A negative Google Review on your Google My Business listing can be irritating, especially if you think the reviewer was unjust. Running a business is hard. Sometimes business owners/employees rub a prospect/customer the wrong way. Then you get the dreaded announcement in your email inbox:

That Guy left a review for your business on Google My Business

Google My Business listing: You got a new one-star review

SON OF A NUTCRACKER! 🤬 Here’s a real example:

That Guy
⭐️ star
“Horrible experience. One star is too much.”

Ouch! that stings. What’s more frustrating is:

  • The reviewer didn’t use a real name to help track down whether he was really a customer that staff interacted with.
  • The reviewer didn’t leave any useful explanation of what the problem was or his desired outcome.
  • Having someone vent at you without reason is disruptive and demoralizing.
  • There was no easy way to contact the reviewer.

You have to realize that Google (and Bing and Facebook and Yelp, etc.) really do not give a crap about you. They will use their algorithms to decide what positive reviews to show, what negative reviews to emphasize, and suppress whatever they want, regardless if positive or legit. You have no tangible control over that. That’s the reality trade-off for using their free business listing services. You will most likely never be able to communicate with a real human to complain or get something changed unless there is an explicit violation.

It’s hard not to take such a curt response personally. But you absolutely should quickly respond publicly, demonstrating that you are calm and professional.

Can I change a negative Google Review?

Unfortunately you can’t edit, delete, or suppress a negative Google Review. You can try to report it to Google but often they won’t take action as long as it seems to fall within their policies.

Your removal request is being assessed
Your request to remove the review below has been received and is currently being assessed. This may take up to three business days, and once a decision has been made you’ll receive a follow-up email.

We have reviewed your removal request
Thank you for raising your concern. We have assessed the review, and have not found a violation of our policies. Due to this, the review will remain visible.

Therefore it is important for you to respond quickly to the reviewer. Google My Business will only send you a single email. Do not leave it sitting in your inbox for days. Go to your https://business.google.com/reviews/ listing immediately, click on the Reply Button.

Google My Business listing Reply Button

Per Google:
Please note that your reply will be displayed publicly on Google and must comply with Google’s local content policies.

Don’t be cranky. Don’t be angry. Ask how to help the reviewer.

“Hello “That Guy”. We’re sorry you didn’t have the experience you hoped for. We would like to understand your concern. Please call our office at (123) 456-7890 and request to speak with our Office Manager. Be well.”

When you reply, Google will send an email to the original reviewer. There is no guarantee you will get a response. But if you don’t try, you’ll never get a chance for a positive outcome.

Will replying to a negative Google review help get it changed?

YES! It actually worked. The next day I checked the reviews and the ONE star had been changed to FIVE stars!

That Guy
“I called the office manager and she was very nice and decent and problem solved. Thank you.”

Unfortunately Google doesn’t send a follow-up email to tell me if a reviewer has edited or replied. So this was a pleasant surprise to discover. The original one-star negative review was posted on a Monday, I responded on a Tuesday, by Wednesday the reviewer was satisfied and updated his listing to FIVE stars.

What to write when replying to a negative Google Review.

My recommendation on how to reply:

  1. You want to express empathy.
    (We’re sorry you didn’t have the experience you hoped for.)
  2. You want to demonstrate that you are concerned.
    (We would like to understand your concern.)
  3. You want to provide a path the reviewer can use to express their concern and what the desired outcome should’ve been.
    (Please call our office at (123) 456-7890 and request to speak with our Office Manager.)
  4. Always include the reviewers “name”, even if it’s a pseudonym. That way if they change their Google account profile name, you’ll know what it was when you originally responded.
    (Hello “That Guy”)
  5. Sign off politely.
    (Be well)

Steps to respond to a negative Google Review:

In summary:

  1. Respond quickly. You don’t want a boiling pot to spill over.
  2. Respond publicly so other prospects/customers that see the negative review will see how you responded to it. No business is perfect. They will respect you more.
  3. Acknowledge the reviewer’s concern.
  4. Be polite. “Kill ’em with kindness.”
  5. Provide a direct contact method (telephone # or email address) for the reviewer to speak with you.
  6. Never get into a tit-for-tat back and forth response of accusations and insults. It doesn’t help either of you.
  7. Even if you recognize the reviewer and if that person’s expectations were not realistic, do not be rude. Simply clearly state your policy and politely sign off.

Use the same process for Facebook page reviews (which are shown on your BingPlaces local business listing) and your Yelp business reviews.

At the end of the day, reviews are essential for every business. It helps a cold prospect become more confident in deciding whether to do business with you.

No one is perfect. We all have bad days. Plus there are some people who are unrealistic or unreasonable. Take reasonable steps and if successful, the outcome will be good for both of you. If it doesn’t work, move on. You have a thousand other things to do.

Never respond to a negative Google Review like this:

  1. Never shame the reviewer.
  2. Never disclose Personally Identifiable Information (PII) about the reviewer.
  3. Always respect any HIPPA health privacy or COPPA chidden privacy guidelines.
  4. Don’t go multiple rounds in a public forum. Try to help. State your policy. Try to take the conversation offline.

Do not create your own positive Google Reviews.

All the business review platforms (i.e., Google My Business / Google Maps, Bing Places, Facebook pages, Yelp, etc.) have policies to discourage you from attempting to manipulate their systems in your favor. Do not hurt your business listing by:

  1. Do not attempt to buy fake reviews.
  2. Do not create your own fake accounts to leave positive reviews for your business.
  3. Do not solicit your customers or the general public to leave positive reviews in exchange for compensation (i.e., money, discount, gift, etc.)

These platforms use sophisticated algorithms and machine learning to try to detect a number of suspicious indicators (i.e., new accounts with no history, multiple logins from the same originating IP address, multiple positive reviews posted within short time period, etc.). Don’t attempt to manipulate the system because you could get slapped hard in return.

Good luck with your business!