How Negative Reviews Affect Your Business Reputation Online

May 27, 16739 min read

Negative reviews can have a huge impact on your business, but do you know just how large of an impact?

The truth is, negativity spreads faster than positivity. Customers are less likely to leave a review if they are satisfied, but will often go out of their way to make a negative review if they have a bad experience.

Negative reviews can impact your business in a multitude of ways, both positive and negative. Positive reviews will make it more likely for customers to purchase from you, while negative reviews can make them think twice. 

Stay On Top Of Reviews

BrightLocal did a survey in 2020 which found that customers are relying on reviews now more than ever to influence their buying decisions. Seeing what genuine real-life customers think of a business or product will leave an impression in their minds. If their first impression of your business is negative, well… They say first impressions are everything.

So how can you stay on top of your reviews?

If you already use popular review sites for your business, such as Yelp, Facebook, Google, and TripAdvisor, you can monitor them for reviews. Monitoring your reviews will help you keep track of what people are saying about your business.

If you see a negative review, it can benefit you to respond to it. Studies have shown that people are more likely to visit a business that responds to negative reviews compared to those that don’t. It will put your business in a better light if your negative reviews have been responded to with respect and assurance that whatever was wrong will be fixed.

What Customers Look For In Reviews

According to BrightLocal, 5 factors contribute to a review. They are star rating, legitimacy, recency, sentiment, and quantity.

1. Star Rating

Star rating is something that customers look for first. Say you need to book a photographer for your wedding. You search online for photographers in your area and come across someone who is in your price range. Based on the description, they look okay to you, so you decide to call them up. Before you do, you notice the reviews and click on them to see more.

You are stunned at the sheer amount of negative reviews that pop up. Nearly all of them are 1 to 2-star reviews left by the photographer’s previous clients. The photographer is not showing up on time, being rude to their clients, demanding payment early, and poorly photoshopping clients’ photos.

Not all of the reviews have been replied to, but the ones that have been exhibit insults to clients and claims that nothing ever happened. You leave the page disappointed but glad you decided to look at the photographer’s reviews before you hired them.

2. Legitimacy

Legitimacy is another important factor that contributes to a review. You will need to look out for false reviews, reviews made by bots, reviews made by a competitor, and reviews that aren’t about your business. Illegitimate reviews will usually either be on the high end or low end in terms of star rating, depending on if they were made by friends or competitors of the business.

For example, say you want to buy a product online. You search through the reviews and find some that look suspicious. A few reviews have rated this business as 5 stars and a few that are rated as 1 star. But upon reading the reviews, they seem to be somewhat off.

The 5-star reviews just seem to be praising the business and its products in a promotional manner and don’t seem to have any details of individual experience attached to them. These are possibly reviews made by bots or made by the business owner’s friends to promote their content. The fact that the business allows these kinds of reviews to exist and would stoop to this level in the first place is your first red flag.

The 1-star reviews are the opposite of the 5-star reviews. They bash the products and company for seemingly no reason, having the same issue as the 5-star reviews with the lack of individual content. Reviews like this could again be made by bots or by competitors of the company.

3. Recency

The recency of a review is important because businesses can change over time. This can be due to many reasons, such as staffing or managerial changes. The reviews left on a business that are over a year old might not reflect the quality of service in the present and can be a negative factor for your business.

A 2020 study by BrightLocal revealed that the older reviews were, the less the customers were impacted by them. Customers were 50% more likely to buy from a business with reviews posted within 2 weeks. This number drops to 23% within 1 month, to 13% within 3 months, to 6% within 6 months, and 5% within 12 months.

4. Sentiment

Sentiment refers to the attitude or opinion of reviews. Sentiments in reviews can pull in customers or drive them away. If most of your reviews are real downers, people will be less likely to consider your business or product.

The tone of a review can highly impact a customer’s decision to purchase. If other customers have a strong dislike of or indifference to your product, they will likely not buy from you. On the other hand, reviews that are happy or excited in tone may convince the customer that the product is worth their time and money.

5. Quantity

The amount, or quantity, is the last factor of reviews. How can someone trust your business if you have little to no reviews? They don’t have anything to go on. Mostly, this will fix itself with time. In the meantime, encourage your existing customers to leave reviews, as this will help grow your reputation and draw in potential customers.

Put yourself in their shoes for a moment and imagine which business you would choose. Two businesses stand out to you online. Both of their products and services are exactly what you’re hoping for. Only one problem remains. Which one do you choose?

One of the businesses looks very polished and professional in terms of how they have their site set up. They have many reviews that are mostly 4 to 5 stars and other customers seem to really like the products they bought and were satisfied with how they were treated.

The other business has a few reviews, some low in star count and some high. None of the reviews stand out to you. The lack of reviews is also concerning, so you decide to go with the first business.

How To Respond To Negative Reviews

Negative reviews about your business can leave you feeling anxious, uncertain, or even upset. Although it may be tempting to just ignore these, responding to them is in your best interest. So how exactly do you go about it?

The one thing you should do is stay calm. Getting all worked up and causing an even bigger scene will not bode well for your business. Just keep a level head and respond respectfully to any bad reviews you see. Let those people know you hear their concerns and that you would like to work to resolve the problem. Taking this calm approach has the chance to change that person’s mind about your business.

For example, say a customer leaves a scathing review about the way they were treated. Customer service is very important for customer satisfaction and it says a lot about your business. You respond to the review with an apology for the bad experience and how you will look into the matter.

If the conversation between you and the customer needs to continue, take it out of the public eye and move it to email or direct message. This takes the negative attention away and allows you to work on fixing whatever the reviewer had an issue with in a private manner.

As it turns out, one of your employees is having a bad day and had been a bit short with the customer. This person usually does a great job, so you let them off with a warning that this shouldn’t happen again.

What If I Do Nothing?

Negative reviews left unchecked can destroy your business reputation. If customers see that you don’t care if they have issues, they won’t trust you. Many consequences can arise from ignoring bad reviews, but here are a few big ones:

1. Revenue Loss

Customers will be less likely to spend money on your business if they see bad review after bad review. Research has shown that with only one bad review, your business risks losing 21.9% of revenue. With two bad reviews, 44.1% of revenue will be lost. With three, 59.2%, and with four or more, 69.9%.

2. Decreased Reputation

Would you be willing to trust a business that has two stars and terrible reviews? Those two alone are enough to lower your reputation, not to mention if word of mouth spreads about your business on other platforms and between individuals.

If someone has a bad experience, they’re likely to tell others about it. Usually, this would be between family and friends. Old-school word of mouth is very powerful in this instance, especially if your business is small and local. If enough people in your community are told about a bad experience some customers had, your reputation will quickly plummet.

3. Fewer Customers

Bad reviews are likely to drive customers away at a single glance. If the star rating is low, they’ll most likely just pass you by. Negative reviews and ratings can send a message about your business that might be worse than the truth, which can deter potential customers.

4. Low Search Engine Ranking

If you are inattentive to and don’t do anything about negative reviews, Google will take notice. Your search engine ranking can drop and your reputation may plummet if Google determines your service to be less than the best to offer.

Negative Reviews Do Affect Your Reputation Online

Overall, reviews are very important to your business as they contribute to most if not all buying decisions online. Negative reviews can damage your reputation and income, so it’s best to respond early when you see one and make sure your customers know you care about their experiences.

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