Negative Reviews Can Improve Your SEO?
How important are reviews for your business?
What if I told you that 93 percent of customers look at positive and negative reviews to decide if a local business is good or not? That’s what BrightLocal found in their study last year.
Reviews are vital for local businesses – It can mean the difference between you and your competitor ranking higher on Google or even winning a customer. I’ve spoken to many businesses that have been established for years with no online presence and they all rely on word-of-mouth referrals in order to generate new business. This is a good start, but the same study from BrightLocal concluded that 85% of people will trust an online review as much as a personal recommendation. As a result, it’s going to get harder for these businesses to attract new customers if they don’t have online reviews.
The thing is, reading reviews for your own business can be very stressful. It’s not particularly entertaining for anybody and nobody wants to see negative feedback for a company they’ve put all their time and effort into building.
Negative reviews can be damaging for a business, but it isn’t the end of the world. In fact, the optimist in me sees an opportunity for generating real, positive value for your business.
I will be looking at why negative reviews for your business can actually be a good thing for your SEO and user-experience of prospective customers. A little strange, I know, but trust me on this.
Negative Reviews Help You To Rank Higher on Google
That heading is actually a little misleading. It’s not specifically negative reviews that help to improve your ranking, but actually all reviews in general.
A study by Moz last year estimated that reviews make up about 7% of Google’s decision on where to rank your business. That may seem like a low number, but that actually makes it the 7th biggest ranking factor for local SEO. Just to put that into perspective, the third-biggest factor, behavioural signals, makes up 11% of your ranking.
Furthermore, if you’ve ever looked at the Google local listings, you can see the total number of reviews your business has received. This is a good way for users to see how much attention you’ve had from previous customers.
The take home message: You should regularly collect Google reviews from your customers.
Negative Reviews Make You More Trustworthy
I actually believe that Google may prioritise your business listing over others if you have a few neutral or negative reviews. Of course, I should say now that there is a balance to be had! But the reason why I think this is because it helps to show legitimacy and prove that you’re not buying fake reviews.
In the same study from Moz, the diversity of your reviews is something that Google looks for when ranking your business. It’s just one of the ways that Google will determine if you’re using fake reviews.
I’ve actually seen some business listings disappear temporarily after receiving a wave of positive reviews, because Google are looking to see if the reviews are legitimate.
Negative reviews are also a way of showing your authenticity to searchers. Most people have a natural inclination to take information on the Internet with a pinch of salt. This means that a business with hundreds of 5-star reviews and nothing below that rating, people will get suspicious.
People are actually much more able to spot fake reviews than you may think. According to the same study from BrightLocal, 79% of consumers believe that they read a fake review in 2017.
This makes me believe that an authentic negative review can be much more useful than a fake positive one. It shows trustworthiness and legitimacy.
Negative Reviews Are Often Longer Than Positive Ones
This is actually quite an interesting point. Max Woolf did a study in 2014 where he looked at the correlation between review ratings and review length on Yelp. This was an American study, so Yelp was a logical choice for Max.
What he found was that when a review gets to approximately 333 words, which is roughly 200 words above the average Yelp review length), there is a decrease of 1 star from the overall rating.
Longer reviews are actually more likely to be read than a shorter one. This is because there is more insight and often some kind of storytelling involved. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in marketing it’s the power of stories. We get sucked in and connect with that person’s experience.
A simple review of just one sentence doesn’t provide much insight to users. We want detail!
Lastly, if people are spending longer amounts of time reading your reviews, your Google rankings will improve and it will actually make people more likely to buy from you.
Negative Reviews are an Opportunity to Demonstrate Customer Service
When a company receives negative reviews, the first reaction a business owner will often have is to try and get that review removed.
However, this isn’t such a great idea. The best thing a business can do is respond quickly to address the issue. It’s much better to face your problems than run away from them.
When people read your negative reviews on Google, your response will be shown right underneath it. This is a great opportunity to show people how your business responds to complaints and what your customer service experience will feel like.
As said before, consumers understand that not everybody can be pleased and mistakes can be made. We’re human, after all. But what separates a good business from a bad one is not necessarily their overall rating on Google. It’s how those negative reviews are dealt with.
If you deal with the negative reviews in a polite, professional manner that offers a solution to the situation, you are showing people that you care about the experience of your customers. Therefore, you should be pro-active in managing your online reputation and provide an aftercare service to those who aren’t happy.
Negative Reviews Offer Business Insights
The difference between an average business owner and a good business owner is that a good business owner will constantly monitor their reviews.
As previously stated, reviewers who leave longer reviews often tell stories and this provides valuable insights into specific details of their experience. A business owner needs to examine these stories in order to find out what people aren’t enjoying with your product/service. By doing so, you can make the necessary changes to rectify these issues.
On top of that, these insights can actually be an early indicator of a much bigger problem that would have spiralled out-of-control before you’d even noticed.
Some of the things you may find from negative reviews include:
Something that’s missing from the business.
After sales products are a great way to maximise your customer’s potential, but you may not be providing them all. Negative reviews could contain complaints about certain products or services you don’t offer. It helps you to understand the current market as well, which is especially useful in industries that change frequently.
If you aren’t able to provide a specific piece of after sales for your customers, it may be worth thinking about strategic alliances.
Information Isn’t Clear Enough
One of the most frequent negative comments I’ll see in reviews is how the business is hard-to-find. Other pieces of information that reviewers may complain about include difficulty in using the product or a lack of information on the features of a product or service.
This is useful in understanding how you can improve the information you provide, whether it be through the product/service page or a compelling blog article. In fact, answering questions that your customers frequently ask is great for blog topics.
Search Terms and Keywords Associated with Your Business
If you have an SEO team working for you, analysing reviews is a good place to conduct some keyword research. You may notice certain descriptive words people use for your business, which is helpful when choosing keywords you want to target.
Final Thoughts on Negative Reviews
No business owner likes to see a negative review. It’s hard to see, harder to read and even harder to see in a positive light.
The thing is, they can provide a fantastic opportunity if you know how to properly manage your reputation. You can change negative feedback or sentences into actions that’ll improve customer experience and, as a result, improve your business.
Negative reviews are a chance to show people that you genuinely care about your customers and resolve previous issues. It shows good customer service and that customer may even change their rating to a more positive one.
By working with these ideas to solve complaints and improve the experience, you are changing negative reviews into positive opportunities and that is crucial for businesses looking to improve their rankings on Google and deliver big wins.