The best tips for responding to online reviews

Your response is needed

Responding to online reviews on sites like Facebook, Yelp, Google and TripAdvisor is extremely important to stay connected with your customers and protect your online reputation.

However, many business owners have questions about responding to their reviews. They want to know how and when to respond, what tone to use with tricky, negative reviews and if managing their reviews is really worth their time. 

We’re here to answer those questions and more. Here are the best tips for responding to online reviews. Start responding and start building relationships with your customers.

Q: Do I really need to respond to all of my positive and negative reviews?

A: Your customers are sharing their feedback in reviews about your business online. You can use these reviews to thank happy reviewers for their positive feedback. You can also reach out to unhappy reviewers. Think of it as grasping the opportunity to protect your business from misinformation and negativity.

You have the ability to make your customers feel heard and appreciated with a thoughtful response to every review. Whether that review is positive or negative, staying polite, professional and in line your unique voice is the way to go. 

Think about it: Your responses to both positive and negative reviews are not only for the benefit of the person who left the review, but anyone visiting your page. Nearly 80% of U.S. consumers read reviews before making a purchasing decision. You’ll want to show these reviewers the same customer service online that you would in-house.

Here’s an example of a great response to a positive review:

In this response, the owner uses his unique voice to thank and congratulate his happy customer.

And, here’s an example of a professional, polite response to a negative review:

You can see that the owner got personal with this response by using the reviewer’s name and addressing the issue head on.

Q: What tone should I strike when responding to negative reviews? Sometimes it can be hard to know when to defend my business and when to apologize.

A: If you are having a hard time finding your voice when responding to negative reviews, start by getting to the core of their concern . Let the reviewer know that you’re looking into the issue, and apologize, if necessary. Thank them for sharing their experience and feedback. Ask questions to better understand the issue, like, “What night did you come in?” “Do you remember who was helping you that day?” You can also offer to follow up further offline and invite them back to give you another chance.

Related: How to respond to negative comments in social media

Q: If the review is really negative, will responding to it draw more attention to that review?

A: On Yelp, Facebook and Google, the response to a negative review will appear directly under the review on the listing. Visitors will not be alerted that there’s a new response, and a response will not move the review to the top of your list of reviews. 

In your response to the negative review, you can draw attention to your perspective and your side of the story.

  • Explain your side politely.
  • Provide your point of view succinctly.
  • Thank the reviewer sincerely for sharing their experience.

Q: How do I handle inaccuracies in a negative review in my response? I don’t want to appear defensive or combative, but at the same time I don’t want false information to be out there about my business.

A: If a negative review on your page contains information that is false or inflammatory, the first thing you can do is flag the review for removal from the site. Many review sites provide the option for business owners to flag the review for removal based on their guidelines. Check the site’s guidelines to see if that review might go against them. When you flag the review, mention the guideline the review might be violating. Site guidelines will help you build a stronger case for why the review should be removed.

It’s important to note, though, that there is a review period as the site administrators take a look at your case. And, there’s no guarantee that it will get removed. So, in the meantime, respond publicly and point out the inaccuracies. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and your staff in a kind, explanatory way. It’s important to remember that potential customers can see your response. The way you present your case will affect their impression of your business.

Q: What about 3-star reviews? Do I need to respond to those as well?

A: Three-star reviews can be ambiguous. The review could be mostly positive, mostly negative or a combination of pros and cons. It may also signal an average, unmemorable visit. But, it’s important to see these three-star reviews as opportunities to win over a customer who didn’t have a great experience or simply thank a reviewer for visiting your business.

Since three-star reviews aren’t guaranteed to be negative, don’t go into them expecting to apologize or defend your business right off the bat. Instead, let the review’s actual content determine your tone. Let your reviewer know that you’re listening and thank them for taking the time to provide their feedback.

Q: Should I respond to old reviews? For example, does it look bad if I respond to a review from 2014?

It’s a good idea to respond to older reviews, even if they’re from several years ago. That’s because potential customers are reading those reviews and your responses to them, then, making a judgment about your customer service. In fact, 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as friends. And, responding to reviews is more important than ever: 30% of consumers consider review responses to be essential when deciding whether or not to visit a business. This means that what you say matters, even if the review isn’t super recent.

Q: Can I pay to remove my negative reviews?

A: Consumers today choose businesses based on their authenticity. Real businesses often don’t only have positive reviews. That’s because every customer and individual is different and experiences things differently. Plus, it’s every individual’s prerogative to voice their opinion. Not all of those opinions are going to be positive, but understanding this concept is key to managing your review sites. A well-rounded, authentic online presence from real reviews and thoughtful responses will build consumer trust in your business.

That said, we know that receiving negative reviews can be difficult. They can be disheartening,  damage your business’ reputation and discourage potential customers from visiting your shop.

The truth is, you can’t pay review sites to remove reviews you don’t like. And, unfortunately, if you go through the process of flagging reviews for removal, you might not be able to get those reviews removed. However, you can take the right steps to encourage more positive reviews on your pages. You can:

  • let your customers know where they can find you
  • share your positive reviews across social media 
  • listen to your customers’ feedback and implement it in-house.

That concludes this Q&A! We hope that answered some of your burning questions about answering your online reviews. Start responding today to connect with more customers and protect your brand!

Need help? We have a team of experts that will craft a personalized response to each and every review that comes in for your business. 

Engage your customers like never before with GoDaddy Social. We help businesses elevate their online presence on the platforms that matter most. Get started with us here.

Caroline Barker
Caroline Barker is Sr. Manager, Brand and Communications at GoDaddy in Austin, TX. She oversees the branding, social media, and digital marketing strategies for GoDaddy Social. Her work has been published in POLITICO, Mic, Allure, Small Business Trends, Business 2 Community, and The Self Employed. Follow her on Twitter and connect with her on LinkedIn.