We build trust through reputation.

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Operating a successful business requires determination, hard work, and a product people genuinely need or want. While these essential building blocks are crucial to a successful business, there are other factors that a business operator must consider. One of the most important parts of running a business is ensuring your company’s public image remains favorable.

There have been several instances of a company allowing its reputation to deteriorate to unacceptable levels due to shady practices or poor quality control. Despite this potential issue, not every company is willing to make genuine attempts to improve its image after an issue arises. This might have been sufficient a few decades ago, but modern communication technology has made this practice unsustainable.

Nowadays, everyone leaves reviews when they experience poor or unsatisfactory service from a company. These reviews are designed to benefit the consumer base, so people do not purchase products or services that do not meet standards. It is almost impossible to find a company whose customers have not reviewed them, and harder still to find one with only good reviews. While there might be extenuating circumstances for negative reviews, they ultimately cause a domino effect that impacts the company’s overall success.

The primary concern with reviews is a concept called review sentiment, which can complicate the review process by oversimplifying it. While review sentiment can be helpful, the way search engines take advantage of it can have dire consequences for the companies.

What is Review Sentiment?

The term “review sentiment” might be unfamiliar to you since it is not widely circulated and generally requires you to look it up to understand. Despite the term being poorly circulated, review sentiment is an extremely important concept that all companies must know to protect their reputations. Review sentiment is a fancy way of referring to the average type of review a company or product has attached to its brand.

Essentially, review sentiment reflects your customers’ general opinion of you by compiling the various reviews and averaging them against each other. This leads to 3 categories of “sentiment” that can be applied to the company’s reputation. These are:

  • Positive: A positive sentiment refers to a company with predominantly positive reviews. This does not mean there are only positive reviews, but the positive ones significantly outnumber the negative.
  • Neutral: A neutral sentiment refers to a company with an even balance of positive and negative reviews. As a result, the company is neither considered good nor bad based on the reviews and is a matter of individual experience.
  • Negative: A negative sentiment refers to a company with predominantly negative reviews. This does not mean there are only negative reviews, but the negative ones significantly outnumber the positive ones.

These sentiments might seem strange, but they have been used for years since, thanks to websites like Yelp and Google Reviews. A simplified expression of review sentiment is the star system used by several review sites. Typically, reviews that employ this system allow consumers to rank the quality of the service anywhere between 1 and 5 stars. A 1-star review is considered the worst, while a 5-star review is the best.

What is Review Sentiment

These reviews are compiled, and the subject of those reviews is given a star value that uses that average. For example, a California Pizza Kitchen operating in Las Vegas has an overall rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars. This is because, out of the 1,156 reviews this particular restaurant has, the majority are 5-star, while there are very few 1-star reviews.

Some platforms use a more direct version of this system, most notably the game host platform Steam, which allows players to review the games. When a game has a positive sentiment, it is accompanied by the phrases “Positive,” “Mostly Positive,” or “Overwhelmingly Positive” written in blue, depending on how many good reviews are present. Conversely, a game with a negative sentiment is accompanied by the phrases “Negative,” “Mostly Negative,” or “Overwhelmingly Negative” written in red, depending on how many negative reviews there are.

Finally, a game that has a neutral sentiment is accompanied by the phrase “Mixed” written in yellow. The review sentiment affects how many players purchase the game after the initial sales period, with positive games getting more purchases and negative games usually languishing in obscurity.

Ultimately, review sentiment is the first impression an existing company, product, or service gives to people. A positive review sentiment can enhance your business, while a negative one can drive customers away and destroy it. Customers are not the only ones who use the review sentiment of your company to make decisions. The search engines they use while investigating potential products and services employ review sentiment to assist their research.

How Does Google Use Review Sentiment?

Google is the most popular search engine in the world, essentially rendering engines like Bing and Ask obsolete, despite Bing being newer. Google has secured dominance by optimizing its systems to provide as much relevant information to its users as possible. Google can accomplish this by taking advantage of search engine optimization (SEO), which generates results based on statistics.

SEO is used by countless programs to generate an algorithm that benefits the ones using it. The way Google implements SEO is to take the search parameters we enter into the search bar and acquires the most relevant results. However, Google considers additional factors to populate further the pages of results it generates.

Recent media surrounding our search’s subject, any industry updates, recent controversies, and related blog posts are added to the results. The algorithm gathers every result tangentially related to what we looked up and sorts them according to relevance. The most recent changes and reviews are posted first, while the other pages are filled with the lower priority topics.

Most Google searches yield tens of thousands of results in a single search, so SEO is important in ensuring the most important information is not suppressed by outdated media. This principle is also applied to the reviews your customers leave about you and your services, though Google usually simplifies this. Most companies and products have a special pane attached to the initial result that outlines your company’s details. This includes address, phone number, hours of operation, etc.

