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How To Deal With Negative Google Reviews

poor review left in ketchup

In the course of providing service to many customers, it’s likely that every customer will be happy with your services. Hopefully, you’ll have a chance to work with your unhappy customers on a resolution that will leave them happy again.

But what can you do if a customer leaves a negative review? Or even worse, what if someone was to place a fake review online, it was negative, and it was in a prominent place where many prospective customers might see it?

Below are 5 tips to deal with negative Google reviews

Recently we were called in to help the Virginia Pest Management Association with just such a situation. It appeared that a pest control operator was leaving bad Google reviews for many of their local competitors. This could be disruptive to their businesses and cause financial loss.

google information sidebarWhen a user searches for your business at Google, the search results page will typically show details about your business on the right sidebar. Those details will include a link to see any reviews that have been placed at Google. If your business has reviews on other websites like Facebook you will see a link for those as well.

If you’re not already familiar with Google local listings, they are the modern-day equivalent of phone book listings. Listings appear in searches as mentioned above, and also may appear when a user does a local search like “pest control in Virginia Beach” or “pest control near me”. 

Google listings are free, and your business probably already has a listing even if you didn’t sign up for one. The listings are built from publicly accessible data about your business and will include photos from Google maps or even photos submitted by Google users.

Sometimes the data in your listing might be incomplete or inaccurate. Fortunately, there is an easy way to fix inaccuracies. If you’re not already using Google My Business, then go to the page at https://www.google.com/business/. Use the Sign Up button to get started, and follow the instructions on the screen to claim your business listing.

Once you have a Google My Business account, you’ll get notified whenever a new review is left for your business. You can also respond to reviews, or report a fake review.

When dealing with a bad review there are some steps to follow:

  1. Keep calm. You’ll want to take some time to consider the situation and respond appropriately, especially since your response will be available for anyone to see online. Now is not the time to react emotionally, you’ll want to act in a professional manner.
  2. Balance keeping calm with a quick response. You do want to respond as soon as possible, ideally within 24 hours of the review being placed. A quick response shows prospective customers that you are concerned and responsive about the quality of service that your company provides.
  3. If the bad review is not fake, use the tips at https://support.google.com/business/answer/3474050?hl=en to write a better response.
  4. If the review is fake or fraudulent you should flag it. The link above also tells you how to flag a review as inappropriate.
  5. Be persistent if you flag a review and it is not removed from Google. Sometimes you might need to report it again, so check back in a week to see if the review was removed.

Before you flag a review as inappropriate you should check the Google Review Policies at https://support.google.com/contributionpolicy/?visit_id=636728827818281263-688938901&rd=2#topic=7422769. Spam and fake content are prohibited, so if the user has not actually used your services then you can flag the review.

You might want to investigate the user that has left a fake review before you flag the review. Every review includes a link to the user’s profile, and at their profile, you can see all the reviews the user has written. This could be helpful in establishing that the review is fake by showing a pattern of reviews for 1 industry type or within a time range that would not be realistic for a normal consumer.

Never give in to the temptation to leave fake positive reviews for your own business, or to encourage others to do so. Gaming the system might work temporarily, but the odds are that Google will catch on and you might be penalized in their system. Instead, you should encourage happy customers to leave a positive review. There are also service providers that can offer “reputation management” services that will automate the process of gathering good reviews from your customer base.

In addition to responding to reviews, you should take the time to improve your Google listing. You’ll be able to add a description, photos, business hours, and even a listing of services offered. You should add as much information as possible because doing so can increase the likelihood of your listing being displayed when a user does a local search at Google. It’s free advertising!

The work you do on your Google listing can bring large gains. In some cases, we’ve seen clients gain hundreds of website visits and phone calls monthly by optimizing their listing. In your Google My Business dashboard you’ll have access to the Insights tab. There you get reporting on the number of customers that have viewed your business on Google, and the actions they have taken to include visits to your website, requests for directions, and phone calls.

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