Why Negative Reviews Affect Your SEO

18 May 2021
by Archie Williamson
5 mins
Why Negative Reviews Affect Your SEO

While receiving negative reviews is not an objective you would intentionally pursue, mixed feedback from customers can actually help your business to build a more credible online and search presence.

Research shows that only around one in 10 consumers always or almost always ventures online to review a product or service they have recently purchased, but this comparatively small slice of a brand’s audience can have a profound impact on SEO, as well as sales and revenue. 

That’s because negative reviews are disruptive in a way that glowing reviews are not. A report by PowerReviews found that 82% of shoppers go out of their way to find negative reviews. But perhaps surprisingly, separate data from Reevoo found that visitors who interact with these reviews spend far longer on a site, with conversion rates being boosted 85% as a result.

This highlights the double-edged sword of a negative review. It can lead to lost custom if the information within it is off-putting to the reader, but it can also provide a more genuine, overall view of your brand. Consumers are often sceptical of perfect ratings and overwhelmingly positive reviews.

Are reviews important for search?

Google says reviews provide valuable information to customers who are looking for your business and that they will generally help you to stand out in search. Reviews are surfaced right next to your Google My Business (GMB) Profile in search, and within the Maps section.

To set up a GMB account, head over to google.com/business and click on the Manage Now button to get started. From here, you need to input your business details and relevant information. When your profile has been completed, customers will be able to leave reviews as well as message and call you.

In its best practices section, Google recommends verifying your business afterwards so you can respond to reviews, sharing links and reminding customers that they can leave reviews, and then replying to them to build trust and credibility.

Can GMB help with local search?

Your GMB profile is a core part of local SEO. Google uses a variety of signals to rank businesses based on GMB, including the location of a searcher, the relevance of GMB information and how it aligns with search intent, and its prominence based on factors such as local content and the number of reviews and upcoming events.

When using local SEO services, you can craft and publish targeted content, then optimise and manage your GMB profile to improve your performance in local search. This means that when someone conducts a localised query, you will be more likely to feature on the first page of SERPs, which can increase key metrics such as click-through rates and dwell time, and lead to more conversions and revenue.

What sort of impact do reviews have?

As noted already, reviews both good and bad increase your authority on search. If you have a large number of reviews, potential customers will have the peace of mind that you are a reputable business with an engaged following. It is unlikely that they will read every single review, so the finer details of user-generated content may not always be important.

A comprehensive list of reviews will lend greater credibility to your site. This can lead to visitors engaging for longer with your content when they navigate to a blog or product page. Google will then take this as a sign that your site is useful, which can boost your rankings.

Can negative reviews be beneficial?

Negative reviews can initially appear to be a problem. They are likely to include information that does not show your brand in a good light, but they can actually be a catalyst for showcasing the quality of your customer service and informing your content marketing campaigns in the future, among other things.

Google’s internal SEO guidelines state that bad reviews are almost certain to be published, even for the best websites. This means that you don’t have to worry about less than favourable feedback from customers impacting your reputation and search performance, but you do need to respond accordingly.

There is another important reason to respond – a study by RightNow found that more than a third of consumers actually go back and delete their original review after a brand has responded. Addressing the problem and being kind and empathic can help you to flip a bad review into a positive one.

When responding to a negative review, go through the same steps each time:

  • Negative comments are time-sensitive, so respond quickly.
  • Put time and thought into a genuine response.
  • Be courteous and thank them for their feedback.
  • Offer a solution.
  • Direct further conversation offline.
  • Follow up afterwards to ensure issues were addressed.

How can I flag and remove fake reviews?

Negative reviews that are not legitimate are more of a problem but you can flag and remove these using effective online reputation management (ORM) services. With so many bad faith actors in the industry and many deploying black hat SEO tactics, you can turn to ORM to safeguard your brand’s reputation.

First, you need to flag fake reviews. These reviews often share similar characteristics, such as:

  • False information.
  • One-sided arguments.
  • Short and poorly written.
  • Not from a verified account or customer.
  • Repeated exclamation marks.

You can use your GMB profile to start the process of removing fake reviews. Navigate to the Reviews section in the menu on the left-hand side of the page and select ‘flag as inappropriate’ from the list of reviews. You can then provide some extra details in a follow-up survey. Remember, you still need to respond to the review at this point, even if you think it is fake.

Negative reviews are tricky to manage as it is always difficult to gauge their impact in search. However, with the right mindset and strategy, you can manage your brand’s reputation effectively over time. Publishing great content and collecting positive ratings and reviews will also help to push back against negativity.

Most executives believe ORM is crucial but only 15% take action. To be part of the vanguard, contact us today and we will help you to set up a profile for reviews and craft content for localised audiences.


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