Yelp! I have a negative online review!

The Internet has brought us many wonderful things. Endless pictures of cute animals, the ability to access the news 24/7 and many, many places where we can talk with people all over the world about pretty much anything we want.

It’s also a great place to gush or complain. Everyone’s a critic, or at least aspires to be!

Over the last few years, lots of websites have cropped up to cater to those wannabe critics, like Yelp, Trip Advisor and Angie’s List. Even Amazon allows its users to rate products and sellers.

When you have a small company, getting a positive review on one of those sites is a great way to build business. But what happens when that review is lukewarm, or even negative?

What do you do?


First, don’t panic. One bad review shouldn’t sink your business. Hopefully, potential customers will also read the good reviews around it, and make an informed decision.

If it’s your only review, that may be a problem. Or if other reviews say the same thing, that may be a problem. But not all is lost. There are ways to turn this around.

First of all, allow yourself to get angry. After all, your enterprise is something you’ve poured your heart and soul into, and few people have the ability to criticize constructively.  On the Internet, where you’re not face-to-face and anonymous, it is much easier to be mean and rude. And let’s face it: There are a lot of jerks on the Internet.

Just don’t engage with that rude person while you’re still angry. Most of the sites I mentioned above allow the business that’s been critiqued to respond, but doesn’t recommend coming at the critic with guns blazing. If you are rude or even profane back, your response may very well be removed first. 

 Step away, and do something else until you’re calmer. And once you’re not as angry, think about whether the critic may have a point. For that matter, do all the negative comments touch on the same problems? This is your chance to evaluate what you could improve in your business.

If they’re entirely off base, you can still respond to them, but keep it polite, so they seem unreasonable in contrast. If their critique is libelous, you can contact the site administrators to have it removed, but be warned: You’re going to have to prove your side of it.  It’s unfair, but that’s how it works. In extreme cases, you may have to hire a lawyer, but hopefully it won’t come to that.

Resist the urge to seed the site with good reviews you wrote yourself. Not only is it tacky, but sites like Yelp have filters that flag multiple positive reviews from the same computer. This can also work in your favor if you have a competitor who wants to fight dirty.

Getting good reviews can be as simple as asking your satisfied clients to go online and write them. Most people will not take offense at such a request, and if they like what you do and want you to stay in business, they’re happy to help.

All you have to do is ask. Just don’t be upset if they don’t do it right away, or at all.

Oh, and when you do get those well-deserved glowing reviews, don’t let it make you complacent.  Believing in the hype is the road to mediocrity.

I hope this helps you feel more comfortable with the possibility of online reviews!