The good, the bad and the ugly of Google Reviews: how to deal with negative online reviews

The good, the bad and the ugly of Google Reviews: how to deal with negative online reviews

The good, the bad and the ugly of Google Reviews: how to deal with negative online reviews

Consumers rely heavily on Google reviews to make informed purchasing decisions, and it’s a critical step in the decision-making process, but what happens when you get a bad review?

Google Reviews: the good

Don’t you just love that warm fuzzy feeling you get when a client makes the effort to go online and leave a shining 5* Google review of your service, how you acted and the lengths you went to when instructed? It’s a very rewarding feeling. Not just for you, but also for your company’s online reputation: the rating out of 5 increases, your recent review’s stamped with five gold stars of approval. And did you know 88% of people check reviews here before instructing a firm?

Google Reviews is the most common site looked at, with 88% of people checking for reviews here. Just over half look at Facebook and around a third check ReviewSolicitors or Trustpilot. The main reasons cited for doing this is to identify areas for improvement and identity good performance.

Google Reviews act as a hub for current clients and past clients to share their experience with you (publicly) to inform other potential clients browsing the internet for a solicitor just how good (or bad) they believe you are. They’re an excellent golden nugget of user-generated content that can be repurposed in the following ways:

  • Add to your website under a testimonials tab, creating an internal link to the department mentioned in the review and the solicitor (if applicable).
  • Add the review to the specific solicitor’s online profile to strengthen their profile and show to potential clients exactly what past clients think. In our 2023 and 2024 bespoke client website reports, the ‘Our People’ pages of a law firm website are the second most viewed and most popular pages across the entire site. Make sure your profile is optimised to really back up what you specialise in!
  • Turn the review into social media posts linking to the solicitor’s LinkedIn profile and increasing your visibility and credibility across socials.

You know how good you are at what you do, but nothing will truly communicate your perceived worth with as much impact as the paying customer’s feedback. Encourage clients to leave Google reviews by linking them to your Google My Business page once you’ve closed their case. You can also add this step to the bottom of closing letters to create a less admin-heavy task in collating reviews.

Consumers rely heavily on Google reviews to make informed purchasing decisions, and it’s a critical step in the decision-making process for our online clients. So the more good reviews you receive, the better your online reputation and the more sway you have over clients shopping around online. But what happens when you get a bad review?

Many law firms I speak to fear opening a dialogue with unhappy customers online. So just to clarify, once a customer leaves a Google review and you reply, they cannot respond again.

Google Reviews: the bad

The bad Google reviews are just as important as the good. That’s because of a phrase I love to talk about called social listening. Social listening is basically where people float around your social media or your online reviews, looking and observing, but never actually engaging up until the point where they decide to instruct you based off their online observations. These are the people you’re appealing to when dealing with a negative review. Here’s how you need to deal with your negative reviews. You probably won’t like the idea of it at initial glance, but at the end of this article, if you understand why it’s so important to do what I’ve detailed below, then this post has served its purpose!

Why it’s so important to respond to reviews (if I could underline this in marker pen and make it size 1000 font, I would).

If you don’t reply to a negative review, you’ve lost out on a huge chance to show any social listeners that you care, that you take feedback seriously and that you wish to sort the matter.

Alternatively, it’s a chance to put fake reviewers in their place and politely inform them that you have no record of them on your database or you have never had a client of their name. This shows to any social listeners you believe this review isn’t real without accusing the reviewer that they are fake. And people aren’t stupid: every single business out there will have had an unhappy customer. It’s a part of being a business. And to try and erase that is to erase transparency which is what Google sets out to do in the first place with its review system. It’s a shame when you receive fake reviews where people can attack you online in attempt to damage your reputation, but you can’t allow this to define who you are and what you do.

The social listeners and the potential future customers reading your reviews are smart enough to draw their own conclusion on the matter. But that’s why it is SO important to reply. That’s your opportunity to fight your corner, so that to any prospects reading the review, you’ve lay out your response right there: not just for the reviewer, but also for those future clients who may be looking.

Don’t forget your cheerleaders!

These are the people championing your business. It’s so easy to get sucked into the black hole of negativity when trying to sort a bad online review, but a simple Thank you so much [insert name]! will suffice when acknowledging clients that have taken time to leave a nice review for you.

Don’t succumb to the scammers. The we-can-remove-your-bad-online-reviews-for-£550 type of scammers.

Many of our clients have been approached by ‘online reputation management’ companies that claim they can remove your Google reviews, which is a rather tempting invitation when you’re biting your nails down to the cuticle over a review slandering the firm. But did you know it’s physically impossible to remove specific reviews unless they violate Google’s policies? These companies forget to inform you in their initial pitch that to remove said negative review, they purge your entire Google listing so you can start again on a blank canvas. This consequently does more damage than good. You go from having a mix of (majority) 5 star and (some) 3 and 1 star reviews, to none at all. Your trust is gone, future clients will be sceptical as to why you have no reviews, and to omit the bad, you’re erasing all the good.

How to deal with the bad reviews: reporting, appealing and responding

It’s easy to recognise what kind of reviews violate google’s policies which you can see here. For example:

To report a review, you must manage your Google My Business account (or we probably manage it for you if you’re one of our clients reading this) and you click the review, select the three vertical dots, report review, and select the grounds.

This can be really difficult to succeed in for law firms. For example, if a fake client leaves a review listing their awful experience with you, you cannot prove to Google that this is a fake review or misinformation. It’s a case of he-said-she-said and it’s so frustrating for law firms especially when it’s not a truthful review. There is another more extreme step you can take after reporting, which is appealing a decision Google has made. If Google decides a review doesn’t violate a policy, you can appeal this by filling in an online form to Google, telling them why you believe a review violates their policies. However, this also isn’t guaranteed. We’ve seen cases of firms going through the entire appeal process, just for Google to stamp a big fat cross over it. What we can guarantee though is your consistency in responding to reviews and taking charge of managing your firm’s online reputation by replying to the good, the bad and the ugly side of Google reviews. You never know who’s watching. You never know how impactful your response could be in the decision-making process of any social listeners loitering on your digital profiles.

To Conclude…

  • Encourage google reviews by sending the link to clients once a case is closed, or adding the link to closing letters.
  • Don’t ignore ANYONE. Thank your cheerleaders and then fight your corner in the politest way to anyone trying to damage your online reputation. Try and fix it. Reach out to the client. Openly leave your contact details on the review to show that you want to sort this issue.
  • Report any reviews that violate guidelines. If members of your staff are being personally attacked or a 1-star review is left with no additional comments, these should be easily removed under grounds of harassment or lack of information.
  • Treat your reviews like a thousand people are judging you. Always reply politely, but in a way that gets your point across to the reviewer and the social listener that you believe the review is either fake, or you are deeply sorry for their bad experience and wish to resolve it.

You can manage your online reputation with honesty and transparency. Replying to reviews shows you care, ignoring them can communicate you’re not bothered, and trying to get them removed is a whole different level. Trust in your future clients to make their own judgement about you based off your online reviews, but definitely try and help them in that judgement along the way by responding to your Google reviews: the good, the bad and the ugly!

If you want to discuss digital marketing or anything discussed in this blog, email me at

About the author
I’m Olivia and I love reading, writing, eating out, travelling and all things digital marketing. I joined Accesspoint Legal Services in 2022 and am now their Digital Marketing Lead. Myself and my team co-ordinate, plan and deliver digital strategies for law firms, optimise content for search engines and review performance, whilst getting involved in website...