The 1-Star Sucker-punch – Dropping the Ball on Online Reviews

Seeing stars imageAs SEOs we often have our focuses and our biases: our remit is to help improve clients’ visibility in search engines, after all.

However when working with SMEs in particular, you might be their go-to guy/girl for all their online marketing questions – not just SEO. I always try to offer help and advice on other areas if I can – such as social media and UX – but ultimately some things slip through the cracks. This post is an example where giving the client too much a focus can actually be a bad thing… They may perform one task really well, but then struggle to adjust strategy when it matters…

One of my clients has a big focus is on Local SEO: boosting the Map listing. If you Google “[keyword] [location]” keywords then oftentimes a Google Map shows up. And a big factor of that is getting positive Google reviews against the listing. We do pretty well all things considered, especially given that they’re not based in Cardiff city centre and instead operate on the edge of the city.

I did all the right stuff: I told them who was best to contact (happy clients) as well as the optimum time to contact them (just after a project had finished). I gave them an adaptable email template to use, containing info for the clients on how to leave a review and the appropriate links to the listing, etc. Over time, they hit the (ideal) minimum of five reviews and just kept going and going, eventually hitting more than ten 5-star reviews.

In the meantime, their Facebook page got a review – one of their clients asked if they could do that instead of Google, and we said yes. Then a bombshell hit: the next Facebook review they got was 1-star. Their average rating on Facebook was now 2.5. Ouch.

Facebook reviews screenshot
POW imageAs soon as I realised, I jumped into Damage Repair Mode, but… there were two problems:

  1. They were really busy when this all kicked-off – so busy in fact that they didn’t have the time to contact their clients about giving Facebook reviews instead.
  2. When they did have time, there was some confusion initially and they continued to use the Google review template. Instead of getting more positive Facebook reviews to counteract the 1-star review, they actually got yet another positive Google review, haha…

I also recommended that they contact the 1-star-giver over the phone and ask for feedback on the review and to see if he would be willing to change his mind – when I suggested this, it turns out that they had already tried that. They were unsuccessful – he wouldn’t budge.

It took them a while – a good few months – before they were able to get enough 5-star Facebook reviews in order to counteract the damage… The 1-star hit in Feb 2015 but they didn’t get more 5-star-ers until May 2015 and then Jan 2016. As I type this, they sit at an average of 4.0. But I dread to think what potential first impression the business might’ve given in the meantime…

There is a plus side to all this, mind. Studies have shown that people often don’t trust listings with only 5-star reviews – nobody’s that good, am I right? So by getting a 1-star review and a few 5-star reviews, it looks more authentic.

The reason that I’m typing this up is because we can often get so caught up on our dedicated areas of focus that we miss other ways to help – or better yet, safeguard – our clients, even if it’s not strictly our remit to do so. I’m not a social media professional (my strength is SEO), but this particular client of mine do not hire a social media consultant to help them out, and in fact I have been helping them out with Twitter and Facebook a bit on the side, so in actuality it should’ve been a concern of mine.

My advice? Make sure that you get your client thinking of other areas – not just Google. If you can go T-shaped then even better – i.e. knowing a little bit of a lot of related areas, but still having one dedicated focus. Getting them to try and get positive reviews against Google is one thing, and with some clients it can be murder to do so, but either a) divert their attention to other areas (e.g. Facebook,, Yelp, etc.) once they’ve hit the minimum five reviews against Google, or b) when creating the review strategy in the first place, offer the option to happy customers/clients that they can leave their review in multiple places – not just Google – in order to try and get a few positive reviews everywhere while working towards the five reviews in Google. The added bonus here is that customers/clients are likely to be happier doing so because they can choose platform that suits them – maybe one that they already have an account with and/or already know how to do – so the success rate will likely be improved, too.

I’m already getting some of my SME clients – some of those that I know don’t have a dedicated social media person – to think and to act this way. After all, we all know the “fool me once” saying…

[Image credits – seeing stars: Jenn and Tony Bot; POW!: Jason Rogers]

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