Ultimate Guide to Online Reviews #Semrushchat

Maria Kalyadina

Aug 28, 201712 min read
Ultimate Guide to Online Reviews

Competition exists in every field. In order to keep up with competitors in the current business climate, every company needs to manage their reputation, and one of the key aspects of reputation management is receiving, monitoring, and responding to both good and bad online reviews. Online reviews tell people that your brand is authentic and trustworthy. 

Dealing with customer reviews and feedback requires time and a solid strategy that goes beyond simply sending a link to Google reviews. To help you manage a successful online reputation, we invited Thomas Ballantyne, a marketer and a local SEO speaker at SMX, Pubcon, and State of Search, to our SEMrush Chat.

Here are five ways how online customer reviews can amplify your SEO strategy:

Q1. What are the best ways that online customer reviews help in your SEO strategy?

1. Fresh Content

Customer reviews are an inexhaustible source of content ideas. Since your audience made use different terms than you, any questions that your customers ask about your product or service can lead to fresh content topics and new keywords. “Reviews can be a goldmine of content ideas. What are consumers really asking about your product or your business?” asked Chris Countey‏ - @chriscountey.

Reviews are also a great form of user-generated content that comes directly from your users.

2. Genuine Social Conversation

SEO no longer focuses solely on technical elements. In fact, it encompasses multiple aspects, including SEO that happens on social media search engines. If a person wants to learn more about your company, they are likely to open Twitter or Facebook to do a quick search to check out your business. By incorporating reviews into your social media strategy, you can trigger a real social conversation about your brand, increase its popularity, and prove love for your product.

3. Higher Click-Through Rates

An increasing number of consumers read online reviews before making a purchase decision. According to BrightLocal’s study, 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations and 56% of buyers picked a business because it had positive reviews or good star ratings.

4. Review Sentiment Snippets

Google provides sentiment rich snippets of reviews in the Knowledge Panel in Local Search, making sure that people can learn more about your business and what consumers say about it. This means that you need to not only encourage customer reviews but also work on how to improve them.

5. Credibility and Trust

When consumers see reviews of your business, especially positive ones, they can instantly judge whether or not they can trust your company enough to visit your site and read about your product or service. Even negative reviews can boost credibility and trust within your audience, as long as it is handled correctly.

Let’s sum up!


Q2. Do online reviews matter? What are some pros and cons?

Most of our chat participants agreed that customer reviews affect brands. Nowadays, people use reviews when performing their online research to understand what your business is really about.


  • Trust and credibility

If your clients express thoughts about your products or services, it benefits your brand image, even if you have some bad reviews. Encouraging customer reviews adds transparency to your brand and boosts trust and credibility with your audience.

  • Authority

People trust other people, especially those they are connected with through social media. Aside from collecting online reviews, reputation management includes responding smartly to customer feedback and leaving product reviews as a brand or an individual associated with a brand. It helps to show your expertise, to make new connections with companies in the same industry, to earn visibility in front of your audience, and to establish brand authority.

  • Benefits of review websites

Some people tend to trust reviews on independent third-party sites because they think these reviews can’t be manipulated as easily as comments on a corporate site. Some websites even enable you to create live feeds from their sites to yours, so that you can create a webpage with customer testimonials from a trusted source.

This may serve as an additional opportunity to reach your potential customers when they are searching for more details about your product or service.


  • Spam and fake reviews

Unfortunately, fake reviews are not a rare occurrence. Many businesses have experienced a situation where their rivals leave fake reviews as a means of a competitive battle or an instance where a troll posts spammy comments.

What is the best thing to do when you receive a fake review? If it is a Google review, you can flag the specific comment to notify the Google team about a violation of their review policy. If a fake review is left on an independent third-party source or your own site, respond to it. By doing so, you can make it clear to your real customers you are aware of all their reviews, you take them seriously, and you are always ready to solve your clients’ problems.

  • Negative impact on your business

People like to read negative reviews as they are naturally curious as to why those reviews were posted and why consumers complained about a specific product or service. If there are too many negative comments, it may have a negative impact on your business and itis important to spend time on responding to all those reviews. After reading a bad review, consumers will seek a response to it, and if they don’t see one, they will assume it is all true.

Nevertheless, too many negative comments may indicate that your clients are not satisfied with your product or customer service.

Satisfying your clients is an essential part of your business, whether you receive a negative or positive review. If your customers are satisfied with what you offer, they will post more positive reviews, which can help your company’s profitability.


Although online customer reviews have both pros and cons, they are important for any business. “Even negative reviews are still positive if you use them to up your game!” said James Scroggie‏ - @seoscroggie.

