Encouraging your customers to leave a Google My Business (GMB) review is more than just a good SEO tactic. It can be great for your brand too. But what do you do should a dreaded negative GMB review arrive? Negative reviews can damage your reputation - only 14% of consumers would consider using a business with a 1-2 star rating.
Here’s our guide to turn things around for the better.
Why respond to bad reviews?
Every business may get a genuine negative review at some point. As the age-old cliche goes, you can’t please all of the people all of the time.
If a negative review is genuine, responding to it allows a business to demonstrate that they have a human side - with empathy, humility and a willingness to apologise, if necessary. A carefully crafted response can convey that the business cares about any inadequacies.
It’s a bit of a paradox, but getting a negative review can even make your positive reviews seem more authentic. Publicly showcasing your care for your customers’ needs and dissatisfactions is attractive. You can also benefit from genuine feedback and learn from customers’ experiences, which can be invaluable.
Who leaves GMB reviews?
Let's define the seven distinct types of negative GMB reviewer:
- The Rule Breaker - this person has broken the rules (e.g. used expletives, advertising or confidential information). This should be the first thing you check for when you get a review. Assuming the review falls foul of one of these criteria, this requires you to report them to Google. It is also a good idea to add a holding reply until the review is removed, to let other potential customers aware that you are looking into it. Note: if the review cites anything illegal with your service/product, seek help from a legal professional before replying or trying to get the review removed as these can be used against you in court.
- The Spammy One - this may not be a person at all, they may just be a bot. The review may contain a link to one of their services or they may have left thousands of reviews that are the same across many profiles. Again, you’ll need to report this to Google. A holding reply is also not a bad idea.
- The Accidental One - this person reviewed your company by accident. Google to the rescue once more - just let them know.
- The Ghost - a person has left a negative rating with no explanation. How helpful. Best left alone in reality, unless you can prove the person has left it maliciously.
- The Ranty One - someone who may have had a bad experience, but isn’t the most eloquent. Their review may be rushed, badly written and contain irrelevant information. Depending on the quality, you’ll have to decide whether to ignore this, or to engage them.
- The Blagger - this person is trying to get something for nothing and is publishing this review with nothing else in mind. A tactful response is required here.
- The Genuine One - this person is genuinely ticked off with their experience with your business. Ripe for a reply, but tread carefully.
Identifying your reviewer from the above should help you make up your mind about which of the three R’s to pick; reply, report or reject.
If the review falls foul of Google’s Guidelines, it should be reported in the following manner:
- Flag - hover over the review when viewing from the search results page and a flag should appear:
Click this, and you will be asked to state why you would like to report the review:
Try and get several people you know to flag the review too, as this has been shown to bring it to Google’s attention more quickly.
Note: you can also report the review in Google Maps by clicking the three vertical dots and then the ‘Flag as inappropriate’ button:
- Twitter - Direct messaging on Twitter (@GoogleMyBiz) allows you to have an actual conversation with the GMB support team and is a great way of bringing their attention to an issue on your listing. Depending on the severity of the review (or if the review has not been removed 24 hours after flagging), this should be your next port of call. An advantage of contacting GMB on Twitter is that you will find out relatively quickly whether the review is being looked into or not - flagging doesn’t grant you such privilege. Note: phoning the GMB team is also possible, but in most people’s experience (including ours) proves a lot less effective.
GMB Forum - The Official Google My Business Community gives you a chance to voice issues with others and (especially importantly) Top Contributors, who can offer expert advice, and escalate if required. If you’re not getting answers, or the answers you want, this is the place to go.
Note: if the review contains hate speech, highly sensitive information or a particularly crude profanity, it is best to use all of the above to get it under Google’s nose - you need it gone as quickly as possible!
Mike Blumenthal (Local SEO legend) once said: “Make a complainer feel like your most valued customer because, in some ways, they are.”
Let’s remember that not only 1 and 2 star reviews are considered negative. There may be some customers that are dissatisfied with one aspect of their experience, whilst chuffed with another. Try and pick out the individual issues contained within each review and address them in the following ways:
- Respond quickly - win the customer back before they’ve gone elsewhere. Make sure review notifications are turned on in the GMB dashboard and the email address of the listing owner is checked frequently. Try and leave a reply within 24 hours if possible.
- Express gratitude - give genuine thanks to customers for leaving a review. Remember that they have taken time out of their day to give you feedback, and that shouldn’t be sniffed at.
- Take responsibility if you’re at fault - there’s nothing worse than blame-game tactics. If you made a mistake, say so. Be accountable and humble. Don’t try and shift the blame onto the customers, other staff or suppliers, the technique will be plainly obvious to review readers.
- Say “sorry” - don’t infer apology, say the actual words “I’m sorry” or “I apologise” as they mean a lot to someone who’s had a bad experience.
- Break down and state/address the customer’s gripe - show that you understand what they have taken issue with by referring to individual complaints. “Regarding the cleanliness of the toilets, we have added an hourly cleaning checklist to be completed by our staff.”
- Don’t ramble - offer detail but be as concise as you can when addressing the review.
- Compensate or take time to meet - if you were in the wrong, offer the customer a product or service for free, or at a reduced price. Alternatively, give them a few minutes of your time to apologise in person - it will mean a lot to them.
- Take the feedback on board - devise strategies to prevent this issue happening again. Document all complaints and revisit them periodically to spot patterns.
Local SEO expert Greg Gifford famously said “sometimes responding to low quality reviews is like wrestling a pig: you’ll both get covered in shit, and what’s more, the pig will like it”.
Basically, pick your battles - if you can see that no good is going to come from replying, leave it - others will work out for themselves that the customer is wrong.
Hopefully this will answer your questions, but get in touch if you need some more help.
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