My favorite clients are locally-owned restaurants. In fact I still personally oversee the marketing for a few fantastic restaurants in the St. Louis area and I love working directly with the owners instead of dealing with the challenges and bureaucracy of larger organizations. So when a negative review of one of the restaurants I work with shows up at the No. 6 spot in a Google search, I get a bit frazzled. After all, since I manage the marketing for them I take some level of responsibility for what shows up when someone searches for the restaurant.
Here's a screenshot of the negative review's listing on Google:
Now, from first glance one might think that this particular search result is a fair representation of the restaurant. But that couldn't be further from the case. This restaurant is ranked #1 on Tripadvisor out of all the restaurants in this metro St. Louis city and has earned Tripadvisor's Certificate of Excellence. So why does this one bad review, out of the 199 Tripadvisor reviews, show up mid way through the first page of a Google search?
After a brief investigation, I found that the person who wrote the scathing review had written just three reviews on Tripadvisor in total. One was equally scathing towards another local restaurant, and the third was a 5-star review of another. Also, the user had no activity since 2017 (the year in which the review was written) and it's now December 2020.
Regardless of the facts above, this negative review lands the No. 5 spot in a Google search for the restaurant. Talk about bad for small business.
At the time of this writing, the restaurant has a 4.6 of 5 on Google (from 819 reviews), a 4.8 of 5 on Facebook (from 130 reviews) and a 4 of 5 on Tripadvisor (from 199 reviews). It's website traffic for the past 28 days saw 3.1K unique users, and received 162 clicks and 865 impressions from the same Google search the negative review showed up in.
So as you can see from this one example, as the world grapples with the effects of the coronavirus and restaurants in many areas are forced to shut down dine-in, Tripadvisor and other ratings sites like Yelp continue to singlehandedly sway potential customers away from locally-owned restaurants and small businesses. So how do you avoid this happening to you?
How to avoid a bad review ranking on Google
Unfortunately, it's not easy. Sites like Tripadvisor and Yelp pride themselves on being honest, reputable information sources for travelers and consumers. But there are bad actors (Google reputation management), and Tripadvisor, Yelp and others like them make money from selling advertising and improving a company's presence on their website. It's all pretty slimy stuff.
While no one can control what these review sites publish, you can do the work needed to get your restaurant to rank on Google first, and you can "play the game" and manage your restaurant's listing on those review websites, replying to reviews (both good and bad) and being a good steward of your restaurant's brand.