Negative Reviews Can Be Good for Business

We’ve all heard the saying “there is no such thing as bad publicity” – but of course we don’t take that literally. 

Apparently, though, research has shown that when it comes to online reviews, negative reviews can result in more sales than positive reviews.

That was one of the points made by Mitch Joel during his keynote address on Monday at Fanshawe College’s eMarketing conference. (I spoke at one of the breakout sessions on “Digital Law”.)

He says there are two reasons for that. First, people tend to trust the business more as they feel the business is being open and candid. Second, what is important in a negative review is what is actually said. The reviewer’s reason may be irrelevant to other buyers.

That’s not to say its a good thing if every review trashes the product – but a few negative reviews don’t seem to hurt.

Many of us have had clients complain about negative online comments about them that they don’t feel are justified, and reputation management is a growing field.

The message here is that when lawyers are asked to advise on these issues, we need to understand this in order to give the right advice, and to avoid the Streisand effect.


  1. Too bad I missed the presentation. I haven’t caught Mitch speaking in some time, probably since I started law school, and I should have tried harder when he came to town.

    Online reviews will continue to be a contentious issue in online reputation management. The current case against Yelp raises additional questions of whether litigation is appropriate where a site requests compensation via advertising to bump down negative reviews.

  2. I agree some negative commentary can lend an air of openness and legitimacy. If all comments on a site are positive and supportive, people often make the assumption that many of those comments were somehow planted there by the organization itself. Letting negative comments stand (as long as they are not hate-mongering or “trolling”), and responding to them in an open manner, help to demonstrate honesty.