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Pretty much what I look like after reading a bad review!

In a digitally connected world, it’s not a question of whether whatever you do is reviewed online. It’s when it will be.

And how.

I do freelance work — copywriting, ghostwriting, developmental editing, that sort of thing — so pretty much the Internet is my marketplace. And the first time I got a bad review via Google Business… well, I’ll be honest. I cried. It’s easy to respond emotionally when you’ve put the work in and it’s not appreciated — and, in fact, is criticized. And somehow when that happens the whole web feels like a giant megaphone, telling the world what a failure you are.

So take your moment to respond emotionally if you need to. But what you do next is what determines, to some extent at least, whether you’ll still be in business this time in five years. Or even next year.

Responding to online reviews is crucial, because people read reviews. All the time. And — you know this is true because you do it — they’ll click away from a product or service if its review doesn’t stack up to what people are saying about the competition.

Online reviews have SEO value, too. The reviews you receive across platforms have a direct impact on the visibility of your website. Positive reviews can boost your online presence and bad reviews can weigh it down.

1. Assess the feedback internally first

If the review was negative, it’s probably left you a little flustered. Move away from the keyboard! Responding immediately is nearly always a bad idea. You haven’t had time to assess what’s being criticized, and you’re going to respond out of your emotions. A timely response is not the same thing as an immediate response.

2. Respond to the review — publicly

Respond to the reviewer on the platform where they posted the review (although privately responding in addition to a public response is helpful). Responding publicly to bad reviews shows the Internet that you care and are attentive.

3. Get clarity

Sometimes a review is just a star setting. How do you know why they only gave you two stars if they don’t tell you? Don’t just ignore it: ask the questions.

4. Own your mistakes — and fix them

Everyone makes them. Own the problem and tell the client how you’re going to fix it. That’s what will be the most obvious at the end of the day. The more transparency you offer, the more trust you’ll earn.

5. Sign your name

No matter how large your company, give it a human face. Let your dissatisfied client know that you’re the person who is going to make things right for them.

6. Ask for an update

Think of that review as the start of a conversation. Once you’ve connected and solved the problem to the client’s satisfaction, ask them to revisit the review and share their experience. That more than anything will go a long way in establishing your reputation in the community.

And if it’s a terrific review?

Don’t rest on your laurels! Great reviews should elicit great appreciation. Acknowledge the client by name, thank them for taking the time to write the review, express pleasure that your product or service met or exceeded expectations, and ask what else you can do for them. Do you have a new service that complements the one they’ve already received? Perhaps an offer of a percentage off their next engagement with your company? Keeping the conversation going will help with repeat business.

And now, some nuts and bolts… How to reply to Google reviews:

  • Sign in to Google My Business by navigating to business.google.com.
  • Click the three horizontal bars in the top left corner to choose your listing.
  • Click “Manage reviews.” Once you find a review you want to engage with, click “View and reply” to type out a response.

Oh, and that thing about SEO? It’s not just your clients who benefit from your responses to their reviews — Google notices it, too. Google only wants to recommend the most credible businesses to its customers. What better credibility indicator than a business that goes above and beyond by publicly responding to complaints, as well as thanking clients for singing their praises?

There’s no downside to responding to reviews. Just ask the Google!

Written by

Bestselling novelist of mystery and historical fiction. Writer, editor, & business storyteller at jeannettedebeauvoir.com.

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