How Negative Online Reviews Affect Your Business

Could your business reputation be damaged by a fraudulent or negative review that you don’t even know about?  Yes!

Too many business owners neglect to monitor their own reviews, on Yelp, Google+, Facebook and all of the different review sites that are available on the Internet.  Even if you haven’t created a business page on many of these sites, it does not mean your business doesn’t have a listing, which enables users to go in and post reviews.  It’s imperative, therefore, that business owners claim their pages, verify the hours, address and contact information, and most importantly, monitor reviews and respond when necessary.

Do Customers Really Bother with Reviews?

According to a recent survey conducted by BrightLocal, roughly 85 percent of respondents reported reading online reviews.  Of these, 67 percent form an opinion about a business after reading six reviews or less.

In a similar survey conducted by Dimensional Research, 90 percent of respondents said that their buying decisions were influenced by positive reviews, and 86 percent were influenced by negative reviews.

Yelp Reviews

Founded in 2004 in San Francisco, Yelp has become one of the most popular review sites online.  With over 42 million user reviews and some 100 million monthly visitors, Yelp covers a wide range of industries.  User reviews can be entered by anyone with a free account, and are made up of a user experience and a rating of one to five stars.  A study by Harvard Business School found that a rating increase of one star on Yelp equated to a 5 to 9 percent increase in revenue.

Yelp’s notorious review filter hides posts that it considers fraudulent, but the controversial tool is not always accurate.  In October of 2014, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced his intent to fine 19 businesses $350,000 each for posting fake positive reviews to Yelp.  Freelance writers had been paid as much as $10 per positive review for businesses they had never visited.  Yelp executives estimate that as much as 25 percent of reviews on its site may be fraudulent.

Google+ Local Reviews

Consumers who find businesses on Google Maps can connect to those business’ Google+ pages and leave reviews, much like Yelp.  And like Yelp, Google+ has an algorithm in place designed to filter out fraudulent reviews, which doesn’t always perform as desired.  Unlike Yelp, Google recently rolled out an upgrade to its Google My Maps app, which allows business owners to receive push notifications to their cellular device whenever a review is posted to their Google+ page.  This way fraudulent or negative reviews can be mitigated immediately by way of a reply from the business owner.

Facebook Reviews

Unlike the other two sites, Facebook business pages do not accept reviews unless the business owner elects to allow them.  That doesn’t stop customers from making comments about your business on their own pages, however.  In order for customers to be allowed to post reviews and ratings on a Facebook business page, the page category must be that of Local Businesses, contain the business address, and the owner must go in and enable reviews.

Local Marketing Mistakes

To monitor what customers may be saying about your business on Facebook and other social media sites, a free tool is available called Mention that works similar to Google Alerts, but also scans social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter.  An account is free, and allows the user to select from a variety of sources, such as websites, news, blogs, videos, forums and images, in addition to Facebook and Twitter.  Whenever Mention discovers relevant content, it sends an alert directly to the user’s inbox, and clicking on the message takes the user directly to the online content.

The important takeaway here is that fraudulent or unfairly negative reviews about your business may be present on a review site without you knowing about it, and negatively impacting your bottom line.  Even companies that don’t do business online or strive to maintain an online presence are vulnerable to bad reviews.  Fraudulent reviews are a growing problem, with rival entities attempting to use the online review process to sabotage each other.  It’s imperative that business owners monitor the Internet for these reviews and respond to and mitigate them as quickly as possible before their reputation is severely damaged.