It will actually improve your rating. Really.

By MediaStreet Staff Writers

Can responding to online reviews improve your business’ online reputation? According to the marketing journal Marketing Science, it sure can. Giving a management response to a review leads to higher ratings for businesses, and more informative reviews.

But why does this improve your ratings? It is because of the nature of negative reviewers. If they perceive that that review site is being manned, they won’t post baseless reviews just because they feel like unleashing a good trolling. But if people want to post a negative review that is actually based on fact, if they think someone will read it, their review tends to be longer and are more likely to provide substantive, useful feedback.

The study called Online Reputation Management: Estimating the Impact of Management Responses on Consumer Reviews examined tens of thousands of hotel reviews and responses from TripAdvisor. Authors of the study, Davide Proserpio and Georgios Zervas say that the practice of responding to reviews is common on TripAdvisor. Roughly one in three consumer reviews receives a response from management, and more and more managers are adopting the practice.

The study finds that when hotels begin to respond, they receive 12 percent more reviews, and their ratings increase by an average of 0.12 stars. Even a small change in ratings can have a significant impact on how hotels are perceived by consumers and how they are ranked by review platforms. “Our results suggest that signalling to consumers that managers care about their feedback is a good strategy that can boost review volume and ratings,” said Proserpio.

“In the end, what we discovered is that when managers read and respond to reviews, unsatisfied consumers become more hesitant to leave unsubstantiated complaints.” If someone from the establishment is there to show the reviewer up as a troll, then this leads to higher ratings, simply because this scares away other trolls looking just to spout their negative garbage. Said Zervas, “It is almost like someone is looking behind your shoulder when you are writing a negative review.”

But there is a catch, according to the authors. While management responses may discourage some consumers from leaving negative reviews altogether, other consumers may decide to make their negative feedback more substantive when managers are listening. Indeed, the study finds that while negative reviews become less frequent when managers respond, they also become longer.

Says Proserpio, “This is an interesting trade-off for managers: fewer negative ratings at the cost of more detailed negative feedback. While this may hurt in the short run, it is a valuable source of feedback that businesses can act upon to fix problems and avoid future negative reviews.”

The take away from all this for online marketing managers? Man your fort at all times.