Can negative reviews help your business?

by on February 17, 2014 · 7 comments


Negative online reviews can be a scary thing for small business owners. People can leave you reviews all over the web, and there isn’t anything you can do about it.

But negative reviews are not always as bad as they seem. In fact, there are many cases where you can turn a negative review into something that helps you get more customers.

And in the rare cases where you can’t there are a few things you can do to make sure your side of the story is heard.

People ARE leaving reviews of your business online

First, it’s important to recognize that people can leave online reviews about your business in many places on the web, including Google+, Yelp, CitySearch, Facebook, and others. So you should recognize this and make sure you know where people are leaving you reviews.

Every business owner will get a negative online review at some time, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Here’s why.

How negative reviews can help your business

Negative reviews can actually help you in four important ways:

  1. They create trust and credibility.
    According to a study by Reevoo, 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.

    Not only this, but shoppers who go out of their way to read bad reviews convert 67% more than the average consumer.

  2. They provide you feedback.
    In some cases a bad review from a customer can help you identify a problem area in your business that needs to be addressed. Keep an open mind and watch for this. It might reveal an issue you didn’t know about and allow you to address it, helping all of your customers.

  3. They can improve your SEO
    Online reviews were identified as a ranking factor in the Local Search Ranking Factors report. And from Google’s perspective, it doesn’t matter if they are negative or positive reviews. Google looks at reviews as “signs of life” for your business, and reviews help you rank better.

  4. They are a golden opportunity!
    Negative reviews are a great opportunity to show your customer focus. Use them to show that you listen to your customers and take action. When people read a bad online review and see a thoughtful, classy response from the business owner, it raises their opinion of you in many ways. Google provides some great guidelines for responding to negative reviews.

For more on this, see Matt McGee’s excellent article – 5 Ways Negative Reviews Are Good For Business.

Ok, so how can I respond to a negative review?

If you do get a negative online review that is particularly harmful, there are a few things you can do about it.

  1. Reach out to the reviewer.
    If you don’t know who it is, use the system (Yelp or Google)

  2. Respond with a public comment.
    But remember that everyone will see your response. Use this as an opportunity to show that you listen to your customers and take action. Google provides some great guidelines for this.

    Miriam Ellis, in her excellent article – Edit, Remove and Respond To Reviews – Tools For Conflict Resolution, says that “The bulk of negative reviews strike me as a product of total communication breakdown.” I agree.

  3. Head off negative reviews before they happen by asking your customer for feedback!
    A negative review can really hurt you if it’s the only review someone sees. This is why it is important to be proactive and ask your best customers for online reviews. That way, if you do receive a negative review, it will actually lend credibility to all the other positive online reviews around it.

I hope there have been a few tips in here to help you deal with online reviews for your business or your clients.

If you have any questions, I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

p.s. If you are looking for a system to help you with customer feedback and online reviews, try out our GetFiveStars free trial.

Article by »

Don is an entrepreneur based in Silicon Valley. He founded Expand2Web and is the publisher of the Expand2Web Blog, and the GetFiveStars Customer Feedback and Reviews service.

Don has written 313 articles on Expand2Web

Author Connect » Twitter | | Facebook |

See my disclosure about advertising and affiliate links

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Ronald Thibodeau Sr February 19, 2014 at 7:09 pm

Don, thanks so much for the great pointers, especially how to respond to negative reviews.

My company uses an online contractor referral service: HomeAdvisor, (was Servicemagic) and the faith that customers put in credible online reviews cannot be overstated — particularly when involves work being done in their homes!

After 30 five star reviews in a row, We had a customer give us only 4 stars. What a disappointment!

Needless to say, we tried to find out what aspect of our service the customer was less than happy with, even offering a refund! The customer refrained from responding leading me to the conclusion that this particular customer just does not believe in giving 5 star ratings!

Definitely plan on putting your advice on handling negative reviews to good use. Thanks!


Don Campbell February 20, 2014 at 3:22 pm

Hi Ronald,
Thanks for sharing your experience with reviews. The important thing is that you are engaging with your customers and their feedback. I know when I’m looking at reviews for a product or service 4 stars is very respectable. What worries me is if the product has a lot of bad reviews, or very few reviews and 1 or more of them are bad.


David White February 20, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Some great tips Don. I think the point that having 1 or two negative reviews amongst a bunch of positive reviews actually makes all the reviews as a whole more valuable is really important. I think this is especially true if some of the positive reviews address the negative review.


Don Campbell February 20, 2014 at 3:23 pm

Thanks David. Totally agree. I’ve seen that happen before when positive reviews address another review that someone else has written. It’s a good sign when your customers go to bat for you!


Larry A. February 20, 2014 at 5:00 pm

I have to agree with your suggestions Don. Even the big brand companies today get some kind of negative feedback. Yet, they still survive the criticism and manage to overcome the challenges. However, as you mentioned, it should be priority to maintain those customers that have problems or complaints. I think many businesses have a problem of simply avoiding those customers that have complaints. And, from a business standpoint, ignoring a problem only causes more problems in the long run. Thanks!


Don Campbell March 2, 2014 at 11:20 am

I just ran across this excellent article by Andrew Shotland, called 5 Tips For Responding To Negative Customer Reviews Online.

Take a look at how the wedding photographer responded to that negative review. It’s a great example of how to do it right.


Dorreen November 23, 2014 at 9:00 am

I do believe these negative feedback can help you in your business. In this way you can know the flaws and the things that still needs improvement in your business.


Leave a Comment

{ 4 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: