How to turn negative online reviews into marketing wins

It's tempting to fall into a funk when your business receives a negative review. Here's how to turn things around and benefit from critical customer feedback.

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Turning Negative Into 1920 1Reading a negative review about your company can feel like a punch to the gut. But once you get over the initial impact, there are lessons to be learned and a silver lining or two. Let’s look at all the ways you can turn a negative review into a positive thing for your business.

First, let’s look at why bad ratings and reviews aren’t as problematic as you may think. A 2017 study of more than 1.3 million local reviews by RevenueJump found that the number of reviews influences business performance on Google local search results, with the highest-ranked listings boasting an average of 38 reviews and the lowest-ranked listings having an average of only 14.3 reviews. So, negative reviews are good things to have in that they add to the total quantity, and having more reviews is correlated with higher rankings.

Additionally, negative reviews offer you the opportunity to respond to the reviewer’s concerns and turn around their impression of your business (which will hopefully be followed by a revision of the review). Even if you can’t change their minds, 77 percent of consumers discount reviews that are more than three months old, whether they are positive or negative, a 2017 study by BrightLocal found.

The same study indicates that negative reviews aren’t the turnoff you might think they would be. Just 40 percent of respondents said they’d stay away from a business after reading negative reviews, down from 68 percent in 2016. Having the full range of reviewers’ sentiments about a business, from the good to the bad, helps customers make more informed decisions.

Negative reviews can:

  • Alert you to problems you weren’t aware of, so you can fix them.
  • Give you an opportunity to improve brand sentiment by how you respond.
  • Provide a search engine optimization (SEO) bump, since they add legitimacy to your business.

Next time you get a negative review, use these tactics to transform it into a marketing win.

Show customers you care

Customer service is everything to consumers today. NewVoiceMedia’s 2018 “Serial Switchers” report found poor customer service costs businesses more than $75 billion a year, which is an increase of $13 billion since 2016. When a customer complains about your business in an online review, you can choose to ignore them or you can use your response to provide amazing customer service. Customers who have their issue solved in their first interaction with a  business are twice as likely to purchase from that business again, BrightLocal reports.

Serial Switchers Service Research US

Acknowledge and show gratitude for every review you get. Reviewers are helping your SEO, and they’re providing powerful feedback that you didn’t have to spend money on a survey to gather. Courteously tell the reviewer you have investigated the problem and explain the steps you’re taking to correct it. You may want to offer an invitation for a free service to make up for the mistake or provide a coupon for the reviewer’s next purchase.

A humble and contrite response to an angry reviewer may be enough to make them change or update their review, or at least give your business another chance.

Use complaints for content marketing

Stuck trying to think up new content ideas? Look at customer complaints. The things your customers are talking negatively about in reviews can inspire new content.

Let’s say your company runs a freelancer marketplace. Companies post their freelance design jobs on your site and designers apply to win the work. In the last three months, you’ve received a few negative reviews from freelancers saying they apply for jobs but never win them. They call your site a waste of time.

Upon investigation, you learn that the freelancers who are complaining haven’t optimized their profiles with you. They’re likely not winning the work because they aren’t showcasing themselves in the best light.

The fix: create content that shows users how to optimize their profiles. Provide step-by-step instructions and screen shots that demonstrate how they can best position themselves to get awarded assignments.

Offer help

Similarly to using negative reviews for content ideas, mine reviews for ways to amplify the level of customer service you provide. Use customer complaints to create a frequently asked questions section on your website, eliminating the confusion your negative reviewers have been experiencing.

You can also use negative reviews in staff training. Alert your team to the reasons people express discontent about your business, and train your employees so that they go above and beyond in those areas.

Use review feedback for social media content and digital customer service, too. Share content that can help mitigate bad reviews, whether it’s offering a helpful tip or sharing a web page that includes all the details of a product or service.

Run paid ads for a specific product or service

If a specific product or service you offer has been particularly hit hard in reviews, use online advertising to expose more people to it, but wow them with the service they receive so that more positive reviews come through for it. As more people try the product or service you’ve promoted, you can get newer, more positive reviews that outshine any negative ones.

You can use Facebook Ads or Google Ads to direct leads to a landing page offering a coupon for the service. Or, if you’re in the B2C space, try a deals site like Groupon. With any campaign you run, make sure your staff is prepared to offer exceptional service.

Welcome all types of reviews — even negative ones

Reviews are essential tools businesses can use to improve their products and services. Get more customer reviews by including links to review sites your business is listed on, like Yelp and Google My Business, throughout your website and social media presences. If you’re using email marketing for new customers, include a call to action to leave a review (be careful on Yelp, though — it’s a violation of their terms of service to request a review). When a customer leaves a review, you can build a positive relationship, even if the initial review is negative.

You can also get more positive reviews by featuring the ones you have in marketing materials like social media pages or email campaigns. Customers who are featured feel special, and your new customers might make their reviews more positive, too, in hopes that they will be featured.

Next time you do get a negative review, take a deep breath and relax. It’s simply a chance for your business to get a new marketing win.

Contributing authors are invited to create content for MarTech and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the martech community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.

About the author

Megan Krause
Megan Krause is a senior editor with Vertical Measures, a Phoenix-based digital marketing agency. Prior to this role she was managing editor at ClearVoice, a content marketing software startup. Megan has more than 15 years’ experience in content writing, editing and strategy development, and she loves helping brands create great content that drives leads and boosts conversions. She’s passionate about words, language, grammar, punctuation and style. And lasagna.

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