Reputation Management — how to write review replies like a pro

In the competitive digital marketplace, positive online reviews are vital for sales conversion. As many as 92% people use online reviews for decision making, and 84% trust reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family.

If you’re not fully up to speed with why company reviews matter, read: What is Reputation Management and why is it so important? The bottom line is that staying on top of reviews is now a Must, rather than a Maybe on your business Wishlist. 

This article gives you everything you need to write review replies like an experienced PR professional, including how to spot fake reviews and turn the table on them.

Handling negative reviews  

People leave negative feedback for a range of reasons. Some are legitimate, even valuable, because they point to gaps in your products or services that need improvement. Others are more about someone having a bad day, or not following the user instructions. Then there are the fake reviews, created by spammers, unscrupulous competitors, or mean people that enjoy trolling.

Fake reviews

Approximately 10% to 30% of all reviews are fake — that was in 2018, we think the number is at least 40% now with the rise of Black Hat companies paying for fake reviews. On Amazon the problem is even worse, with 61% of reviews deemed fake.

The frustrating thing is it’s often impossible to get a fake negative review removed, because it’s really hard to prove it. On many popular platforms like My Google Reviews, people have anonymous user names and don’t need to be a verified buyer to leave feedback.

So how can you tell if a review is fake? These are the red flags:

  • Me, me, me — genuine reviewers tend to focus on the product. But fakers often try to talk a lot about themselves in an effort to sound genuine. They also use more verbs instead of nouns, and speak more about the setting. Such as a hotel reviewer talking a lot about what kind of holiday they wanted, then only writing a sentence about not liking the room because “it wasn’t clean”.

  • Lacking detail — this is one of the main giveaways. It’s hard to write a factual review when you’ve never actually used the product or service. If there are no specifics about why the person didn’t like what they allegedly bought, that’s a clear sign.

  • One or five star ratings — the average person generally doesn’t have feelings strong enough to leave an extremely bad or good rating. Only the fakers, for the most part, either rail against how much they hated something, or gush about how amazing it was.

  • Review history — this doesn’t always mean a red flag, but it’s a good idea to check whether the person has a history of varied reviews. If they only have one or two reviews, or use the same language across most of them, you’re probably dealing with a scammer.  

Google’s advice, like ours, is to respond to all negative reviews, whether you suspect they’re fake or not, to minimize the damage to your brand image. Even if you’re sure it’s a scammer, you don’t want shoppers being put off your company. Only 13% of consumers will consider buying from a business with lots of 1 or 2 stars.

That said, identifying fake reviews could help you gather evidence against career scammers. Log their user names in a spreadsheet. You may even be able to trace them to a company that sells fake reviews. 

Knowing it’s fake will also help with your response. Never be argumentative, even though you may be justified. Ask them politely for more specifics about why they left a bad review. And check if their username is in your records.

Here’s an example of online reputation management that will spotlight bad actors, while repairing their damage by showing you care:

We’ve underlined the parts you’d add specifically for reviewers you strongly suspect are fake:

“Hi Tracey. Thanks for your feedback, we really value our customers. We have not been able to find your details in our customer database, but we’re sorry that you had a less than excellent experience. Our high standards are normally praised, but in this case we need to do better. To make sure this never happens again, we’d be grateful if you could please clarify the issues you faced? We’d be happy to fix the issue in any way we can. Please feel free to contact us so we can help: [insert customer support number or email].”

Strategy for negative company reviews


Follow these failsafe tips for mitigating negative feedback:

  • Format — use the person’s name if supplied. Thank them for the review to show you value your customers. Apologize to demonstrate empathy for the fact they had a less than stellar experience. Add a sentence to affirm your brand (in a natural, not defensive way). Explain that you want to do better and fix the problem. Move the conversation off the review platform by supplying your email or phone details. You’ll be able to connect better to resolve things that way, and it’s a more personal touch.

    The example we’ve already supplied above covers this format (less the underlined bits designed to highlight scammers). In this case we’re assuming the reviewer was legitimate and provided specifics about why they were dissatisfied:

    “Hi Tracey. Thanks for your feedback, we really value our customers. We’re sorry that you had a less than excellent experience. Our high standards are normally praised, but in this case we need to do better. We’d be happy to fix the issue in any way we can. Please feel free to contact us so we can help: [insert customer support number or email].”

  • Compensation — if the reviewer has a genuine grievance, offer them good compensation for the error, such as 30% off their next purchase, or a free gift (if applicable). When you email to confirm their compensation, give them a more direct contact number (if possible) to make them feel special. These things win back trust and approval, paving the way for you to ask if they would consider updating their negative review. The highest goal of online reputation management is turning negative reviews into positive ones.

  • SEO — don’t include SEO keywords (like your business, product or service name) in your review replies, because that will show up in search results and add more spotlight to the negative feedback.

  • Tone of voice — keep it short and pleasant. Never be argumentative, arrogant, or sarcastic. Remember that you’re really showing everyone else online that you’re caring, kind, and helpful. You may even win audience support if you’re kind in the face of someone being unfairly mean. Also use plain-speak, modern writing, because a stiff, formal style won’t sound genuine.


    For example, this sentence could be written by a computer that cares nothing about how the customer feels: “We apologize for your negative experience. Please contact us so we can investigate further.”

