How to Handle Bad Reviews Online

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Posted on Aug 20th 2013
The public’s trust takes years to win, but in the age of TripAdvisor, a single bad review can shatter even the most glowing reputation in an instant.
Where the review comes from is irrelevant. It might represent the genuine gripes of a dissatisfied guest, but equally, it might come from the type of guest who is simply impossible to please. Perhaps it has been planted by one of your biggest rivals, or maybe it’s a disgruntled ex-employee’s idea of a parting gift. Whatever the source; the bad review is out there for the whole internet and countless prospective guests to see.
Damage Control
The damage that even one single negative review can inflict on your online reputation is significant, and unfortunately the way search engines rank their results does not necessarily work in your favour. 
Take this example. A guest is using Google to search for ‘accommodation in Brisbane’ and the first result that pops up at the top of the search results page is for your Brisbane based hotel. 
Think that’s great news? Think again. Google, along with other search engines such as Bing and Yahoo, gives priority to data from consumer review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor when determining search ranking. So, if your property doesn’t have a rock solid website supported by tried and true SEO strategies, the first result your potential guest sees may well be a guest review – whether it’s glowing with praise or er, not so glowing.
With so many alternative properties right at the consumer’s fingertips, it goes without saying that this high visibility of bad reviews spells big trouble for your booking rates.
Fighting Your Corner
Since there’s no real way to prevent reviews of any kind from appearing, all you can do is make sure that as few people see it as possible. Statistics tell us that a huge 90% of internet users never stray from the first page of search results. So while your negative review is bad news if it appears on that first page, if it’s on page 5 the damage it can do is fairly negligible.
Keeping negative reviews away from page one of search results isn’t as technically convoluted as you might think – in fact, there are several simple things you can do straight away to protect your hotel’s online reputation from bad reviews.
Protecting your property from online defamation starts with producing more content – and lots of it. Simply put, quality content acts as a protective barrier around your business, pushing those negative reviews off page one and replacing them with positive and valuable information about your brand. The more content you produce, the harder it is for negative reviews to infiltrate this barrier and damage your hotel’s online reputation.  And stepping up your content production isn’t as daunting a process as you might think. Signing up to all the social media accounts you can handle and regularly filling these accounts with information, comments and news is a great place to start.
When to Respond to Reviews
Perhaps it’s too late, and you’ve already suffered the damaging effects of bad reviews?
Although it can be tempting to take straight to the keyboard to try and defend yourself, it’s worth taking a moment to consider how and when you should respond to reviews, if at all. Since any comment you leave in response to guest reviews on sites like TripAdvisor is likely to make the review rank even better on the search results page, you should spend your time responding to reviews that you actually want guests to see.
When it comes to positive reviews or even justified constructive criticism, there’s a lot to be said for a polite response to show your appreciation, but as far as negative or unfair reviews go, it’s generally best to bite your tongue - however hard it may be - and focus your efforts on positive content creation instead. 
How does your resort deal with negative reviews online? Let us know in the comments.

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