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September 8, 2021

How to Avoid 6 Common Review Response Mistakes

A great review response benefits from some guardrails - so I’ve put together 6 review response mistakes to avoid to get you started. Learn how to respond to even the most sensitive of reviews.

Judging by the fact that you’re here reading this article, you’ve likely already found yourself staring at a challenging review, cursor blinking, filled with indecision.

What should I avoid? This review is ridiculous but I don’t want to make the situation worse. 

Undoubtedly challenging. You are right to have pause. The stakes are high - review responses are public, forever. 

A great response benefits from some guardrails - so I’ve put together 6 review response mistakes to avoid to get you started. Our team has refined these techniques responding to 450,000 reviews on behalf of our clients.  

6 Common Review Response Mistakes to Avoid

1. Emotion-Filled Responses

An unhappy customer just published this review:

The time has come where you’ve found yourself reading an overly emotional review with particularly outrageous claims.


Rather than matching the tone of your unhappy customer, quickly address the situation with an empathetic response that works towards a solution. Acknowledge the customer’s frustration but don’t outright accept responsibility for the material issue publicly.

Allow yourself the opportunity to collect more information about the situation offline and do your best to solve the problem if possible. 

Something to think about: Working with a vendor like Widewail can help distance your team from personal reactions, ensuring each review is handled in a professional manner. With Engage we offer suggested responses to negative reviews, working directly with your team to add details and context.

2. Not Taking It Offline

Never litigate an issue online. Ever. It will do more harm than good.

Remember, your response is as much for your hypothetical future customer as it is for the author of the review. When responding to a negative review we recommend you leave contact information and a request to discuss the situation in more detail.

Whether it’s a phone call, email, or in-person, a direct interaction provides a better quality of conversation and can oftentimes be the quickest way to a resolution. Offering a one-on-one conversation is a good way to demonstrate that you value their input and that you want to improve your services for future guests.

Using this approach we’ve seen thousands of customers update 1-star reviews to 5-stars after a positive follow-up experience with the business. From our point of view, it’s worth the effort.

3. No Keywords in Positive Review Responses

The review response is one of the few places in the GMB the business is able to contribute to the content. This is a great opportunity to feed Google more keywords it can reference when analyzing the products or services your business offers.

Keywords to put in your review responses:

  • Location
  • Products
  • Services
  • City
  • State
  • Service or product attributes like “free delivery”

We call this process “Conversational SEO”: weaving target keywords naturally into custom responses. Widewail’s CEO, Matt Murray, explains in more detail how reviews impact local SEO in this video. You can also peruse our collection of positive review response examples

Tip: Don’t add keywords to negative responses! You’re best served not giving Google any reason to give them extra value.

4. Not Taking the Time to Personalize

We recommend every response addresses the review author by name. 

“Sam, thank you so much for taking the time to leave us a 5-star review today!”

Taking the time to personalize each of your responses shows that you are truly paying attention, not just firing off responses to check a box. It may seem minor, but making the effort goes a long way. 

Tip: If the customer’s screen name is “ForTheLoveOfCherryGarcia'' don't use it. It looks a little silly. When you have a name, add it. If not, don’t force it.

5. Waiting to Respond to Negative Reviews

It is in your best interest to respond as promptly as possible. Your unhappy customers will be most likely to work with you and your happy customers will be impressed by your attention to detail (Google will notify your customer when your response is posted).

Put yourself in your customer’s reviews for a moment. 

Your experience was not up to expectations and you left a 1-star review with some critical, but from your perspective helpful feedback. At that moment you’re still willing to try to find a solution. Hopeful, in fact. Three weeks later you get a response from the business. At first, you don’t even recognize what the email is talking about, but then a moment later you remember. Having moved on two weeks ago, you ignore the response and vow to look elsewhere next time.

Time-to-response is important and the system you use to manage this process should support a fast turnaround time. High-performing businesses respond in less than 24 hours and may benefit from an outsourced online review management service if internal resources are an issue.

6. Monitoring Multiple Review Sites

Continuing in the same vein of extended wait times in between review responses, becoming overwhelmed with too many review sites could also lead to disorganized, delayed and lackluster responses. 

Operationally, you will benefit from monitoring software that pulls in all your business’s review content from across the internet into a central feed (this is how our team manages client review content). This is especially useful if you are managing review content for a multi-location local business. Logging in-and-out of multiple accounts on a handful of review platforms is unwieldy, time-consuming, and not necessary with today’s software.


  • Always avoid emotional responses. Consider working with a vendor to distance your team.
  • The primary goal of a response to a negative review is to have a productive conversation with the unhappy customer offline, either by phone or email depending upon the type of business. In an ideal scenario, you'll be able to solve the customer's problem and they will update the originally negative review.
  • Add target keywords to positive review responses but leave them out of negative responses.
  • Personalize responses with the customer's name, but avoid using screen names.
  • Respond to negative reviews within 24 hours to give your business the best shot to engage with an unhappy customer and solve their problem.
  • Use software to monitor all of your review activity from multiple sites in one place.

What's Widewail?

Widewail is a reputation management software and services company based in Burlington, VT. We help hundreds of small local businesses and national brands like Lexus and BH Property Management generate and respond to reviews.

Learn more about our core products:

Engage: Review response managed services

Invite: Send automated SMS review requests to all your customers

Free Book  56 Review Response Examples and Templates Read Now

Colleen Bierschenk

I started with Widewail's Review Response team in early spring of 2021. While I'm a New Hampshire native, Vermont has irrevocably stolen my heart. My husband and I decided to pack up our rescue dog and two cats and move to the Green Mountain State to spend more time wake surfing, skiing, and cold-water swimming. Fun fact: I volunteer for a local non-profit in my hometown that is helping update our local skatepark for the younger generations of skateboarders!

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