It’s not easy dealing with negative company reviews, especially if someone is being unfair. But if their feedback is genuine, try to realize that it’s actually something to be grateful about because you’re getting valuable insight into how you can improve your business. Nobody’s perfect after all, and we all have blind spots.

And when you get unfair or fake reviews, try to brush them off as one of those unpleasant but unavoidable things in life, like having to unexpectedly change a tyre on a road trip. Remember that the way businesses respond to reviews matter to 56% of consumers when deciding who to shop with.

If you're short on time, as many growing businesses are, a quality Review Manager can be a great help as it gives you suggestion response templates, which you can quickly edit to match the individual situation. 

Maximizing positive feedback  

You may think that it’s only negative reviews you need to reply to, so they don’t cause brand damage. But it’s also important to proactively build trust. These are the reasons why it’s worth your time to respond to good reviews:

  • Connect — when you show your appreciation for a high rating, you make a happy customer like your business even more. It gives them the impression that they’re appreciated, and that their satisfaction is not something you take for granted. In other words, you introduce human connection instead of being just another faceless company.

  • Impress — as we pointed out, the vast majority of people now read reviews to guide their decision making process. When readers see you taking time to demonstrate appreciation, it shows them you care, and gives your brand ‘heart’.

  • Social Proof — engaging with people leaving positive feedback will encourage them to continue and others to do the same. Fresh reviews let people know that your quality standard is current, which is proven by a Brightlocal study that found 73% of shoppers only pay attention to reviews written within the last month. It’s also important to note that new positive reviews undo the brand damage caused by older negative reviews.

  • SEO — by adding your business name, product titles, and other popular search terms to your reply, you’re increasing visibility of positive reviews (effective marketing). But be sure to add keywords in a natural, minimal way, otherwise you could come across like a fake politician trying to turn everything to their advantage. Your primary focus should always be on the customer.


Let’s look at the best way to respond when your business gets good reviews. As explained in the ‘Strategy for negative reviews’ section above, keep your reply fairly short, and use a natural, modern tone of voice (professional yet friendly, no formal language). For positive feedback, you always want to work in some SEO keywords, so they show up in search results.

Here’s the strategic breakdown:

1. Use the customer’s name (if provided) to make it more personal — Hi James.

2. Express appreciation for the good review — Thanks so much for your feedback.

3. Add your company name for SEO, working it naturally into the sentence by highlighting what they said about your product or service — The Sofas Are Us Team are really glad to hear you’re finding your new sofa comfortable, and that it looks great in your home.

4. Write a ‘unique selling point’ about your company i.e. something you’re proud of because it benefits customers — As a family run business, we’re proud to have been making quality sofas for over twenty years. 

5. Add a customer incentive and call-to-action — Try our Loyalty Program, which gives you and your friends great added discounts. And feel free to check out our website for tips on keeping your new sofa looking like new.

6. End with a pleasant sign off — Have a great day/ All the best.

Remember to keep it natural and genuine, because a forced-sounding response will reduce rather than add to your ability to connect with customers. If you’re using reputation management software that gives you template suggestions, it’s a good idea to edit them so each one sounds personalized.

Asking for reviews 

To round off this article, we wanted to give you some guidance on how to ask people for good reviews without sounding pushy, while also reducing negative feedback.

Once a shopper has paid for a product or service using your website, it’s really important to send an automated Thank-you-email. It not only builds customer trust, but can also be effectively turned to your advantage. Here’s a good example:

“We hope you love our product. And we’d really appreciate you leaving a review to let people know what you like about it: [insert social media and review platform links].

But if there’s anything you’re not happy about, we’ll be grateful if you’d contact us direct instead of leaving a negative review, so we can make it right: [insert contact details]. Since we’re a small, growing business, every review means the world to us. Have a great day”

This example could also be added to a nice looking note that comes with their delivery, especially for customers that can’t get automated emails because they buy your products or services from other platforms. One little note like this, written in the right way, can prevent any number of bad Google reviews.

Takeaway

While responding fast to negative customer reviews is like putting out fires so they don’t cause damage, replying to positive feedback is about building loyalty. They are two sides of the reputation management coin, so to speak.

Google says that consumers view businesses who respond to reviews as 1.7X more trustworthy than those who don't (meaning  76% versus 46%). Trust is everything these days in the crowded online marketplace.

By following the guidance and examples we’ve outlined in this article, you’ll be able to respond to both good, bad, and fake feedback effectively. Also don’t forget our final tip for gaining new company reviews, and encouraging people to contact you instead of giving you bad ratings.

If you have the help of a Review Manager to make things easy with email alerts every time a new review is posted and getting template reply suggestions, it’s a good idea to make tailored edits. That way you’ll come across with a genuine, personal touch, making your business memorable instead of just another faceless store that uses canned replies.

And when you’re tempted to skip review replies, bear in mind that a 1 star increase in average rating can boost your conversion rate by 25%

Why choose a Review Manager from Namecheap?

We’ve built a 20 year global track record of trust, for giving our customers a comprehensive range of essential web services. From domains and hosting, to apps and cybersecurity, we have you covered. Namecheap believes in giving businesses the tools you need without the usual roadblocks — high quality, user-friendly and ultra affordable.


Melissa Fletcher

Melissa Fletcher

More articles written by Melissa.

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