Online reviews can make or break a business. As of 2016, over 90% of consumers do an online search before making purchasing decisions. If you’ve searched your business name on Google and the first results coming up are bad reviews, you can bet they’re costing you.
Unfortunately customers that had bad experiences are far more likely to post a review than the ones that had things go as planned. But before you run off and hire a “reputation management” company, here are some options.
Terms Of Service Violations
Google, Yelp and Facebook are the most prevalent sites for local business reviews and won’t get rid of bad reviews unless they violate their terms of service. You can check out Yelp’s TOS, Google’s TOS and Facebook’s TOS but in short, violations mean if someone is using inappropriate language, personally attacking you possibly a frivolous review from a disgruntled ex-exployee. If you do have inappropriate reviews, you can submit a removal request with the links below.
Contact The Review Poster
Sign up for website of the posted review and contact the reviewer and see if you can work something out. While some reviewers won’t budge, you can at least ask them to update their review to include that you reached out to them and apologized/explained the situation. Depending on your business, you can offer a heavy discount or a free service to make up for their bad experience.
If you have claimed (verified ownership) your business listing on Yelp, you can publicly respond to reviews and give your side of the story. Even if you can’t change the mind of one customer, you can at least show potential customers that you care and are willing to make things right. Here is how that works on Yelp.
The Google URL Removal Tool
This tool is usually used to de-index outdated or wrong information about a website you own. It’s a bit of a long shot and there is no absolute time frame for the removal but we have had success in the past. You can access the tool here.
Suppress The Bad Reviews
If working with the review poster is out of the question, you can try to open a few social media accounts for your business which can bump the bad results off of the front page. Most people don’t look past the first page of search results so this can be very effective. The most common sites to open up a business profile on are: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. Once you’ve setup a profile, make a few posts so Google knows your page is active. It might take a few weeks for the new pages to show up. If your new pages are still nowhere to be found, you can submit the links manually here.
Encourage Positive Reviews
If all else fails, encourage your customers to leave you a good review. While it’s true that most people look to online reviews before purchasing, recent reviews hold the most weight. Burying an old negative review under tons of recent positive reviews can make a huge difference.
Be honest with your customers and explain that you’re new to Yelp or wherever and would appreciate them taking 5 minutes to leave a review. You can even give them an incentive. We’ve worked with a spa that gave free facial coupons in exchange for a Yelp review just as an example.
Go To Court
This is for extreme circumstances where a review is extremely defamatory, hire an attorney and seek an injunction. An injunction is a court order that mandates a person take some action (remove a review). Bear in mind that winning an injunction is not easy but suing a reviewer may be enough to get them to voluntarily remove a review. Obviously legal work is never cheap but if it’s really costing your practice, it may be worth it.