Why you shouldn’t be afraid of online reviews


We’ve encountered businesses who are genuinely worried about getting online reviews. They don’t have a Facebook page, haven’t claimed their business listing on Google, and are in denial about any online review sites where they might be mentioned.


Because they’re worried that even just one negative review from a disgruntled customer will ruin their company reputation and cause serious loss of business.

The ironic truth about bad reviews

What these business owners have misunderstood about the online world is best put by Mike Blumenthal, one of the world’s top Local Search experts:

There are two kinds of businesses in today’s world. Those that have received a negative review and those that will.

Everyone will get a bad review at some point. And here’s the irony - not only are you stopping your business from thriving online by trying to avoid social media etc, a few bad reviews might actually be GOOD for your business!

How can that be? Well, here are a few reasons.

Bad reviews build trust in your overall rating

A business with 100 5-star reviews just looks too good to be true. The reaction of anyone looking at a list of reviews like that will be, “Where are the bad ones?”

The assumption that a potential customer may make is that the business is somehow hiding the bad reviews and/or that they have faked the good ones. That leaves the customer free to imagine that there may be a lot of negative reviews that they’re not seeing. All of that undermines trust in what they read about the business on its website, or in good reviews.

In contrast, having 20 good reviews and 2 negative reviews builds trust in what a potential customer is reading. They can see that the reviews must be real, because there is a mix of experience on show. That reflects the real world - life isn’t perfect, no business is perfect, so no collection of reviews will be only perfect ratings all of the time.

Clearly, having a good ratio of good reviews to bad reviews is important, as that is what impacts your overall star rating on sites such as Facebook and Google where potential customers will check you out. But you don’t need dozens of good reviews for every bad one. The BrightLocal Local Consumer Review Survey 2016 found that:

87% of people say that a business needs a rating of 3-5 stars before they will use them.

That’s not too difficult a benchmark to achieve. In very general terms it works out at a ratio of 1:2. So for every one 1-star review you only need two 5-star reviews to end up with a 3.6-star overall rating which 87% of people will trust. If you have a ratio of 1:3, you’ll have a 4-star rating which looks even more trustworthy.

How you respond can win you respect

When (not if!) you get a bad review, a golden opportunity has just landed in your lap. How you respond will make the difference between a boost to your business reputation, and a potentially serious loss of reputation and customers.

The good news though, is that this is entirely in your control. There is a lot of good advice out there for how to respond to negative reviews, but it boils down to this:

Don’t let your emotions get the better of you!

You’ll probably have entirely natural feelings of frustration and anger as the business owner. Especially if you’re flat out working as hard as you can to please your customers, and the negative review or comment you’ve just seen isn’t entirely fair or justified. You’ll probably be thinking that the last thing you want to do is be nice to this customer and make things up to them, because then they’ll come back and possibly find another reason to complain again. So a slightly pointed comment in your response with the aim of putting them off might just slip out…

Don’t do it!

The fact is that customers have all the power online. If they’re angry enough (however unfairly) and care enough about getting the reaction they want from you (however petty that might be), they can spread negativity all over your reputation online, and people will probably believe it until they see a reason to think otherwise.

So your response to a negative review matters. A lot.

Here’s the best way to respond:

  1. Only respond once. Don’t get into an argument, just state your position clearly and briefly and leave it there.
  2. Empathise with the customer. Explain your side of the story, but NOT in a way which justifies what went wrong as though the customer shouldn’t be complaining. Feel their pain as if it’s entirely right and fair, even if you think it isn’t.
  3. Offer to make it right. That could be giving your contact details and asking them to reach out to you to have a personal resolution (a good option if the complaint isn’t actually entirely fair), or publicly stating what you’ll do to fix the problem. Then of course you need to follow through with what you’ve promised, and quickly.


Responding in this way wins your business respect.

Anyone coming across the negative review later will see that you didn’t ignore it, and if your response is clear, empathetic and offers to fix the problem, the effects of the bad review can almost completely disappear.

And there’s an added bonus that may come your way - a customer who complains via a bad review and gets a great response and a quick resolution will probably become a big fan of your business. They’ve been on a journey with you and have more to say, and the chances are they’ll recommend you even more enthusiastically because they’ve had more experience of your customer service.

So the ironic truth about bad reviews online is that they can actually be good for your business, by building trust and winning respect.

You are protected from the worst

It’s worth mentioning that the very worst fears of some business owners about negative reviews mostly can’t happen.

If someone posts a review about your business which contains untrue information or is intended only to damage your company’s reputation, review sites will remove it. We have experience of this, and have found that Google and Facebook will usually remove a review within hours which is clearly out of order.

Online reviews really matter

The latest statistics regarding online reviews are astonishing. The BrightLocal Local Consumer Review Survey 2016 found that:

84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

That’s amazing. Most people will treat your online reviews the same as a word-of-mouth recommendation!

That’s especially interesting because businesses often thrive on word-of-mouth, and even sometimes say that they only want to have direct recommendations as their source of new customers. Which can make sense, because word-of-mouth referrals or recommendations usually produce potential customers who are keen to buy and easy to sell to.

In terms of trust, online reviews are now as good as word-of-mouth for most people. If you value word-of-mouth recommendation, you really need to prioritise online reviews.

How to get great reviews

It’s quite easy - provide amazing service, and ask for reviews.


Providing amazing service is up to you as the owner of your business, but you may not have an easy way to ask for reviews. If you’re not a technically minded person you may be put off by the various logins and web addresses which seem to be involved.

The key is to set up a system which makes it as easy as possible for your customers to leave you a review. That means taking into account:

  • Which site will be most appropriate (Google or Facebook probably).
  • When in the customer journey they will be most willing to write a review (ideally just as they are most excited and pleased with what they’ve bought from you).
  • What technology they already use (are they getting emails from you where you could include a link, or could you help them to find the right place on their phone or tablet when you’re at their premises or home?)

What to do next

We’ve seen that as a business there’s simply no way to avoid online reviews. And what’s more, bad reviews will come your way eventually, no matter what you do.

The best thing you can do as a business owner is start getting real, honest reviews from your customers. Respond well to the bad ones, and don’t stop getting more good ones. Build it into your process, make it a habit.

When you do you’ll start to see the benefits. Everything from increased Google Local rankings to more people giving you a call or coming into your business because they like what they’ve seen.

Online reviews should not be ignored in any digital marketing strategy, especially for local businesses. For an expert opinion on your current digital marketing, and a clear, actionable 1-page report, go ahead and request a complimentary Express Audit - we'd be happy to take a look.

Geoff Todd
Author: Geoff Todd
Founder, Digital Marketing Consultant
Before founding Groweb, Geoff worked in IT for a number of years, though he originally studied Philosophy at Stirling University. Geoff lives in Stirling with his wife and two children, and helped start the new Cornerstone Community Church in Stirling in 2015.