How to leverage the power of online reviews for your business

online-reviewsOnline reviews can make or break a small business – but even the negative ones can be an opportunity for small businesses to show how they fix problems. 

Let’s look at the importance of online reviews for your business, and how to respond to both the good and bad reviews when you get them.

Why reviews matter

We get it: the idea of opening the floodgates to people saying anything and everything they want about your business is scary. But reviews are everywhere – if you have a Google profile or Facebook page, these automatically come with a feature for people to leave reviews, so you’ll probably get some whether you want them or not.

Think about the last time you ran a Google search for a local restaurant, shop or tradesperson. You probably saw their aggregate Google review ratings before you even clicked through to any websites. Maybe you even scrolled through the reviews themselves. 

This is exactly what people will do when your business comes up in their Google or social search results – even if you’re not signed up to a dedicated review service like TrustPilot. 

Reviews are powerful because they’re evidence of social proof: most of us don’t want to try something until someone else has tried it first. So why not take charge of your own reviews strategy and start generating some good buzz about your business online?!

Why you need to ask for good reviews

Let’s start with the bad news: negative reviews are easy to get, because people will go out of their way to complain when they’re annoyed. Conversely, when customers are satisfied, they don’t feel the same need to share this with the world. That’s why you have to work harder to get positive reviews. 

You need a strategy to reach out to the many customers who are delighted with your service or product, and are happy to share it online when asked. Think about how you can build review requests into your processes, e.g. sending customers an email shortly after purchase with a link to your preferred review platform.

How to respond to reviews

There are definitely some “dos and don’ts” for responding to reviews.


  • Respond to all reviews, even negative ones (see below for what not to say when responding to the latter!).
  • Read each review carefully. While a stock response (or one generated using ChatGPT) is better than no response, it’s certainly not as good as an individually tailored reply to reach review.
  • Make it personal. Sign off with your name. Replying to reviews is your chance to show the human face of the business, so make sure the face has a name!


  • Ignore reviews. Too many businesses just let their reviews accumulate without ever responding. This makes it look like your business doesn’t care about its customers. 
  • Hit back at negative reviews. We know, this one’s hard. When someone slates your business, it hurts – whether their criticism is justified or not. However, always take the high road and respond politely. If you are at fault in any way, acknowledge it and explain that you’ll do your best to try and rectify it – do this well, and your negative reviews could even bring you new sales!
  • Get into a back and forth public conversation. Try this general thumb of thumb for responding to negative reviews: “Respond in public, resolve in private”. Constantly going back and forth with an angry customer doesn’t leave  a good impression on other customers, and remember that most social media algorithms prioritise content based on engagement, so too many replies back, and that negative review is being pushed right to the top!
  • Skimp on the replies to positive reviews. A glowing review of your business deserves more than a quick “thanks for the great review!” in reply. When someone has had a great experience, this is the perfect opportunity to talk about your passion for the business and your delight in making customers happy.

Remember that “Customer Service is the new Marketing” (as said by Jay Baer in the brilliant “Hug Your Haters” book), so ensuring positive social proof from others is vital – the people become your marketing!


For more help with your digital marketing, get booked onto one of our digital marketing webinars, buy the bestselling social media book (with a whole chapter dedicated to dealing with online reviews!), or book a 1-to-1 with our team of consultants.

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