Q3. Do you believe that bad reviews can be a good thing for businesses? Why or why not?

Most companies believe that negative reviews can hurt their business and there is a good reason for that. Consumers read what other people say about a specific product or brand and then make a purchase decision based on those reviews. The more positive comments a company receives, the better the chance of attracting new clients.

However, are there any ways that bad reviews can be a good thing for your business? If you respond immediately and properly, you can remedy the situation and even turn it in your favor. By showing people you care, are eager to communicate, and want to resolve their issues, you can better earn their trust.

Receiving criticism from clients who have tried your product or service can be a great opportunity for your brand to show off your expertise and experience.

A five-star rating can sometimes look too good to be true, as people are skeptical. According to Vendasta, 30% of people assume online reviews are fake if there are no negative reviews. A few bad comments, on the other hand, add a human element and a piece of honesty to your business.

Finally, a negative review can show you ways you can help your business. This can be the push you need to change, review your product and strategy, or focus on training your employees.


Q4. What are the best ways to handle a negative review?

1. Be Genuine, Polite, and Quick

Even if the reviewer was wrong, you should respond politely and genuinely. It is important to keep in mind that your response will be read by other people and over the time, your comment may be seen hundreds of times by your potential customers. When responding, try to figure out what dissatisfied the reviewer and how you can handle the problem quickly.

2. Don’t Act On Emotion

It can be hard not to take a bad review as a personal attack, however, when responding to criticism, make sure that you don’t act purely on emotions. Some brands make situations worse by answering with sarcasm or by being insincere. It is good to take time to think over your response, but don’t make the reviewer wait too long.

3. Be Specific and Avoid Dubious Answers

If a person mentions something in particular about your company, don’t ignore the issue and provide a direct answer. Be specific to demonstrate that you are not a robot and are dedicated to helping your customers. A direct answer will make the reviewer feel heard and understood.

4. Offer To Take the Conversation Offline

You can offer to take the conversation offline by providing your phone number and a way to connect privately. This will show the reviewer that you want to resolve the problem for them, not just for the online audience. 

5. Never Ignore a Negative Review

No matter how bad the review is, you should never ignore it or, even worse, delete it if it is posted on your own site. Ignoring or deleting it will reflect even worse than the initial negative comment because it will make you look like an unprofessional brand that doesn’t care or doesn’t pay attention.

If you resolve the issue of the dissatisfied reviewer ask them to update their review:

Even if your product is great and your customer service is excellent, it is very difficult to entirely prevent bad reviews. In fact, people leave negative comments more often than positive ones. Nevertheless, being responsive in a genuine manner can help you change the negative experience into a potentially positive one.


Q5. What are some of the most effective ways local businesses can increase their online ratings and reviews?

Many local businesses make online ratings and reviews a critical part in their local SEO strategy, and there is a good reason for that; they can affect your rankings in local search engines and your consumers purchasing decisions. Here are a few actionable tips that local businesses can use to increase online ratings and reviews:

1. Make Your Customers Happy

As a business, your primary goal is to make sure that your customers are happy. Only truly satisfied clients will endow you with good reviews. 

2. Ask For a Review

Some review websites frown upon asking customers to submit reviews, therefore, you need to check the terms and conditions for any review site you are going to use. For example, Google suggests that businesses encourage their customers to leave reviews.

3. Follow Up With Your Customers

To encourage reviews, you need to take time to send a follow-up email to your clients who purchased your product or services. In your message, you can kindly ask them if they have a chance to share their feedback.

In some cases, it can be useful to mention an incentive for leaving a review, such as a discount for a future purchase:

4. Use Review Platforms and Services

Some businesses use special review websites based on the industry they work in, such as Yelp or TripAdvisor.

You can also try this list of online review sites for collecting business and product reviews created by Hubspot. 

5. Don’t Pay For Reviews

Buying reviews may be tempting, however, purchasing a good reputation is never an option. Many people rely on online reviews to get helpful insights on various businesses and products. If you can attract customers with fake reviews, but your product isn’t good enough, there is a big chance you will be uncovered and people will eventually stop buying from you.

Make sure to monitor the reviews you get, whether it’s your own site or third-party review sources, to learn what people say about your brand and know how to respond strategically.


We would like to thank Thomas Ballantyne‏ and our other chat guests for sharing their expertise and tips for collecting and dealing with online reviews.

Make sure to join us this Wednesday as we discuss “Challenges Small Business Owners Face Today” with special guest, David Mihm

Author Photo
Maria is the Social Media Marketing Manager at Semrush and the host of the weekly #Semrushchat. You can always connect with her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter! Join the #SemrushChat every Wednesday at 11 am ET/ 4 pm BST!