How to Deal With Bad Online Reviews the RIGHT Way

The LinkNow Media Review Guide

A gif saying "no thank you"

Fair or not, consumers will judge you by your Yelp score.

These days, online reviews can make or break a small business. It’s as simple as that. Estimates range from 67% to 90% of all customers check online reviews when they are considering purchasing something from a new business.

With this many of your potential customers reading reviews of your business, a few bad reviews at the top of the search results can cripple your marketing plans.

How reviews affect your business

It wasn’t all that long ago that if a business had a good location, good foot traffic, or paid for advertising, it wouldn’t have a problem finding new customers. Even if a customer had a bad experience, word of mouth could only go so far.

These days, one bad customer experience can become a signpost permanently planted on the Internet so that every person who Googles your business sees the customer’s complaint. And even worse, we all know that customers are much more likely to say something when they’ve had a bad experience than they are when they’ve had a good one.

Basically, the entire online review system is weighted to attract negative reviews of businesses. To make matters worse, Yelp (by far the biggest player in the online reviews game) filters reviews according to criteria that only they know. Many people believe that they preferentially display negative reviews for any business that doesn’t pay them to advertise, but they have always denied that. We do know that they tend to hide reviews from users with only one or two reviews, but even being an active Yelp user is not enough to guarantee that your review will be displayed.


Sam Gamgee crying

How Yelp makes us feel. :'(


How can I get better reviews?

If you don’t have many reviews or you don’t have enough good reviews on one review site, it can negatively affect your potential customers' opinions of your business. Fortunately, there are ways to fix this.

1. Ask for reviews

Nobody likes to ask for customer reviews, but it is increasingly important in this day and age. There are a few things you can do to make the process feel less awkward.

  • Make the reviewing process as easy as possible. Don't make your customers go searching for the right place to leave a review. Include links to your review pages on social media profiles, in emails, and anywhere else your clients might click on them.
  • Be straightforward about what you're looking for. People love talking about their experiences with businesses - if they haven't reviewed you yet, it's likely just because they haven't thought of doing it. Tell your customers that you would appreciate a review on Yelp, Google, or whatever other review site you're targeting. Many of them will respond.
  • Provide a small incentive. It's against the rules of most review sites to pay for reviews, but it's acceptable to offer a small discount or a special service to customers who leave a review. Just be sure that you specify you are asking for an honest review and not necessarily a positive review.

If you are specifically trying to improve your business's rating on Yelp, then it's a bit more complicated. As we pointed out above, Yelp tends to filter out reviews from people who are not frequent users of the site. You could get dozens of positive reviews from enthusiastic customers and it won't affect your rating if they aren't already active posters on Yelp. If you're having trouble getting reviews to show up on Yelp, you can try directing your customers to other review sites. Google and Facebook both offer customers the opportunity to review businesses, and neither of them filter out reviews. Whether it's positive or negative, your Google or Facebook rating will reflect what your customers really think.

2. Respond to reviews - good and bad

While you can't control what people post, you can control how you respond to those reviews. When someone posts a negative review, replying to the review in a calm and conciliatory manner can have a big impact on how readers take it. If you thank them for bringing the issue to your attention, apologize, offer a solution, or ask for more information about legitimate complaints, readers will know that you take customer service seriously and will be more inclined to be forgiving about the bad review.

But don't just respond to bad reviews! Respond to everything you get, even the good reviews, even if it's just to thank someone for their kind words. Customers love feeling like companies are listening to their feedback, and people who read the reviews will appreciate that you care enough about your customers to respond. In turn, they will be more likely to leave a review themselves.

chris pratt thank you

A little gratitude goes a long way when it comes to customer service.

3. Take the issue offline

If a customer has a serious and legitimate complaint, you don't want that to play out in front of the entire Internet. Respond to the review with an apology, and offer to give them a call to find a solution. If at all possible, find a way to make the customer satisfied. In many cases, privately addressing the issue with the customer is enough to get them to remove a bad review.

Whatever you do, don't follow in the footsteps of this restaurant that threatened to sue someone who left them a bad review. A story like this makes its way into the news every few months. The customers ALWAYS reveal that the business threatened to sue them, and the Internet will always take the customer's side. It ends up doing more damage than a single bad review ever could.

Accept that you can’t please everyone

When it comes down to it, not everyone is going to be happy. If your business is receiving reviews, some of them will be negative, no matter what you do. The important thing is just to focus on doing what you do well. If you keep satisfying customers, over time your reviews will straighten themselves out.

Just make sure you keep asking for reviews. LinkNow Media customers have it easy, because we've developed tools that make it easy to direct your customers to your Google review page and respond to reviews you received. But whether you're our customer or not, you'll regret it if you neglect this critical aspect of your marketing.

Have you had good or bad experiences with online review sites? Do you have an easy time collecting reviews from your customers? What strategies do you use? Leave a comment or join the conversation with us on Twitter.

Lauchlin MacDonald

Author: Lauchlin MacDonald

About Lauchlin MacDonald

Lauchlin is part of the content and marketing team at LinkNow Media. He has nearly a decade of experience in copywriting and editing, and spends way too much time on the Internet. He can be reached at and @Lauchlin on Twitter.