How to Deal With Negative Reviews (And Reduce Their Negative SEO Impact)

TRUE FACT: Reputation is what drives customers to your site.

TRUE FACT 2: Customers rely on Google and other search engines to recommend them reputable companies they should do business with.

Just take a look at this screenshot:

bakery south dublin

Which bakery you think searchers are most likely to overlook?

Yup, the one without any star ratings.

And thus, even though the lack of ratings makes this particular bakery’s listing to stand out, it does it in a negative way by highlighting something the company lacks – reputation.

But the battle between the remaining two listings will be fought on another reputation signal – reviews.

We rely on reviews to make a buying purchase

And there is plenty of data to prove it:

  • BrightLocal for instance discovered that 88% of consumers read reviews to determine the quality of a local business (source).
  • Econsultancy quotes research stating that 61% of consumers read reviews before making a buying decision (source).
  • And TripAdvisor found that 77% of holidaymakers will not book a hotel without reading its reviews first (source).

Why we find reviews so important?

For one, because we rely on the opinions of others.

Just think of what you did the last time you went out to find a restaurant in a new town. Most likely you wandered around until you’ve spotted one packed with people. In spite of plenty of other diners around, you picked one in which you had to wait for over an hour to be seated.

But the sheer fact that others have picked it too indicated that this is the safest option to choose.

Or think of the last time you had to buy a product you’ve never purchased or used before. Chances are that you went on Amazon and selected the one with the most positive reviews within your price range.

This behavior is nothing new. Robert Cialdini calls it Consensus, although I’m sure you know it by another term – social proof.

Its mechanics are pretty simple, when we’re uncertain about what to do, we typically look at actions and behaviors of others to determine the best course of action.

Here’s a great video that explains how it works (watch from 9:00 mark)


There is more research to prove how valuable reviews are for a business:

Zendesk discovered that 90% of customers admit that positive reviews influence their final decision to buy.

And according to Econsultancy, having positive reviews typically results in 18% higher sales.

But the thing is, you can’t always be getting positive reviews

First, it’s unnatural.

No matter how much effort you’ll put into your product or customer service, you’ll always come across customers expecting more.

And apparently these people are far likelier to post a review than someone who’s had a positive experience with your brand.

Second, it would hurt your conversions too.

Having only positive reviews immediately suggests customers that something isn’t right.

On the other hand, negative reviews make your profile more trustworthy.

As the aforementioned report by Econsultancy points:

68% of consumers trust reviews more when they see both good and bad scores, while 30% suspect censorship or faked reviews when they don’t see anything negative at all”

But how do you deal with negative reviews so they do not hurt your brand?

First of all, have a process for dealing with negative reviews

One of the biggest mistakes a business could do is let employees deal with every negative review unsupervised.

Why, because not every negative review is equal. Some are really basic and could be overturned with just few words. Many however are complex and solving them would involve making serious decisions and taking a strategic approach.

So for a start, develop a process for establishing the severity of a review and next actions in tackling it. These could include instructions about who should be involved in the response, for instance.

Having a process in place is particularly important because our rational thinking often switches off in stressful situations. And with logical defenses down it’s easy to post a wrong comment, aggravate the reviewer even more and cause a social media backlash. The Internet is full of examples of that, after all.

Two, find out what really is the issue

Let’s be honest, most of the time a negative review comes as a surprise. And the scenario almost always looks the same:

You arrive at your desk in the morning, coffee at hand, log in to your email or CRM and … your jaw drops to the floor!

Someone’s bashing your brand and you’re not even sure what went wrong.

But before you jump in to writing a response, find out exactly:

  • What REALLY happened,
  • Who was involved, and
  • When did the situation occur.

Then talk to people in your company who might have been involved in the issue, get their story and all the facts right.

Three, write an apology but don’t stop there

You know, the worst review you can publish is the one saying you’re sorry.

Why, because your customer doesn’t give a cr*p about it.

What he or she wants is for you to acknowledge that you’re listening to them and then, show how you’re going to fix the problem.

Monitor for further comments

In most cases a solid response will solve the problem. At times however the customer may want to take the issue further.  Therefore, you should always monitor the interaction for any updates and further comments from the customer.

How to reduce the impact of negative reviews on SEO?

You know this already:

  • Negative reviews do happen.
  • They can be overturned by developing a solid process for responding to them.
  • But they can still affect your organic traffic.

In the Moz’s recent local search ranking factors report, review based signals make up of 9.8% of the algorithm.


While “Negative Sentiment in Place Reviews” is one of the key negative ranking factors identified in the survey.

It therefore goes without saying how important for local rankings. And that negative reviews will have an impact on your rankings.

There is however another way negative reviews could affect your site’s organic traffic.

As Calin Yablonski from InboundInteractive points in this article:

The more urgent concern, however, is the impact negative reviews have on a website’s Click Through Rate (CRT) in the Local SERPs and the perception of your business in the eyes of its customers.

Whether it’s Yelp, TripAdvisor or Google My Business, reviews about your business or product are likely already online. They’re being shared in formal environments like review sites and in informal environments like social media platforms and discussion forums.

If you remain silent, only one perspective will be being shared: the reviewer’s.

To combat negative reviews, learn from the feedback provided by your customers and improve your business so future complaints are mitigated. And, work to generate positive contributions in the review ecosystem, not just Google My Business. 

(reprinted with permission)


Fact: negative reviews happen. It doesn’t matter how much you try to prevent them, there’s always going to be someone dissatisfied with your product or service.

Fact 2: Your customers form their opinion about you based on reviews and reputation signals they find in Google.

And thus, offset the effect negative reviews have on your business you need two strategies:

  1. One to deal with negative reviews, and
  2. The other to attract as many positive ones.


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