5 Tips For Responding To Negative Customer Reviews Online

It’s holiday time and I thought I’d spread a little cheer by talking about negative reviews and how fun they are for local businesses.

As Yelp says, “negative reviews can feel like a punch in the gut”. Even better, according to a recent study by Cone Communications, four out of five consumers have changed their minds about a recommended purchase based solely on negative information they found online.

But there’s a lot of lemonade to be made from those review lemons. After all, negative reviews can increase sales. Negative reviews can help potential customers feel like they have “done their homework” which moves them further towards making a purchase decision. Negative reviews can also add credibility to your positive reviews. And perhaps most important, negative reviews give businesses a chance to respond and show how awesome they really are.

So when your business gets slammed on a local review site, be it a legit complaint or a crackpot customer, you can’t afford to ignore the negativity.  So let’s look at how to turn these major bummers into teachable moments.

1. Have A Game Plan

As Mike Blumenthal recommends in Responding To Negative Reviews – Your Prospects Are The Real Audience: ”Never respond to reviews unless you can own the issue, describe how future customers will not have the issue, and offer to fix the issue”. He also recommends that when you do respond, you “write with your prospects in mind”.

2. Understand The Tools At Your Disposal

Get to know the sites that all merchants to respond and learn how to use their tools. Miriam Ellis has a great post Edit, Remove and Respond To Reviews – Tools for Conflict Resolution that outlines what kinds of merchant responses are allowed on different local reviews sites. I have adapted her list to create the one below.

3. Learn How To Mine The Gold From Negative Reviews

Check out this video of Seth Godin interviewing Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio and Food Network’s Sarah Moulton about how they use bad reviews – and bad reviewers – to make their businesses better. Thanks to Al for pointing this one out to me. Check out his post on Tools for Managing Negative Customer Reviews for more great words of wisdom on the subjet.

4. Study At The Feet Of The Masters

Take a page from R.J.Hidson’s Place Page,  R.J., an Edmonton Wedding Photographer displays a textbook example of how to respond to a negative review when he got slammed for showing some ‘tude at a customer’s nuptials.

I’ve got to say I like RJ’s ‘tude.

5. Don’t Ignore It. It Won’t Go Away

Lisa Barone puts it thus about what can happen when “a review develops legs”: “Staying quiet simply because you don’t think it’s serious enough to warrant a response is almost certain to invite the fire to spread beyond Yelp and onto other blogs and news sites. You don’t want that to happen. The best way to contain the mess is to handle it at its source. If something is gaining legs, get in the conversation and help calm it down. Often just a few words from you will be enough to soothe the hype and get the conversation back on track.”

Several years ago, a ego-maniacal little blogger found himself on the wrong end of some bad service and blogged about it. To say this review “developed legs” is putting it mildly. But the merchant ignored the problem and likely lost business because of it.

If said merchant had followed Lisa’s advice and merely contacted the pesky little blogger to explain his side of the story he probably could have saved himself a lot of grief, and perhaps he would have even gotten some business out of it.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Local Search Column


About The Author: is the proprietor of Local SEO Guide, a local search engine optimization consulting company specializing in yellow pages seo and local directory search—the blog is pretty fabulous too.

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  • shellytowns

    Andrew, great post but you forgot Angie’s List! Businesses can read and respond to reviews – they just need to create a free profile at business.angieslist.com. We encourage all businesses to comment to their reviews, especially the bad ones. Angie’s List members are smart consumers and you’re right, a negative review every once in a while can add to the legitimacy of the business’ overall rating. And let’s face it, there are some customers that will never be satisfied. a logical, level headed response from a business owner explaining their side of the story goes a long way.

  • http://www.localseoguide.com Andrew Shotland

    Guilty as charged Shelly!

  • http://www.marketing-ontheweb.com J.A.

    Good tips Andrew. See many customers who fail to respond, seemingly frozen in fear. A timely response is so important. Getting a response out quickly may stem a stream of additional posts.

  • http://www.localwebsearchresults.com Greg Newell

    How do you delete a review from Google? I don’t think this is possible as indicated in your chart. You can respond…but not delete. I could be wrong, wouldn’t be the first time.

  • http://blog.customerlobby.com/ Kevin

    The R.J. Hidson response was very candid. I feel like I know him. And I like him. You can’t achieve that kind of affinity with marketing copy. And unlike ads, people actually seek out and read negative reviews.

  • http://paprikamarketing.co.uk Alison Wren

    Great post, Andrew – review management is going to become more and more important as part of online strategy. It’s a hot topic for hotels, B&Bs etc complaining about Tripadvisor, but it’s much more effective to have a plan to manage negative reviews (and encourage positive ones). Review sites aren’t going away, so businesses have to learn to deal with them.

  • rolanda

    Its best to allow consumers to take control of the conversation good or bad. Also, you should work to massage perceptions and nudge the conversation in the right direction.
    Becareful not to be tempted into heated debates or attacks.

  • emma marilag

    Negative content is harmful and can affect your business, as
    it did to my online business. Good to think that I discovered Clean Internet Reviews.

    You can try Clean Internet Reviews. They require no upfront
    fee. It is guaranteed to help your biz get rid of negative reviews that can
    tarnish your online presence. 


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