This pane is designed for convenience and is a common tool for the average Google user since it is basically a one-stop shop for the most relevant information. In addition to the important details about your company, it also has a section that lists the Google reviews for your company or the product they looked up. Like the rest of the Google results, these reviews are prioritized to give the most important information first, while the rest is secondary.

Using Review Sentiment for SEO

The real key is the overall star rating the company or product has within Google Reviews’ star system. This provides the clearest indication of the review sentiment so prospective customers can determine whether to trust the company.

Most people will use the review sentiment, or average, as their cue to walk away or follow through with their purchase. This sentiment bears a very low margin of error since only 16% of consumers are willing to trust a business or product with only 3 stars. This goes up to 23% for businesses with 3.5 stars, but customers generally favor 4-star averages or higher. This is understandable since no one wants to throw money away by purchasing a faulty or low-quality product.

Even though the review sentiment is clearly displayed in the overall star rating, the reviews are further divided to provide more information. The SEO automatically sets the Google Reviews list to display the most recent entries.

This might seem like a moot point since the overall reviews indicate the company’s tone, but showing the most recent reviews provides an added detail. The most recent reviews will show prospective customers whether there are still issues with the product or service quality or if the company’s standards have improved.

How to Fight Negative Review Sentiment

While having a negative review sentiment can be detrimental to your business, it is possible to counteract the issue. As we mentioned before, the most recent reviews are given priority, and a sudden shift in tone can show customers that a company has learned from its mistakes.

For example, let us say that a company called GeneroCorp had overwhelmingly negative reviews throughout its business due to poor quality control. While these negative reviews have persisted for years, many of the most recent product reviews have radically shifted and become positive. This shows customers that something has changed, though they will not immediately leap to give the company a second chance.

Even when the company shows growth and starts correcting the issues that led to the initial wave of negative reviews, those same reviews remain a constant issue. This has made it crucial for companies to exercise review management techniques to ensure negative reviews are not the death of them. Fortunately, addressing bad reviews directly and attempting to reconcile with your consumers is possible. Some people believe that a review is immutable and cannot be changed or dealt with beneficially. This is not necessarily easy to accomplish, but you can directly reply to negative reviews about your company.

Fighting Negative Review Sentiment

The most common practice in review management is answering the review directly and addressing the reason for the review. This is important for 2 reasons, the first of which is ensuring the disgruntled customer’s concerns are acknowledged. Addressing the issue a customer outlines in their review allows you to correct the problem and regain a sliver of their confidence. Additionally, the review might have been left due to a misunderstanding that can be clarified with a civil response that helps the customer feel heard.

The other reason addressing reviews is important is that some people intentionally lie in their reviews. They do this because they feel entitled to a level of service that does not exist or because they want to try and trick the company into providing free products as “compensation.” This outcome is rare, but when it happens, the review can harm the company’s overall reputation unless addressed. Like any review management, it is important to address potentially fake reviews with diplomacy and use your response to get details like the order number or other unique variables. A real customer can provide that information to deal with it as you see fit.

A fake customer will not have this information and can be gently informed that no such order was placed. This shows the rest of the readers that the review was not genuine and was based on a lie. However, you cannot accuse them outright if you want to maintain the moral high ground. These review management techniques will help you adjust customers’ perception of your company and promote renewed interest as your reviews improve, thereby fixing the review sentiment and making Google less of a threat.

Take Your Reputation Back!

While not widely discussed, review sentiment is something customers and review websites use daily. This tool enables customers to determine early on whether a company is trustworthy or not. While the median reviews might be unflattering to your company, it is not something that has to define your business.

Google’s SEO algorithm has the benefit of being adjustable, so a little effort can give you the edge you need to overcome your past reputation. Unfortunately, managing a corporate reputation can be a full-time job you might need help fulfilling.

Improving a Past Reputation

We at Reputation know that review sentiment and the management of SEO is a taxing part of reputation marketing. We offer an out-of-house service that allows us to manage your reputation on your behalf and tweak the SEO algorithm related to your company. Review management is one of the many tools we employ to accomplish this goal, and we can assist businesses and individuals with their public image.

We implore you to visit our website and see what services we can offer to help you overcome issues like review sentiment. Take the first step and take your reputation back!

Do you have any questions about review sentiment, how to fight negative review sentiment, our services, or anything else similar? If so, you’re always free to reach out and contact us! We’d be more than happy to assist you.

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    Raphael Thurber

    Raphael serves as the Content Production Director for Reputation.ca. In his role, Raphael oversees the company’s writing staff and assures that content is delivered accurately and with the highest of quality. Raphael works especially closely with the Account Management team, a relationship that is vital to the timely execution of content and to providing the highest level of client service possible. Raphael brings over ten years of writing experience to the company. A graduate of the College of William and Mary with a Bachelor of Arts in Literature and Philosophy, he enjoys reading and playing tennis in his free time.