Even if your business has 4 or 5 stars online with most of the online listings sites, most small business owners are haunted by a few negative reviews online. This is a sore subject, we get it. You put a lot of work into making your business run smoothly, so we can guess how most negative reviews online feel:

  • Dramatic or over-exaggerated
  • Unfair
  • Just plain inaccurate

Regardless of how you feel about negative reviews, it’s your job to do everything you can to counteract any damage they could inflict on your online reputation. And, despite the fact that most of these reviews will live on your online listings, you can still use what we know about these sites to make a difference.

Diversify Your Online Listings

Hopefully your business is listed, and listed correctly, on the top online business listings sites. (More on that here.) But if you’re only listed in a few places, chances are your ratings and reviews will be, for the most part, limited to these sites. There are a couple major issues here:

  1. If your reviews are mostly negative on a major online listings site and you don’t have other listings to counteract this, it can cause a big hit to your local search engine optimization (SEO). Basically, search engines like Google will be less likely to recommend your business to local searchers.
  2. Even if consumers do happen to find your listing on one of these major sites, they don’t have many other sources for information on your business, so they’re likely to blindly trust the negative reviews they found.

The good news: You can fix it! The bad news: It’s going to take some work. The fix here is to get your business accurately listed across more sites. Just as you’d diversify your financial investments, diversifying where you’re listed across the web can help spread out any negative hits to your online reputation. Bad reviews will be much less likely to pile up in one place, making it a little tougher to find the bad and the ugly, and a little easier to find the good.

Turn Up the Volume—Drown Out Negative Reviews

Aside from addressing the negative reviews outright, ramping up the sheer volume of reviews you get will help the positive reviews outshine the negative ones. If you haven’t already, ask your most loyal customers if they’re willing to review your business online. According to Bright Local, 7 out of 10 consumers will leave a review for a business if they’re asked to. There’s no harm in offering them a small incentive (like 10% off or a free upgrade of their next service) as long as you ask for an honest review, not a positive one.

Once you get additional positive reviews, not only will these bring up your star ratings, they’ll push older, less-than-favorable reviews further down the list. Since 90% of consumers read fewer than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about your business, focusing on the most recent ones will make the biggest difference.

Find the Truth, and Work to Address It

Not only do you want more reviews, you obviously want better reviews. Aside from flat-out bribing your customers (please, don’t do this), the only way to improve each individual rating is to better your business.

Even the most seemingly inaccurate negative reviews come from somewhere besides a spiteful customer. Read these reviews in their entirety, and try to pinpoint statements that could hold some semblance of truth. Then, adjust your business model or customer service model as necessary. Here’s the part many business owners forget – once you’ve righted the wrong, let everyone know! Feel free to respond to the review so the customer (and other lurking consumers) are aware you’re working to get better. Pro tip: Include the enhancement in your actual listing as well, ideally in the space where you describe your business or where you list out the products and services you offer.

Monitor, Monitor, Monitor Your Online Listings

It’s critical to keep tabs on what’s being said about you as often as possible. Ideally, you’d review your online listings at least daily, or every 3 days at a minimum. Pro tip: Many online listings and review sites will let you set up alerts to monitor mentions of your business. Free tools like Google Alerts can help here, but they won’t usually pick up on every mention. We recommend going site by site for best results.