In fact, there is growing evidence that neutral and negative reviews with proper responses actually increase consumer trust.

3. Bad reviews are an opportunity to build trust. I am immediately distrusting of a business that has nothing but glowing four and five-star reviews. Nothing is perfect, and when I see an organization that is apparently flawless, my Spidey-senses start to flare up.

How to Respond

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The only thing that customers value more than fair pricing and quality products is when a business treats its customers well. This doesn’t always mean a flawless first experience; it can also be how a business responds to a challenging situation.

There are a lot of ways to respond to a poor review. Before you do, consider leveraging these best practices:

1. Avoid generic or canned responses. Not only will your audience see right through it, but the best outcome you can expect is apathy. Nobody wants platitudes.

2. If appropriate, admit the mistake and provide next-steps. We all make mistakes, so don’t be afraid to own them. Humility is endearing and users will resonate with you for admitting fault. The key is to then provide the next step — “This is what we did wrong, here is how we will fix it.”

3. Be empathetic, not defensive. Getting defensive in your response is a surefire way to alienate the reviewer as well as show other users that your ego is more important than their satisfaction. Bad reviews can sting … it’s best to let the sting roll off your shoulders and to respond with empathy. In a situation where you weren’t at fault, don’t place blame on the customer (or anywhere else for that matter). Acknowledge the problem and focus on solving it; deciding who is at fault doesn’t matter to the denizens of the internet.

4. Drill into specifics. If the review doesn’t go into detail, in your reply ask the customer to reach out to you directly and provide them personally so that you can work with them. Not only does this give the original reviewer a direct line to get their problem solved, but it tells anyone reading the review that you care and want to make things right.

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Reviews Are People!

And people respond best when engaged with respect and courtesy. Following the above tips, you’ll turn detractors into advocates (and win new business!).

Cameron Martel is an experienced digital marketer, managing SEO and content campaigns since 2005. He currently works with dozens of eyecare practices through his work with Marketing4ECPs (marketing4ecps.com). He’s colorblind, but don’t remind him or he’ll be seeing red (or so he thinks). Email him at [email protected]

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