A question was posed to Google’s John Mueller about whether or not the search engine decidedly ranks a website lower if its online reputation is subpar. The short answer was no, your rankings are not affected by angry customers leaving bad reviews about your site or business. Now before you sigh with relief, there’s more to this story to understand.
In 2010, an online retailer received a high ranking from Google because there was a large amount of links pointing to their site from disgruntled customers. Of course, this is skewed data and the incorrect positioning of the business on Google’s results page, but this incident brought to light the issues with negative reviews. Google’s response was to introduce a sentiment analysis algorithm that turns negative reviews into negative votes. And so, it’s understandable that most site owners and webmasters believe negative reviews impact rankings. In this discussion, Mueller was asked if the 2010 sentiment analysis algorithm is still in existence. His response: “I don’t know if that specific thing from 2010 is still around. Because things change quite a bit over time.”
He then also added, “… things have changed quite a bit in 10 years. So that specific thing is almost certainly not there in the same way as it was back then. We probably take something similar into account.”
So the question is not really whether negative reviews affect ranking but rather how many negative reviews are needed for your ranking to be affected? Mueller has confirmed that negative online reviews are normal and therefore not a negative ranking factor. You’ll find a similar sentiment shared among online reputation managers. Negative reviews underpin a brand’s authenticity and offer an opportunity for customer engagement and a display of good customer service.
Mueller said, “That’s something where if all of the signals point in that direction, I could imagine that we might pick that up.”
Therefore, it’s safe to say that if your reviews are predominantly negative, Google will flag your site. However, we cannot expect algorithms to behave in a human way, so your negative reviews would need to be extensive for Google to identify a site as abnormal. Algorithms cannot identify bias and cannot identify if a competitor or an untrustworthy source is leaving the review. An algorithm also won’t be able to ascertain the quality of the review or if existing reviews have influenced the newly placed reviews.
While it’s evident your online reputation doesn’t affect your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy directly, it’s crucial to your online success. Nowadays, most consumers turn to online brands, retailers and businesses for their needs. According to Rize Reviews, 97 percent of people read online reviews when choosing a retailer or service provider and 70 percent of them will take action after reading positive reviews. It’d be best to align a strong online reputation management strategy with your SEO strategy so you have a good ranking on Google and a good chance of converting leads into paying customers.
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