Improving Your Business’ Reputation By Fixing Negative Reviews

No business is perfect. Sometimes it is impossible to satisfy every type of need for every type of client. Whether warranted or not, every business has or will experience receiving an online negative review. Websites such as Yelp and Foursquare are designed to be user friendly. Anyone can post any comment on a business’ page and give it a star rating. But what happens when the comment is harmful to your reputation? Your knee-jerk reaction may be to simply delete the comment or leave a snarky defensive remark. This just leaves the door open  for future problems. There are better ways to fix negative reviews, and they are achievable for any business.

How A Negative Review Affects Your Online Presence

Let’s look a bit further into the functions and uses of online review sites using Yelp as an example. Yelp is a website in the early 2000s as a way to showcase a user’s local businesses and how they compared to each other’s. It functions similarly to a social platform as making an account is free as well as commenting on any page can be done by anyone. A user can upload photos of their services and connect with others who had the same service experience.

The main use of Yelp is for looking into what others have to say about a business you are interested in. After receiving a service, the user can easily hop on to the business’ page and leave a review with a one to five star rating – one being the least and five being the most. These stars are then averaged into an overall five star rating of the business that appears next to its name in the search options. Because of this averaging system, negative reviews can ruin a business’ reputation and demolish any high rating. Negative reviews have the potential to:

  • Cost the business money
  • Ruin a business’ credibility
  • Prohibit future clients from learning more about a business’ services
  • Push the existing positive reviews down to the bottom

Negative reviews are not something that can simply be ignored. But receiving a negative review is not the end of the world. There are ways in which you can fix a negative review by engaging with the negative in order to create and overall positive.

Negative Review vs Spam Reviews

Reporting a negative review to a search engine’s help feature does not mean it will be deleted. Review companies want to keep their platforms honest, and that means not removing something just because it did not positively affect the company. Google has a set stance on how and when they will delete a review. Their policy states:

“Google’s goal is to identify what information from the web is relevant to users’ queries, not to determine whether that material is in some sense wrongful.”

In less words, Google will not delete a review simply if it is negative. There needs to be a higher risk for Google to take action. Fortunately, Google does have some standards set in place. A review will be deleted by Google if it contains the following:

  • Social Security Number
  • A user’s medical records
  • A user’s bank or financial information
  • Credit card numbers
  • Photos of signatures
  • Nude or explicit images

All of these instances would be considered “high-risk” and immediately be flagged by the system’s software. In addition, bots can leave leading negative reviews on a business’ website. These are easily identifiable to the system’s software and will normally be automatically filtered out. However, if a review comes from an anonymous user, contains a link to a third party account or has glaring grammatical errors, that is a good indication of a spam review. Flagging those reviews to be determined and dealt with by the system’s software is an easy way to ensure that all of your reviews are from actual users.

For all of those instances that flagging a review will not right a wrong, there are some steps any business can follow in order to fix a negative review and keep a positive reputation

Step One: Assess the Situation

Reading negative review can be hurtful. After all, it is your business someone is talking about, and it is hard not to get upset in response. If only users on the Internet learned the age old saying of “if you are not going to say something nice, then do not say it at all.” Since negative reviews will always exist, it is important to remember to stay calm. Acting rationally out of anger or sadness will only lead to more negativity. It could also lead you to say things you would have never said with a clear head. Reviews do not need to be responded to the second after they are posted; take some time to assess the review and determine why the user is upset. A negative review could be in response to:

  • Poor service
  • A misunderstanding
  • Lack of communication
  • Biased opinion

Any of these could be why the user decided to take the time and write out their thoughts. It is important to understand the why so you can determine the how. How should you respond to that comment? Replying to a negative comment always has the same goal of gaining back client trust, but it can be done in different ways.

The Don’ts of Replying

Once you have evaluated the situation, it is time to set the record straight. Right off the bat there are some elements you never want to include in a reply. Including these will only lead to more negative and on a more severe level.

Ignore it

This goes back to what was first mentioned from the start: do not ignore negative reviews. If a client sees you trying to right a wrong, then they are more likely to give your business a second chance. It also looks good to potential clients because they know that if they are ever dissatisfied with your business then they know you will be willing to work to make it right. It goes a long way to acknowledge a problem, take time to respond in a considerate way, and finally, resolve the issue. Perhaps there was simply a misunderstanding that can be easily cleared up. Great. Maybe it’s a customer who had a one in a million bad experience with a product that wasn’t up to usual standards. Think of each issue as a potential platform to showcase what you are willing to do to make something right and showing in a public online space how much you care about your customers.

