We’ve all been there.

After months of hard work, you final­ly launch a new prod­uct or ser­vice and, instead of just praise, your busi­ness gets the dread­ed neg­a­tive review.

Your mind starts rac­ing.

You ask your­self, “How bad will this be for my SEO?”

Relax. It isn’t the end of the world.

While we all want pos­i­tive reviews, the bad ones aren’t as bad as you think.

Neg­a­tive reviews can actu­al­ly help search engine rank­ings.

Let me explain why.

Negative Reviews Increase the Overall Number of Reviews

When peo­ple search for a local busi­ness, Google returns sev­er­al results that show how many stars each one has.

But have you ever noticed that Google also shows how many reviews the busi­ness has over­all?

The total num­ber of reviews increas­es the social proof for your busi­ness and con­tributes to local­ized search rank­ing fac­tors.

Of course, no one knows exact­ly how much reviews help SEO.

The key point is that you want to have a diverse array of opin­ions, includ­ing a few neg­a­tive reviews, to help search engines ver­i­fy the legit­i­ma­cy of your busi­ness.

A Har­vard Busi­ness School study on restau­rant demand showed that con­sumers don’t actu­al­ly read all the avail­able infor­ma­tion on local busi­ness­es (no sur­prise there).

Also, and more impor­tant­ly, the study showed that the total num­ber of reviews affect­ed the way con­sumers would respond to a restaurant’s aver­age rat­ing.

In oth­er words, con­sumers rely on men­tal short­cuts when mak­ing deci­sions.

If your site has 100 reviews, or even just 25, very few peo­ple are actu­al­ly going to read every last one.

Con­sumers just want to know that your busi­ness has an engaged fol­low­ing before they make a pur­chase deci­sion.

What if you’re run­ning an ecom­merce busi­ness? Can neg­a­tive reviews hurt your SEO in that case?

Prob­a­bly not.

The peo­ple behind search engines like Google under­stand that no one is per­fect.

Google’s inter­nal SEO guide­lines instruct web­site review­ers to keep in mind that even some of the best sites get bad reviews.

While neg­a­tive reviews shouldn’t be ignored, you can rest assured a few of them won’t sink your rep­u­ta­tion.

In fact, the oppo­site is true.

Negative Reviews Actually Increase Your Credibility

When con­sumers see noth­ing but pos­i­tive reviews, they tend to get sus­pi­cious.

The Jour­nal of Vaca­tion Mar­ket­ing found that con­sumers tend to think neg­a­tive reviews have more cred­i­bil­i­ty than a pos­i­tive review.

Research from Har­vard Busi­ness School found that mod­er­ate­ly pos­i­tive reviews are often­times more per­sua­sive than exces­sive­ly pos­i­tive reviews.

To put it anoth­er way: those unbe­liev­ably hap­py cus­tomers are a lit­tle too unbe­liev­able and their reviews tend to gen­er­ate skep­ti­cism.

Research sug­gests that con­sumers like to see a mix of good, mod­er­ate, and bad reviews when try­ing to deter­mine if a busi­ness is trust­wor­thy.

This applies whether you’re a local bak­ery or an ecom­merce store with a glob­al reach.

If a vari­ety of reviews leads to greater cred­i­bil­i­ty, it stands to rea­son that con­sumers will be more will­ing to spend time on your web­site, there­by increas­ing your search engine rank­ings in the long run.

Time on page (the length of time spent on an indi­vid­ual page) and ses­sion dura­tion (the over­all length of time spent on a site) are both crit­i­cal mea­sures when you’re aim­ing to improve SEO.

Negative Reviews Are an Opportunity to Build Relationships with Customers

When your busi­ness responds appro­pri­ate­ly to neg­a­tive reviews, it shows that you val­ue cus­tomer feed­back and you’re will­ing to take cor­rec­tive action.

Know­ing that they’ll be tak­en care of if any­thing goes wrong helps cus­tomers feel more com­fort­able mak­ing a deci­sion to buy from your busi­ness.

It also helps with local SEO.

A sup­port page for Google My Busi­ness instructs busi­ness­peo­ple to “man­age and respond to reviews.”

Google isn’t hid­ing the fact that reviews con­tribute to local search rank­ings so it’s safe to assume the same holds true for the web­sites of larg­er busi­ness­es.

Here’s the key take­away on this point: neg­a­tive reviews give busi­ness­es a chance to show that they’re will­ing and able to man­age their online rep­u­ta­tion by respond­ing appro­pri­ate­ly to neg­a­tive reviews – an impor­tant qual­i­ty that fac­tors into search rank­ings.

Negative Reviews Provide a More Accurate Picture of Your Business

When expec­ta­tions aren’t met, cus­tomers expe­ri­ence dis­ap­point­ment — one of the main rea­sons peo­ple com­plain.

In a study of 1.3 mil­lion reviews we con­duct­ed at Yot­po (the com­pa­ny I work for), words con­vey­ing “dis­ap­point­ment” appeared more than 20,000 times.

Com­ing in a dis­tant sec­ond with 7,500 men­tions was the word “bad.”

Clear­ly, dis­ap­point­ment mat­ters. But there is an upside.

Neg­a­tive reviews express­ing dis­ap­point­ment help poten­tial cus­tomers under­stand more clear­ly what your com­pa­ny does — and does not — offer.

These types of reviews also help your busi­ness demon­strate how it han­dles cus­tomer dis­ap­point­ment.

Hav­ing neg­a­tive reviews avail­able online helps ensure that when cus­tomers choose to buy, they’re more like­ly to know in advance what they’re get­ting, poten­tial­ly decreas­ing returns as well as the sheer num­ber of dis­ap­point­ed cus­tomers in the long run.

A few neg­a­tive reviews pro­vide a more bal­anced look at your prod­ucts and ser­vices, increas­ing the cred­i­bil­i­ty and trust­wor­thi­ness of your busi­ness.

Look­ing at a range of reviews from very pos­i­tive to not-so-great can reas­sure cus­tomers that your web­site is a good place to spend time — and as we’ve already dis­cussed, the over­all length of time that con­sumers spend on your site improves your search rank­ings.

Embrace the Negative

Hope­ful­ly you now see that bad reviews have a good side.

These seem­ing­ly dis­ap­point­ing reviews can actu­al­ly help you reach your busi­ness goals.

Neg­a­tive reviews help you show that your busi­ness is respon­sive, trust­wor­thy, and real.

So the next time you get a neg­a­tive review, don’t see it as a fail­ure but a mas­sive oppor­tu­ni­ty to build your brand and cred­i­bil­i­ty.