Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Are Online Reviews Helping or Hurting Your Business?

By Ben Kinsey

Image courtesy Vimeo
Every business owner knows that a business is only as good as its reputation.  When it comes to judging a business’ reputation nowadays, that means going online.  Most consumers and other business owners scope out review sites and customer testimonials long before they walk through your door.  If they like what they see online, chances are they’ll give your business a go.  On the other hand, if they don’t like what they see, good luck getting them to buy your products or services.  More and more, an online reputation makes or breaks most businesses.

When’s the last time you checked your online reputation?

If you’ve noticed a sudden slow down in your business that has nothing to do with seasonal variations, negative reviews could be to blame.  If you have an unexplained drop-off in customer volume or client’s start unexpectedly cancelling appointments with you, the first place you should check are review sites like Angie’s List, Yelp, Google My Business and Facebook to see if you have any negative reviews. 

When it comes to online reviews you need to take a lesson from Johnny Mercer to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.  The problem with most business owners is they don’t have a tried and true method of accomplishing either of these goals.  Since customers are ten times as likely to post a negative review as a positive one, if you haven’t made the process of gathering positive reviews for your business part of your corporate culture, odds are it’s likely that one or more negative reviews are gumming up the works.

Image courtesy Pixabay
Negative reviews are like a cancer that eats at your business from the inside.   I don’t care how conscientious of a business owner you are, sooner or later you or one of your employees is going to rub a customer the wrong way.  While in the past this may have resulted in the loss of a customer, in the Internet age the results can be far worse.  Not only is it a snap for a disgruntled customer to tell the world how your business wronged them, it’s just as easy for a competitor to post fraudulent complaints to undermine your business.  That’s right, an unscrupulous competitor can easily create bogus negative reviews to do your business harm.  Since it’s all too easy to post anonymous complaints on many review sites, this could quickly lead to a loss of business.  Unless you scrupulously monitor the most popular review sites to make sure your good name isn’t being besmirched, it’s child’s play for the competition to put a shot across your bow.  The other side of the coin is since one bad review is worth ten good ones, you need to do everything in your power to redress any wrong that a customer feels you did if you ever hope to get them to remove the negative review.  Sometimes this might mean taking a hit and losing money on a transaction to make the negative review go away, but it’s worth it.

Positive reviews must be cultivated like crops.  That means that you shouldn’t assume that they will magically appear.  You need to actively plant the seeds with your customers if you hope to generate positive reviews.  Again, it comes down to making the effort to garner good reviews and testimonials part of your corporate culture.  This means asking happy customers to provide reviews and testimonials and then rewarding them for it.  Simply asking a customer to post a review is a waste of time, since as soon as the customer leaves your store or office, they will invariably forget to follow through.  Better to ask a happy customer to say a few words while you hold your smartphone up to shoot a video than to let them walk out the door.  Better still is to hand them a postcard with a QR code that takes them to Google My Business, Yelp or Angie’s List and offers for 10% off their next order to get them to post a positive review on their own.  It’s the squeaky mouse that gets the grease these days.  I have even had clients throw a party for their customers, during which they asked them to post reviews and shoot testimonial videos on the spot.  Whatever it takes to get your customers to tell everyone how much they love doing business with you is worth its weight in gold.

Image courtesy Pixabay
Once a negative review is published, the damage is already done.  If you haven’t begun actively soliciting positive reviews, you know what that leaves, don’t you?  Negative reviews.  Since it takes 10 positive reviews to eliminate one negative one, the bad reviews will soon eclipse the few good ones you have accumulated.  Even worse is the fact that as soon as a negative review is posted, the damage is done.  Not only do negative reviews damage your reputation, they also hurt your websites SEO.  That’s right, any 1-star review against your business is registered by search engine spiders that decide what businesses are displayed on page-1 and which ones are relegated to page-10.  Don’t think you can game the system by having your friends and family pile on bogus reviews either. The search engines have become pretty savvy at determining fake reviews from the real deal.  While fake reviews may increase your website visibility for a short period, eventually you could find your site delisted by search engines like Google.

Even sites like Angie’s List and Yelp use reviews to determine how often your business is seen online.  A report by had this to say about Yelp:

Perhaps one of the most surprising findings of our Yelp study was the fact that on average, a whopping 99.2% of businesses are hidden from search results anytime a Yelp user sorts results by “Highest Rated” or “Most Reviewed”. These frequently-used search options display the top 40 highest-rated businesses in any given category, or those that have received the highest number of reviews by Yelp users, obscuring the remainder of businesses from results.

In large metropolitan areas like Jacksonville, Florida, negative reviews could not only affect a company’s ability to rank highly, it could literally result in a company being nearly impossible to find online.  Armed with this knowledge, any prudent business owner needs to make a concerted effort to cultivate positive reviews and testimonials while doing everything in their power to eliminate negative reviews if they hope to stay in business.  In our wired world, online reviews can either help or hurt your business.

Ben Kinsey, CPA of Small Business Group works with owners of closely held corporations in the Northeast Florida region.  If you work in the North Florida area we offer a FREE initial Consultation at our office, please contact Small Business Group if you would like to know more about strategies for your business.


  1. You definitely have to keep a weather eye on review sites if you don't want to get blindsided. A couple of bad reviews is all it takes to taint any small business.

  2. This is great stuff - most businesses don't pay attention to reviews until it's too late!