Write a lengthy reply

Even if the reply is sincere, writing out paragraphs upon paragraphs of how you can make a situation is not only tedious but can lead to confusion as well as endless back and forths. Clients do not want to have to sift through paragraphs in order to resolve an issue. With this in mind, get right to the point in replying to a negative review.

Deny all wrongdoing

Remember the saying “the customer is always right.” In reality, sometimes they are not, but you need to reply as if they always are. Denying any wrongdoing on your part would reflect negatively on your image. Clients will view any denying as dishonesty and not being able to own up to a mistake.

Make up excuses

If you were wrong, then you were wrong. It does not matter what circumstances the situation happened under, and giving an upset client hollow excuses will not reflect well on your business’ image. People want to know what you are going to do next. They do not care about why it was done so in the first place.

The Dos of Replying

With the list of what not to do in mind, now you can move on to crafting a reply. Including this list of what to do will help to restore your business’ reputation.

Promptly respond

This is a key element to grasp on responding to a negative review. The more time that passes, the less likely the user is to view your reply as positive and helpful. As mentioned before, a reply does not and should not be posted the second after the negative review appears, but it should be dealt with in 24 hours time. Quickly replying to negative reviews shows clients that you are aware of their needs and on top of customer service.

Own up to any mistakes

No one is perfect. Sometimes businesses make mistakes, whether it is a wrong order at a restaurant or a long wait time to complete a service. Owning your mistakes may hurt your pride a bit, but it will show the client that you take responsibility for what has transpired between you and them.

Keep your response brief

When it comes to information needed in a reply to a negative review, there are only three elements that are absolutely required to address: addressing what was done wrong, reassuring the client, and what you will do to right the wrong. Keeping your response brief makes it easier on the user to understand what they can expect from you.


Even if you are not in the wrong, apologize to the user for their dissatisfaction. Sometimes the only thing a client needs to hear is “I’m sorry.” Apologizing to the user shows that you want them to give your business another chance because they can rely on you.

Offer to fix the situation

There is always a way to right a wrong. Whether it is offering a free next service or a redo of the first, there is not a situation where your business can’t offer additional support. This is the most important element of fixing negative reviews because it shows your clients that you are actually going to do something about their dissatisfaction. You want your business to be one that actively tries to right every wrong.

Replacing the Negative with the Positive

Overall, you want your business’ review pages to consist of more positive reviews than negative. Once negative reviews have been replied to and dealt with, it is possible to have them disappear without being deleted. There are a couple ways you can “push down” negative reviews in order to highlight the positive. Utilizing these tactics will help to minimize the number of negative reviews while making sure the positive ones are always on display.

Optimize Your Content

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a tactic to get your posts and pages to the top of search engines. This includes using keywords that people frequently search in order to gain more clicks per page.

Earn Brand Mentions

A good way to push down negative comments is to have other credible sources saying positive things about your business. Earning mentions on reliable news websites will help immensely. News sites normally receive a lot of backlinks, so it would not be a stretch for them to appear at the top of your search results. Additionally, if the news site link you in to other positive articles then that content will also boost your ranking.

Claim Your Name

In any bio section on a website or platform, you should be setting the facts of “who, what, when, where, and why.” Tell your clients and potential clients about how your business started and the standards you work by. False claims are less likely to become negative reviews if the client has a trustworthy source to set the record straight.

Monitor Your Pages

Even if you are successful in getting negative reviews removed from Google and other websites, that does not guarantee that more will not follow. You want to try to identify problems before they escalate and run out of control. Monitor what is posted on your pages daily and manage your brand by staying on top of any mentions that occur. Fixing a complaint before it becomes a problem is the key to reputation management.

What Are You Waiting For? Start Now!

Turning the negative into a positive takes time, but it can be accomplished by any business. Clients and potential clients are already looking you up online, so managing your reputation by fixing negative reviews should be a practice that is implemented immediately. The more you work at utilizing superior customer service, the fewer problems will arise. You want the outside world to see your business as you see it. Do not let negative reviews cover your business’ success. Your business’ reputation relies on your clients’ feedback. Increase your reputation by fixing the negative with the positive.

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