October 19, 2020

Think Before You Type: How to Respond to Your Business’s Online Reviews

As a business owner, you have undoubtedly been there. You get a notification that your company has received an online review from a customer, and with bated breath, you open Google, Yelp, or Facebook to see the verdict. It’s a rave review! You’re elated and immediately jump into your response, thanking them for their comments and their patronage. Easy peasy, right? 

On the other hand, what if the review is negative? Or, even worse, scathing? What response is the proper one to make sure you acknowledge your customer’s bad experience while not irreversibly – and publicly – tainting your brand? Whether your customer had a great experience with your company or a horrible one, you typically have one shot at responding to a review, and what you say can either mend fences and create raving fans or turn off your current and potential customers. Make sure you respond in a way that serves your brand and your customers well with what you choose to say – or not say. 

Why It’s Important to Respond To Reviews

Reviews are not only an opportunity to interact with your customers, but they are also a way to demonstrate your customer service to the world in an obvious way. Unfortunately, you have no option to respond to word-of-mouth reviews customers give each other offline. Thankfully, online forums allow you that, and doing so has many positive benefits for your company. 

Show Every Customer You Care

Not responding to reviews (good or bad) may give off the impression that you do not care. By responding to reviews from people who have used your good or service, you increase the likelihood of retaining that person as a customer. Further, studies suggest that customers expect to receive a response to their review, particularly if it’s enormously positive or negative. Failing to respond essentially equates to you ignoring your customers, were they standing in front of you. 

Responses to Reviews Affect Your SEO

Responding to every customer review also helps build your brand’s trust, authority, and relevance, while not acknowledging customer reviews can actually hurt your organic rankings. Moz’s Local Search Ranking Factors report considers reviews to be the number one overall ranking factor in local searches, which means that when you respond to reviews, you increase your visibility and how easily search engines find you. 

Your review responses are also an excellent opportunity to promote your business subtly. By including SEO keywords relevant to your business in your reply, you aid search engines in crawling your site. Just make sure not to overdo it, or your review response will seem inauthentic. 

You Can Templatize 

Replying to customer reviews also doesn’t have to be overly time-consuming. If you find that you’re responding to the same kinds of reviews repeatedly, creating response templates can save you and your team valuable time that could be better devoted to other tasks. You just have to be careful that these templates are only used as guidelines rather than cut and paste routines that make you come across to customers as uncaring or robotic. 

How to Respond to Reviews 

Even if you’re not a loquacious person, you can still respond well to reviews.. Be reassured that reviews don’t have to be complicated or lengthy to make an impact and there are several handy tips to help you as you get started. 

Respond to Positive Reviews Without Sounding Insincere 

Responding to positive feedback may sound almost childishly simple, but there are ways to do it effectively. If you go rogue and respond without making a concentrated effort, you waste valuable opportunities to connect with customers, promote your business, and reinforce your professional reputation. 

Be Thankful 

As with negative feedback, the first thing to do is thank the customer for taking the time to share their experience. It’s more common that people take the time to leave an online review if they’re disappointed rather than satisfied. So, it’s vital to show that you are grateful for customers’ positive feedback. To note, if the review references a positive experience with a specific team member, your review can promise to pass that information along. Doing so demonstrates leadership and humility. 

Use Keywords

Let’s say your business is called Useless Skills. In your response to a positive customer review, you could include this message: John Doe, thank you for choosing Useless Skills for your lesson. We’re proud to be the premier underwater basket weaving institution in Florida. 

Purposely peppering keywords into your response helps your SEO rankings. 


The final step in responding to positive reviews is to use it as a chance to invite the customer back to your business or call them to take a specific action. For the example listed above for the fictitious Useless Skills company, this could be a closing like: We look forward to serving your subaquatic wickerwork braiding needs again soon!

This is a silly example, but you get the drift.

Respond to Negative Reviews Without Raising Your Blood Pressure

We’ve covered responding to positive reviews, so now it’s time to shift to the negative. First, it’s always a good idea to respond kindly to negative reviews, but it’s never a smart move to get into a lengthy debate on the internet. It’s wiser to carefully curate your responses so they demonstrate you care but aren’t so open-ended that they invite back and forth argument or discussion.  

While it’s wise to respond to customer reviews promptly, it’s unwise to respond to negative reviews while you still feel angry or emotional about them. Allow yourself a little bit of time to process what you’ve read and then focus on responding. 

Sympathize and Apologize

As you would with positive feedback, the first step in responding to a negative review is to thank the customer for their time and effort in leaving you a review. Then, try to understand where the customer is coming from and put yourself in their shoes. That will allow you to do what you need to do to fix the situation. Then, apologize that the customer had a bad experience and reiterate your disappointment that your company didn’t meet its excellence standards for them.  


The saying, “The customer is always right” applies here too. If the customer shares information in their review that your team doesn’t think accurate, don’t use your review response to argue. Instead, acknowledge how the customer feels and vow to look into the matter. On the other hand, if you know that the customer is valid in their complaint, your response is the perfect opportunity to commit to making things right. 

If there are specific actions you plan to take to fix the situation, mention these in your reply. Continuing the above example, We apologize that your experience at Useless Skills was not up to our usual exemplary standards. To correct this situation, our team members have collaborated and added a strict No cell phone use by instructors during lessons clause to our employee handbook, effective immediately. Conveying a remediation strategy makes it clear you take the customer’s feedback seriously.   

Take It Offline

One of the last but essential steps is to let the customer know that you welcome discussing their experience further via phone, in person, or email, and give them your contact information. This allows current and potential customers to see that you have responded but doesn’t provide them with a front-row seat to back and forth commenting that feels like a tennis match. 

Do Your Research

Once the emotions have settled upon first read of a review, check-in with your team. Unfortunately, negative reviews can be malicious and users feel the power of hiding behind the computer screen. They may have never even visited your store and still proceed to leave a one star review. In cases like this, these reviews fall under Google’s Prohibited and Restricted Content as “Spam or fake content.” However, only report these reviews if you’re sure that they are not real customers, not because you dislike the review.

Responses Are Opportunities

As long as fallible humans run businesses, mistakes and oversights are bound to happen. While it may be tempting to forego the effort of responding to your customers’ positive reviews or flat out ignore the negative ones, your inaction could have lasting effects on your business.

Rather than seeing customer reviews as a trivial part of your processes, see them for the opportunity they are – to connect with customers, demonstrate trust and compassion, and humanize your brand. If you want underwater basket weaving lessons, we, unfortunately, can’t help you. But, if you need more information on responding to customer reviews or creating an effective marketing strategy for your business, contact our PHOS Creative team today!

Caroline Lentz

Caroline Lentz

As a Copywriter, Caroline uses her background in creative writing and education to craft strong, engaging stories, using the magic of the written word to fuel purpose-driven content. She believes every company has an extraordinary tale to tell, and people should be at the heart of every “why.” When not flexing her creative muscles for PHOS, Caroline can be found chasing after her three young sons (and two puppies), hanging out with her husband, watching British mystery shows, reading a great book on the beach, or being active in her church. She loves chocolate, sports, and music, and is a hard-core Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter fan.