Can Negative User Reviews Increase SEO Rankings?

P.T Barnum and The Greatest Showman recently reminded us that “there is no such thing as bad publicity” as even if critics didn’t have any positive things to say, it still meant that people were talking about their show. It was in the forefront of people’s minds. Whilst this was in a time that predates computers and the internet it gives the premise that even negative reviews can increase your ticket sales in the case of Barnum’s circus, but in the modern day it could be used to improve your SEO ranking.

With the rise in user generated content and social media, people can now voice their opinions about a company or product at the click of a button. A whopping 93% of consumers say that online reviews influence their purchase decisions highlighting the importance user reviews can have on the success of a business. There are now a plethora of review sites including; Yelp, Product Review, Rotten Tomatoes, TripAdvisor, Epinions, Healthgrades, Zomato, RateMDs, and Facebook that allow users to post their own reviews. These opinions give other consumers a more genuine look into businesses in their ability to provide quality goods or services.

It is well known that even the most successful companies can’t go without receiving some poor customer feedback. For example the following reviews for Woolworths and Myer found on Product Review and Yelp respectively highlights that even these acclaimed retail giants can receive negative comments.

Customer Reviews SEO | Sydney SEO Agency

Customer Reviews SEO | Sydney SEO Agency

Although it can be alarming to receive negative feedback, if your business experiences an influx of negative reviews it’s not the end of the world. An unfavourable review can actually be turned into a successful addition to your SEO strategy.

When Google ranks search results it is not just factoring in the quality of the reviews, although this is important. Rankings are also made up of review velocity and review diversity, meaning that the number of reviews the website receives and the different places people are leaving reviews can improve your ability to rank in a search. So the good news is; even if all your reviews aren’t positive, if you are getting a lot of them and they are coming from a diverse range of sources your SEO is improving.

For example, when I typed in the search words “gym Melbourne” the following results appeared. As you can see the first recommendation is for South Pacific Health Club even though it has a lower star rating that F45 Training Little Collins, it has significantly more reviews. This demonstrates the positive impact that negative reviews can have in helping to rank above the competition, but there are still further ways in which a not-so-nice review can help your SEO.

Customer Reviews SEO | Sydney SEO Agency

Increasing unique page content

When creating any SEO strategy, your main goal should be to get your website to rank number one when users search for a specific keyword. According to Rabid Office Monkey, it is important to be creating original work, as duplicate content can be filtered out by search engines, and your SEO efforts won’t be recognised.  When users post a review about your business this actually creates unique page content for your website regardless of it’s positive or negative connotation. By implementing a customer feedback strategy, and using a third party widget it encourages customers to leave reviews that you can capture. Implementing this generates unique content that is engaging and relevant to your target audience.

In relation to reviews created on external websites this can also assist in improving the SEO ranking of your business as it creates backlinks to your site. According to Moz a backlink is like a ‘vote’ for your website telling search engines that your site is both popular and trustworthy. The more votes, the easier search engine bots will find your site using algorithms, thus ranking it higher on SERPs.

It is also important to remember that Google will not penalise negative reviews so long as good ones accompany them. This concept was tested to the extreme when adopted a negative advertisement strategy that lead to many customers having horrific experiences with the company. Countless people began negatively re

viewing the business detailing their terrible experiences, but this only added in more diverse content, keywords and links that lead people right back to the Decor My Eyes website. Creating a cycle of continuous improvement of ranking in the SERPS. Whilst we wouldn’t recommend this approach, it does highlight the possibility for negative online reviews to increase SEO ranking.

Long-tail Keywords

No one knows customers better than customers themselves. Negative online reviews can be utilised by a company to identify popular long-tail keywords. These keywords can be used to optimise the page and increase visibility on search engines. If you choose the exact long-tail keywords that are present within the negative reviews and then place these within body text on your own site this will increase your page ranking. It will also make your website read and flow better for the user as you are then using your customers language.

Building Trust

Whilst we all seem to be striving for perfection, most people are usually somewhat wary of anything that looks too good to be true. Although some negative reviews may bring down your ranking, consumers will generally click on content that looks real and relatable and the more people who click on this content the higher your ranking will be.

Customer Reviews SEO | Sydney SEO Agency

Having less than perfect reviews on your website can also help convey that the content is authentic. Many people believe that reviews on websites are just written by their marketing team to make people buy, however, if customers are seeing varied reviews they are much more likely to trust a brand and subsequently interact with the brand online.

By adding a review option, this adds genuine trustworthy opinions to your website or brand which in turn can help build trust between the brand and digital users, increasing their likelihood of purchasing products or services from the business.

For example Pandora encourage you to leave a review in-store via a quick tablet survey. Their “leave a review” button on the website makes it easy for customers to give their opinions, both good and bad. This type of strategy allows for organic content to be created that can boost your ability to appear in a search engine result pages.

Customer Reviews SEO | SEO Sydney Company

Opportunity to Respond

Finally, if a negative review has appeared on a product review website or social media you have the opportunity to respond, and if done correctly you will be able to show current and future customers that you take your business seriously. Complaints pose an opportunity to improve, and admitting a mistake and working to fix it humanises a company and can make it more relatable. Keeping an existing customer by fixing their problem can be worth the trouble given that it is much easier to retain customers than to find new ones. It gives the appearance that you value loyalty and appreciate constructive criticism.  According to Review Trackers approximately 52% of customers who post a review are expecting a response from the offending business within 7 days. Google My Business also recommends responding to your reviews, which is an  indicator that search engines are factoring this in their rankings. If in your response you are be including relevant keywords to your business you will again be optimising your content to be picked up by SERPs.


You won’t always get positive user reviews all the time, but whether they are good, bad or ugly, remember that you have the opportunity to use it to boost your SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) strategy.

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