Bad publicity is par for the course for any brand, and you won't hit a hole in one with every customer. Product reviews are a great way to increase visibility online and promote word-of-mouth marketing, but when you open the door to positive reviews, you'll let in the occasional bad wind. While it's sometimes appropriate to delete bad product reviews, doing so puts you at risk for more bad publicity, so you should handle product review censorship with extreme care.

Participants in the study were often willing to pay more for products after reading such negative reviews alongside of other positive reviews, because they came away with the impression that the brand was down-to-earth and honest.

The Integrity of Transparency

Encouraging customers to publish their thoughts and experiences with your products shows consumers you are transparent about your brand. It shows that you don't mind that shoppers see the possible disadvantages of a product because you know the pros outweigh the cons for most people. That transparency breeds confidence in consumers and increases conversions. Forbes notes that customer trust is a common factor among brands that are successful without resorting to deep price cuts and gimmicks. Deleting bad product reviews reduces the integrity of all published product reviews, and consumers might suspect that they only see the good stuff said about your brand.

Leaving negative reviews up doesn't necessarily hurt your brand, especially when the review is worded in a polite manner. According to findings published in the Journal of Consumer Research, when customers write a bad product review but include phrasing such as "I don't want to be mean, but . . ." or "to be honest . . .," the impact is often positive for the brand. Participants in the study were often willing to pay more for products after reading such negative reviews alongside of other positive reviews, because they came away with the impression that the brand was down-to-earth and honest.

When to Delete a Bad Review

Transparency and trust is critical to building your brand, but companies must also protect themselves from online trolling, slander, and basic miscommunication. One time when it is acceptable to delete bad reviews occurs when the reviews are part of a slander campaign against the company. A competitor, a customer with a grudge, or a hacker intent on mischief might create numerous false reviews in an effort to negatively impact perceptions of your product or company. When you can prove these reviews are posted by the same account or IP address, delete them. Even Amazon has tackled this problem by deleting fake reviews in the past.

While brands should protect consumer's rights to opinion and speech, you also have to protect other consumers from unacceptable content on your website and social media profiles. If a user publishes a review full of obscenities or with an inappropriate image, delete the content and consider leaving a placeholder stating the review was removed because of profanity or obscene content.

Brands that plan to manage reviews in such a manner should publish a short review policy on their site. Letting customers know fake reviews and obscene content won't be tolerated ensures other consumers know why you are deleting reviews. In cases outside of spam or profanity, however, it's usually most productive for a brand to respond to bad reviews in a positive way, illustrating for future customers that you are willing to work with consumers to make transactions as positive as possible.


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