As a business owner, there is nothing more frustrating than pouring thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours into cajoling your site to the top of the rankings, only to find a single piece of negative press or one bad review stuck stubbornly on page one of Google, Yahoo or Bing.
Search engine marketers are increasingly being called upon to offer specialist reputation management services as part of any SEO package, but it is something that you can tackle yourself with a little forethought. With the proliferation of social media and user-generated content along with the increasing importance of reviews from an SEO perspective, knowing how to deal with negative reviews quickly and professionally is a skill that should be in your online marketing arsenal.
1. Keep SEO In Mind
Before composing a reply to a bad review, assess the opportunities to assist in your SEO work. That doesn’t mean your reply needs to be loaded with keywords and links as that can often make the situation worse by giving the impression you’re not at all interested in customer service but instead are chasing rankings at any opportunity. However, a well-thought-out response can legitimately include a link back to your website – perhaps invite the user to get in touch with you to discuss further and include a link to the contact us or about us page.
2. Be Tactful and Understanding
Even if you consider the review to be incorrect and unfair, your reply must be polite, tactful and understanding. Even the angriest of reviewers will calm down given time, so don’t inflame the situation by retaliating in kind against them.
A calm, measured and professional response will not only help to salve the anger of the person leaving the review, it will also help you to instill a sense of confidence in readers of the review. If you’re professional, assured and courteous, you’re more likely to diffuse the negative than by going on the attack yourself. This can help to negate the impact of the review for future readers as they will see your commitment to customer service shining through.
3. Address the Problem Honestly
Whatever subject matter the negative review in question focuses on, only respond when you are armed with the certain knowledge that the issue is being addressed or has been fixed. If you run a hotel for example, and a reviewer complains about broken air conditioning, a reply apologizing for the inconvenience but advising that as a result every AC unit in the hotel is being checked and repairs carried out where necessary will reassure those thinking of booking a stay with you. Likewise, if you run an online store and reviewers complain about high shipping costs, a response advising that an economical option is soon to be introduced as a result of their feedback will give peace of mind for future customers.
4. Encourage the Reviewer to Contact You Directly
In some instances, a bad reviewer will refuse to be pacified and may want to respond to your own response. Don’t be drawn into a war of words online in an effort to prove that you are right. Invite the user to contact you directly in order to discuss the matter further. This gives you a forum to put forward your response and means you can offer a personal apology – it’s harder to stay mad at someone with a genuine desire to correct poor service face-to-face than it is arguing with a faceless brand online.
Speaking to the person directly also means you can offer a token gesture for their inconvenience such as a discount on future purchases, free shipping or a free upgrade without opening yourself up to a deluge of complaints from people simply wanting something for free.
A bad review doesn’t mean doom and gloom, but it does need to be handled appropriately quickly and completely before it has a chance to cause lasting damage to your online reputation. Keep these four tips in mind when you next come across some negativity about your products or services, and you’ll be well on the way to putting out the fire!