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Mythbusting Marketing: Can You Remove Bad Online Reviews?

Small business owners, and those who work in the tourism and service industries, know the power of online reviews. While some negative reviews cast wild generalities over specific situations, they aren’t to be dismissed.

The opinions of complete strangers have an incredible impact on consumers. Understanding how these reviews and their corresponding platforms work is critical for businesses looking to maintain a positive public reputation.

A few questions we’re frequently asked are, “Can I remove bad reviews, or can I pay to have them removed?”

The short answer is no, but there’s more!          

Unfortunately, there is no current method to remove negative reviews from Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, or the other major review platforms. This does not mean, however, that there’s nothing you can do about them.

Here is a video from January 2020 discussing online reviews!

What about “reputation management” companies, who claim to remove bad reviews?

I bought this ad on Yelp and I all I got was this ad on Yelp

At Signalfire, we’ve received many emails from so-called “Reputation Management” companies, and we can assure you that these should be filed away with the notes from a Nigerian princess needing to transfer all her family’s wealth to you. They’re simply a scam.

Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and other top review sites hinge their credibility on delivering honest, untainted reviews. Some even go as far as to blacklist businesses that attempt to manipulate the system by writing false reviews or paying someone to boost reviews unfairly.

Yelp, for example, actually has a reporting form for solicitors promising to remove or manipulate reviews, which can be found here.

But this still begs the question…what can I do about bad reviews?

Storytime: A True Bad Review Example

Our owner, Matthew Olson, once took a short vacation with his family. His (then eight-year-old) son was developing into quite the foodie, particularly when it came to seafood.

Like any contemporary parent, Matthew whipped out his smartphone and began Googling great area restaurants that served seafood. His heart sank when he saw the only seafood place in town rated a measly 1.5 out of 5 stars.

Scanning reviews from Google, Yelp, and TripAdvisor, the outlook went from discouraging to downright disastrous. Overpriced. Poor quality. Bad service. These things formed a trifecta of terror for a family looking for a relaxing meal.

You can’t remove bad reviews, but you can manage them

Reputation Management is much like gardening

Obviously, this should’ve been a major concern for the seafood restaurant…but where were they? The reviews were anywhere from two weeks to three years old. No one from the establishment had responded to the negative feedback, giving the impression that they simply didn’t care.

download 20 marketing strategies for 2020

Don’t be reactive, be responsive

It’s important, as a business owner, to monitor and respond to online reviews – both good and bad – in order to connect with your customers and give context to their comments.

You will undoubtedly come across instances where reviewers launch a full-on assault on your business’s integrity. The comments, themselves, are out of your control, but you can control your response.

Avoid reacting defensively. Instead, apply the “customer is always right” mentality, and offer an honest apology. Bad reviews often result from customers who simply want their opinion to be heard. Show your customers you care they had a poor experience, and present an option to mend fences.

Examples of these options could be refunding money, offering a coupon toward future visits, or simply a promise to fix the issue internally. This is an opportunity to show customers you’re willing to take responsibility for mistakes and go the extra mile to avoid them in the future.

In the case of the seafood restaurant, Matthew would’ve dismissed the negative reviews had someone from the restaurant taken the time to comment. Even a simple, “we’re sorry, we’re trying to do better” would have turned his minivan right into the parking lot.

It pays to respond.

Ask bad reviewers questions

Some reviewers will report false information about your place of business. Most review websites do have a button that will flag the review as inappropriate, but the platforms take quite some time to act (if at all).

The best course of action is to try and respond in a way that makes the fabrication obvious. “Who was your server?” “Which room did you stay in?” “When was your appointment?”

By responding with a question, it proves that you’re paying attention to the accusations and would like more information in order to remedy the situation. This should, of course, be proceeded by an empathetic comment such as, “We’re sorry you didn’t enjoy your stay,” or “We’re very sorry you feel that way,” to avoid sounding abrasive.

Once you’ve spoken with a bad reviewer (and let’s say you’ve provided a solution they’re happy with), another important question to ask is, “Would you consider removing your review?” This is your only chance to have a bad review taken down, so don’t ask until you’re sure the reviewer is happy. You have to earn the ask.

Take a proactive approach to bad reviews

Again, it’s better to be proactive with your responses, rather than reactive. So if you know that bad reviews are part of owning a business, shouldn’t you have a plan to combat them?

One of the best ways to keep customers from coming across negative reviews is to simply bury them with significantly better ones!

Put together a plan to suggest customers leave online reviews, after every transaction or interaction. This will increase the number of customers who participate in the review process, resulting in more positive reviews.

Be sure to have your own processes in place to support great customer experiences, and the rest will take care of itself!

How Can Signalfire Help?


The Signalfire team has put together a couple guides to crafting helpful responses as well as the importance of getting your listing correct.


How Can I Learn More About Managing Reviews?

Percentage of Positive Feedback for Responding to Negative Reviews

No one can guarantee bad reviews will disappear, but you can certainly impact the attitudes of those reading the reviews by acknowledging, thanking, and responding to reviews, especially the good ones!

We’ve compiled several links for additional reading, ordering them by review platform. Click Below!

Google Local (Google Reviews)