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Countering some of the biggest misconceptions about online reviews

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

As Yelp’s Small Business Expert, I hear myths about online reviews from businesses all the time. Unfortunately, these misconceptions hit businesses the hardest because consumers pay attention to online reviews—in fact, 77% of consumers “always” or “regularly” read online reviews when looking for local businesses (BrightLocal, 2021).

If businesses aren’t taking full advantage of the benefits that review sites can bring, then they’re likely missing crucial connections with their audience. Read on as I bust some of the most common myths I hear from business owners; plus check out the technical strategies you can apply to your business to grow your online presence and reputation.

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1. Receiving critical reviews

The misconception I hear most often is that business owners are afraid of getting criticism or critical reviews online—and because of that, they avoid it all together. But on Yelp, more than 75% of reviews are neutral to positive (3 stars and above), and there are more 5-star reviews than 1-, 2-, and 3-star reviews combined. So while you may be worried that if you make an online listing you might get a critical review, think about the abundance of customer praise that also comes with it. 

Plus remember that consumers are searching on Yelp to find information about businesses they might want to work with. And when they’re browsing, they’re looking at much more than just those reviews. They’re seeing your business name, your address, your photos, and more. So when you think of your presence on these sites, think of them as the full picture of your business, giving customers the information they need to determine if you’re the right business for them.

2. Responding to positive reviews

The second misconception many business owners have is that there’s no value in responding to positive reviews. Let’s think about that from a consumer’s point of view. If I find your business online and see that you take the time to read and respond to all reviews—including the positive ones—then I know you care about your customers and their experiences. Acknowledging the praise someone gives you fosters a positive environment for your customers, staff, and business as a whole. 

Vadim Nayman, owner of Bagel Master in Syosset, New York, said, “I comment back on every review. Good, bad, or ugly. I think it’s very important because why would you only respond to the negative? You have to reach out to the people that took their time to give you a positive review, and let them know that you appreciate them.”

Another way of thinking about it: Your online approach should be similar to the way you’d respond in real life. If a customer were to come to you at your business and share positive feedback, you would probably smile and thank them, right? And maybe you’d even take that feedback back to your onsite team. Your online response doesn’t have to be elaborate, but a simple thank you goes a long way.

3. Crafting your response

The third misconception I hear from a lot of business owners is that it doesn’t matter how they respond. Many just reply to get it off their checklist, when in fact, the way you respond is a reflection of the type of business you are. You have a golden opportunity to not only meet their expectations, but exceed them—while simultaneously showing off your customer service to other potential customers that visit your page.

“When I’m reading reviews about a business and I see a company responding, it gives me an idea about who that company is,” reviewer Jennifer W. shared. “I can tell a lot when I see a business responding about what kind of business model they have. Are they customer focused? Are they calm, cool, and collected in their response? There’s so much you can learn about the company that you’re about to do business with.”

When it comes to responding to reviews, there are a few things you want to keep in mind. First, write them with a little bit of your personality. You don’t want to copy and paste the same message every time. Take a minute to write a customized sentence or two, responding directly to what the consumer shared. Then thank them for taking the time to share their review. Maybe you welcome them back or point them to a special, upcoming offer. If it’s a critical review, you can offer to take the conversation offline to further discuss what went wrong and ways you might be able to make it right.

4. Accepting less than perfect

The last major misconception I hear from many businesses is that their online reputation is all or nothing. I often hear business owners striving for all 5-star reviews, and many have a tough time when they get a critical review. 

However, we all know that no one is perfect and neither is any business. Mistakes happen, and sometimes those mistakes result in critical reviews. It’s certainly frustrating, but try to look at that critical review as an opportunity to reflect your customer service practices and show you care about client feedback. It highlights you as a real business that deals with real customers and can even shine a light on improvements you can make to your business. 

“Things are going to go wrong. That’s a given,” said Alyssa Bayer, owner of the Texas-based chain milk + honey spa. “What really matters is how the business responds when things go wrong. And that’s what I think separates truly exceptional customer service from the average.”

Josh Campbell, owner of Rescue Air Heating and Cooling in Richardson, Texas, shared: “I’ll listen to [critical feedback from customers], and I’ll be like: ‘Listen, I’m taking action on this. I’m going to build a better company.’ Every time, I thank them for it. Thank you for the 1-star review. This is how I grow. Without you bringing these mistakes to my attention, I would never know they were occurring. So you’re a layer of accountability for me to build a better business.”

The bottom line is that consumers turn to online review sites to find businesses, so it’s important you have a presence on those sites. Avoiding an online reputation because you’re afraid of the negative is a missed opportunity for all of the positive. Take advantage of the opportunity to grow and amplify your business by leveraging all of the benefits your online presence can offer.

Listen in for more from Emily, who partnered with GoDaddy to talk more about online reviews:

The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.

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