How Does Google Assess Negative Online Reviews?
Brand reputation is a major consideration when operating both in physical and online spaces. In decades past, most brands only had to worry about word-of-mouth spreading among friends, family members, co-workers and acquaintances. However, today’s online world means everybody can see opinions expressed by customers and users who are either satisfied or irritated by a brand’s behavior or individual customer experience.
For the past decade, search engines like Google have reportedly measured the temperature or sentiment of online reviews in order to more accurately display quality brands in search results. Is this still the case – and if so, to what extent is Google viewing negative comments about your brand?
We’ll examine this dynamic in greater detail below so that you can be aware of the effects of negative online reviews.
Is Google Still Monitoring Review Sentiment?
Given the massive number of changes over the years to Google’s algorithms, many have wondered whether reviews are even having an impact on search rankings anymore. Recent comments from Google in fact highlight that reviews are still being considered as one of many ranking factors, but years of changes to the program mean that the original formulas aren’t necessarily the same.
As such, brands who are worried about negative reviews pinging websites and review platforms may still have some legitimate concern over their presence. However, their influence is a bit more nuanced.
Are Negative Reviews Bad?
Ultimately, every negative review received can feel like a death sentence to a brand or business wanting to maintain a sterling online reputation. However and at least with regard to search rankings, Google has made it clear that it isn’t quite that serious.
Google understands that negative reviews are a natural part of online brand interaction, particularly for brands and businesses that have large consumer or subscriber bases. As such, a few negative reviews here and there reportedly have no negative impact on search engine optimization outcomes.
While negative reviews in enough quantities may dissuade potential shoppers from choosing your brand, the visibility factor isn’t likely to be impacted unless you rack up a large number. Even then and not too long ago, it wasn’t uncommon for Google search results to feature brands that had tons of negative reviews simply because they had many more than their more positively-viewed competitors. However, this doesn’t appear to be a concern in Google’s SEO algorithms anymore.
Mitigating Additional Damage from Google-Specific Reviews
There are a few options brands have to handle any other side-effects of negative reviews left on Google.
If reviews have been left that you believe are disingenuous or fraudulent, your Google My Business account offers a feature through which inappropriate reviews can be flagged.
For reviews that are legitimate but negative in nature, responding appropriately can mitigate any damage caused among audiences who may read the individual reviews. This can also be done via GMB, through the “manage reviews” section. It is crucial to consider the appropriate tone and wording of any reply, as this can prevent some negative reviews from being seen as deal-breakers among audiences.
In conclusion, negative reviews being posted to Google or that are pinging websites separate from that will not inherently cause a loss in search rankings. However, there is a limit to how many bad reviews a business wishes to accumulate – whether it be for SEO purposes or for brand reputation management.