Once upon a time, a dissatisfied customer of your business might have made an angry complaint to the manager or ranted to their friends.
Nowadays, though, that same dissatisfied customer can wield the power of internet reviews to air their grievances, making their criticism available for all to read. To make matters even more complicated for business owners, Google is finding increasingly sophisticated ways to read and learn from user-generated reviews.
So what does this mean for your dispensary? What is the net effect of online reviews for your search ranking and reputation?
Let’s take a look.
How Google Reviews The Reviews
In late 2018, Google was granted a patent for an advanced kind of artificial intelligence. Formally titled “Analyzing User Reviews to Determine Entity Attributes,” this patent lays out how Google aggregates reviews from across the web and analyzes them to determine certain characteristics of a given business.
Where does Google look for these reviews? Per the patent, pretty much everywhere: blogs, published media like magazines and newspapers, social media, review sites, and even emails!
The tech giant then scans the text of the reviews to determine frequently-occurring words or phrases.
But before you start to panic, it’s important to understand that all this data-mining and analysis may actually help your business; rather than trying to find and single out negative reviews, the Google patent actually tries to collect specific metadata about consumer behaviors.
In other words, by combing through user reviews, Google can get a better understanding of what people are shopping for and how. Let’s say that a high frequency of reviews for your dispensary mention purchase of edible THC products; in theory, Google could then identify edibles as part of your inventory (if you have a menu online, they can even cross-reference it!) and then display your dispensary when users conduct a local search for something like ‘edibles near me’ or ‘THC chocolate dispensary.’
The Negative Effect of Online Reviews
Of course, all this review aggregation can have negative effects as well. Poor reviews about a specific product or service may lead Google to stop associating your business with that product or service.
Using the same example as above, let’s say your dispensary has a high volume of reviews that mention edibles; if among those reviews, there’s a high frequency of negative comments or dissatisfaction regarding the products themselves, Google may no longer consider edibles to be one of your favorable attributes and may take you out of the running for consumers looking for those specific products.
Don’t despair, though. We have no reason to believe that this new Google patent will use the mere existence of negative reviews to lower your ranking for a general search. In fact, a proportional number of bad reviews can actually lend your business greater credibility, as consumers tend to be suspicious of businesses that have uniformly excellent ratings. Some platforms will even delete reviews that they have good reason to believe are fake.
Bad Reviews Aren’t The End of The World
In general, the effect of online reviews depends on the actual content of those reviews and your business’ response to them. A negative review online can be a huge opportunity to understand your business and customer base better. Check out our guide on when and how to delete Google reviews and our primer on digital reputation management for more information. Want some help? Our tech can help you easily monitor what people are saying about you online.
Check out our free audit below to see what’s being said about your dispensary and how you rank against the competition!