Should You Respond to Negative Online Comments?

To click or not to click, that is the question.

Mainstream social web consultants often advise clients to “NOT click or respond” to negative online forum posts, for fear of doing so will drive up search relevance of offending links.

This is not accurate. I will say it here: merely clicking on and reading links does not help those links rise. Search engines would never allow such easy gaming of search results that clicking would significantly affect them. So, despite popular wisdom, if you want to click and read something negative, knock yourself out (though you may want to have some hankies nearby).

Even the addition of a comment doesn’t directly drive up the relevance of the post, though it may add content which can improve the relevance depending on what is said.

For example, if the negative post says Joe Blow is a Scammer, and someone comments that no, Joe Blow is not a Scammer, he’s increased the relevancy of that post for searches on “Joe Blow Scammer.”

And if one blogger responds to another by posting on his own blog, and linking to the negative review, then there can be a big impact.

Also, the more comments a person has, the more people are likely to add comments of their own, or link to the post, which would not be good.

So, the consultants are kind of right, but not the way they probably think they are. If you can keep third parties from joining in the conversation, it’s a good thing. I’m not sure that’s a reasonable goal, however.

And, depending upon what is said, it may be worthwhile for the company to respond once, briefly and with no links.

So who are the commenters? In my next post I will describe “the Five Types of Complainers.” Some of them you will recognize all too well, unfortunately. Stay tuned.

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