Google Reviews: What to Do about a Bad Review

If you own your own business, sooner or later, it’s bound to happen: the dreaded negative review. No one is immune to it, because no matter how great your product or service is, you will eventually make a mistake or catch a customer on a bad day. Google Reviews allows customers to rate your business on a one to five scale and leave comments. These ratings and comments are accessible to anyone searching for your business on Google Maps. How you respond to a negative review can make or break your client base.

What If It’s a Fake Review?

Let’s say you’re the owner of Joe’s Carpet Installation. You notice that someone has left you a one-star claiming that he had an appointment on December 18th and you were a no-show. You know this couldn’t be true because you were on vacation that week and didn’t have any appointments scheduled. People leave fake, negative reviews for a number of reasons. Occasionally, it’s a competitor hoping to make you look bad, but an MIT study found that most false, poor reviews are from customers who don’t like something about your business practices, even though they’ve never actually bought your product or used your services. The study refers to these people as “self-appointed brand managers.”

So is there any recourse in this situation? Luckily, with Google Reviews, you do have some options.

First, check out Google Review’s policy page. If the review violates the terms of their policy, you can move to the next step. For example, a rant from a non-customer about how they don’t like the fact that you import some of your products from China would fall under “off-topic review.” The use of obscenities, personal attacks, or hate speech is grounds for removal as well. Your next step is to flag it. Google Support offers a step-by-step guide on how to do this.

What If It’s a Legitimate Review?

Resist the urge to respond immediately. You may feel upset or angry, especially if this is one of your first bad reviews, but it’s very important to react from a place of reason and logic rather than emotion. Emotional responses almost always sound unprofessional and can make the problem worse. Google allows you to respond directly to a review. This is your chance to show potential customers that you can handle a problem in a courteous, efficient manner, which helps to regain their trust.

Google Support provides steps for this process as well as tips on how to handle it. First, craft a sincere, thoughtful response. Your comment should acknowledge the customer’s concerns (without making excuses), offer an apology, and thank them for their comment. That’s right – a customer made the effort to provide you with feedback and, hopefully, a learning experience. Finally, depending on the nature of the comment, you can provide the customer with contact information and ask that they get in touch so you can further discuss how to make things right. Do not become defensive or engage in any type of “argument” or personal attack. This will always backfire.

The Power of Positive Reviews

If you have three glowing reviews and one negative review, as far as your potential customers are concerned, you have a 75 percent customer satisfaction rate. If you have 300 positives and that same single negative, you’re at 99.6 percent. A high volume of reviews will dwarf a few bad apples.

Positive reviews have even more benefits:

  • Consumers have more confidence in a business with lots of positive reviews, making them more likely to become a customer
  • A high positive review volume leads to a higher click-through rate (CTR), meaning more eyes on your website
  • The more reviews you have, the better your search engine ranking


How Do I Get Positive Reviews?

There are lots of ways to reach out to your customer base and request that they review your business online.

Email Request

Send out requests to past customers via your mailing list, using a brief message like this one:

“It’s no secret that online reviews play a huge role in growing a small business like ours. Reviews provide us with important feedback so we can tweak our products and services to better suit your needs. They also increase our visibility as a business, helping us get the word out to the community about what we have to offer. If you’ve got a moment and would like to help us out, please visit (insert link to Google My Business page) and leave us a quick review. If you have any questions or comments that we can help clarify, don’t hesitate to contact us at (insert contact information). We truly value both your business and your feedback.”


A mobile text campaign should be part of your business marketing plan. Unlike emails, SMS messages have a 99 percent open rate. Further, 44 percent of respondents polled said they prefer to receive marketing messages via text. To avoid coming off as spammy, only send Google Review request texts to customers who have self-identified as Google users.

On Your Website

Make it easy for returning customers to leave reviews by providing a link on your website. Check out this example of a simple yet effective page that walks customers through the process.


Provide a few simple instructions and a web address linking to a special landing page, like the one above, which will take them right where they need to go in order to leave a Google Review.

In Person

Do it the old-fashioned way – just ask! It takes less than a minute, and it allows you to connect with a customer face-to-face, increasing the chances that it will be a glowing review.

The world of online reviews is a numbers game, and you have to play to win. Just make sure you play by the rules. Don’t bribe customers into leaving a review, and don’t pay people to leave you fake reviews. Also, avoid sending out massive email blasts requesting reviews, because Google may flag your account if you receive a large batch of reviews at one time.