To Remove or Not to Remove?
Whether or not you actively solicit online reviews of your business, you can be that there are reviews about your business out there. Online reviews can come in many forms and be posted on traditional review sites like Yelp or even in the form of posts on social media sites like Facebook.
No matter when, where or how they get published to the virtual world, online reviews can boost your business. Some research shows that even a one-star jump up in a Yelp rating can translate into a revenue increase of up to 9% for your business. Now that’s pretty powerful.
Just as positive reviews can help your business, so too can negative reviews hurt your business. If that’s the case, then all you need to do is to remove any negative reviews when you find them, right? Wrong.
Why Should You Keep Negative Reviews?
Removing negative reviews can actually do more harm than the review itself. This is because reviews of any sort—positive or negative—offer a means of legitimizing your business to other customers and to search engines.
Let’s put it this way—a fake business is unlikely to have reviews posted about it so when someone takes the time to review your business, that acts as a signal to search engines and to customers and potential customers that your business is “real” and worthy of some level of trust.
While you may be thinking that beefing up your positive reviews and cutting out negative ones could do the job just as well, think again. In order to be seen as real, you really need to be so and part of being real is not being perfect, essentially. No individual is perfect and neither is any business.
By removing negative reviews and leaving only glowing ones, you are putting forth a false image of your business to the world. If you do this, you risk losing credibility in the eyes of Google and that is never a good thing. From a customer perspective, a similar situation can happen. People that see only good reviews about a particular business can logically become skeptical about the genuineness of them.
Statistics show that 68% of people believe online reviews of a business when both negative and positive are provided. When businesses have only positive reviews, it can appear that those reviews were potentially achieved through some incentives or other means, reducing their credibility. In the end, this approach causes more damage than good.
Is There Ever Cause for Removing Review Content?
All of this said, there is always a line that can be crossed between a negative review and a slanderous or inappropriate one. Comments in the latter category can give rise to a genuine reason for removal, although the path to achieving this is not always easy or even possible. The rules that govern this vary from site to site and it is important to understand each of them.
Following are the basics of how to address truly inappropriate review comment on three of the biggest players in this arena—Yelp, Facebook and Google.
Yelp outlines what type of content is unacceptable on its site. You should be prepared to report any review of your business that fails to follow these guidelines.
This includes reviews that:
- Are not relevant to your business.
- Contain promotional material.
- Raise concerns about privacy or conflicts of interest.
- Violate intellectual property laws.
- Threaten or harass others.
- Are lewd or discriminatory.
When you flag these posts, you should provide clear and concise explanations for your actions.
Facebook recommends that some type of content be flagged for removal via the Facebook Community Standards.
This includes reviews that:
- Compromise privacy or security.
- Are sexually explicit or otherwise graphic.
- Contain hate speech, threats or other violent comments.
- Bully or harasses any individual.
- Reference self-harm.
- Are considered spam.
You can flag any review by clicking the top right of the post and selecting “I don’t like this review.” From there you will be given options and should select “Report” and continue to follow the instructions.
Like Facebook, Google allows you to call certain material to their attention for potential removal.
This includes reviews that:
- Contain sexually explicit or offensive language, including hate speech.
- Publishes URLs or phone numbers
- Provide confidential, copyrighted or illegal content.
- Are considered advertising.
- Are not relevant to your business or that are spam.
- Involve impersonation.
Once you flag any review with this type of content included, Google will review it and consider it for removal.
Will All Flagged Reviews be Removed?
There is always the chance that some of your flagged content is not removed from the requested site. In this case, you should be prepared to respond to it. Replying to a negative or inappropriate review is always better than just ignoring it. Even if you ignore it, other people may not—and they will be very aware of your choice to ignore it. The silence in these situations can become deafening.
When you reply to a negative comment, you can assume a more powerful position so long as your response is appropriate and professional. You never want to denigrate yourself to the level of a smutty or inflammatory reviewer nor do you want to appear defensive.
The exact tone and nature of your response will certainly vary based upon the tone and nature of the review to which you are responding. Before you make the first keystroke, step back and be honest with yourself about the nature of the post. Not every negative review is appropriate even if you don’t like it. Sometimes a negative review can provide you with information to improve your service or products.
Even for those posts which cross the line, your response should be polite. In some cases, you can win over a disgruntled reviewer. For those times when you are unable to do so, others will see that you took the time to reply—and to reply politely. The bottom line here is that your reply to a particular review is not just aimed at that particular reviewer but at all people who can and will view the thread. Consider it another marketing activity if you will.
Certainly you cannot expect to monitor all reviews of your business on your own. There are a wealth of tools that you can rely on to do this work for you. Taking advantage of this technology is a worthwhile investment indeed.
Edward Kundahl, Ph.D., M.B.A.
Ed can be reached at (or visit his websites)
855-943-8736 ext. 101