Online reputation management – what to do about negative reviews online?

What to do with negative reviews online_One of the great things about the Internet is the level of freedom of speech that exists there. If we experience bad service from a product or service provider, we can tell other people, so they can weigh up the pros and cons before choosing to spend their money with the same vendor. This has really accelerated the way that word of mouth travels via the Internet, allowing your best customers to sell your products and services for you through their positive feedback and reviews.

However, the trouble is, that the freedom of the Internet that allows people to have their fair say have also allowed people to use the same processes to damage your reputation online. Whether their comments are negative, truthful reviews written by people that didn’t get the customer experience that they should, or negative, fake reviews written by competitors, disgruntled employees or ex-business partners, it’s important to know what’s being said about you.

So what do you do with negative reviews? It’s all about managing your online reputation and there is a lot that you can do.

Okay, so what happens when you Google your company name and a string of negative comments appears on the front page of Google? No doubt you’ll start losing customers immediately and that could be incredibly costly for your business. Let’s face it, Google is the greatest shopping directory ever invented and if you come up negatively on the front page, you just have no idea of the damage to your reputation because you can’t count the number of potential customers that you lose from it.

The first step to take when you discover a negative review is to check its veracity or verify if the complaint is a genuine one. In lots of cases, it could easily be a lie published by a competitor or just someone out to cause trouble for your business.

The next step is to find out if there are more complaints like it elsewhere on the Internet. You do this by Googling ‘your company name’ plus words associated with negative reviews such as ‘complaints’, ‘feedback’, ‘scam’, ‘problems’, ‘bad service’. I’m sure you get the point.

If you’re absolutely certain that the reviews or comments are not genuine, then you can politely email the sites that are publishing those reviews and offer them your side of the story and ask if they would kindly remove it. The trouble is that not all review sites will let you challenge a review and some will just flat-out refuse to remove anything from their site, even if you have proof.

If they refuse to do anything or ignore your messages, then see if you can add a comment of your own to the site setting the story straight. This at least shows that you are aware of the problem and were willing to do something about it. If it’s genuine, you have the chance to please a disgruntled customer, if it’s fake, people will see that you made an effort to address the situation at least.

If it is indeed a genuine problem, use the opportunity to resolve the issue and post the resolution on that website. More often than not, if you successfully resolve the complaint, the complainant will remove the complaint from the site.

If neither of these simple approaches works, you may need to go deeper. You can post a message on your website that’s optimised for the same searches that bring up the negative review comments. Let people know that there are issues and that you are working to resolve them. This works particularly well if the complaints are lies, but obviously highlighting problems is not a great sales tactic.

If the negative reviews only appear when your company name is searched for on Google, then you need to drive the reviews off the front page by ensuring that your name appears positively enough times on the front page to push them further down Google into the abyss. Using blogs, review sites, online profiles and other high profile websites are great for this.

Ensure that your own site features plenty of positive reviews so that you can point out how ‘out of place’ and ‘wrong’ the negative reviews are.

The best thing that you can do is to set up a level of monitoring regarding your company and its online reputation. You can do this for free by setting up Google alerts or use an application that will regularly check what’s being said about you online. Remember, it’s vital that as a business trading on the web that you are absolutely 100% sure of what’s being said about you in the public forum of the Internet and take steps to respond accordingly to any negative reviews that you find there.

But if all else fails, it may be time to bring in an online reputation management specialist that can wipe the negative reviews off the net for you.

If you need help fighting negative reviews and managing your online reputation, then we may be able to help. Nikki Pilkington is an expert in Internet and Social Media Marketing, and in some cases can help companies to manage their negative reviews and increase their awareness of what’s being said about them online. To find out more, email nikkipilk@gmail.com

 

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Online reputation management: what to do if your reputation takes a beating online

(This article originally appeared at Mad.co.uk)

Sad face

Sad face (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s every business’s worst internet nightmare: you head over to Google, tap in your company name to see how your web presence is coming along, and there in prominent position is something far from positive about your brand. Deserved or not, this entry could be damaging your business with every passing second.

Depending on the context, there are four main options available to you when faced with the threat of brand trashing: address it, remove it, bury it, prevent it.

Address it

Let’s look at bad mouthing. The power of the internet means that you can’t possibly control what people write about you – but your reputation can be made as much by how you respond to criticism as by the criticism itself.

When you stumble across a bad review, your first action should be to assess the comments as objectively as possible. Ask yourself, “Is this true? Have we done something to warrant this review?”

It’s all too easy to jump in and post a reply that’s defensive and perhaps even aggressive, but answering badly can just make you look worse. Instead, keep emotion out of it and aim to post a considered reply that answers the criticism calmly and factually.

If the review is warranted, it’s best to admit to any wrongdoing and say what you’re doing to fix the problem. This shows that you value your customers’ opinions and that you’re willing to correct your mistake. It’s then vital to follow up on any promises you have made.

It’s important to respond publicly, so even if you can’t give the full details, something as simple as, “Thanks for your comment, I’ve emailed you to find out more” could show that you’re working to address it and stop criticism spiralling further.

If you manage to resolve the problem at the root of the bad review, you can then post an update, and even encourage the original complainant to do so too.

Remove it

If a review or comment on a public forum is completely untrue, you can contact the site owner with an explanation and ask for it to be removed. However this will usually be down to their discretion so won’t work in every instance.

Sometimes, even deleted mentions can remain present in search results in the ‘cache’ – a sort of snap shot of how the page looked the last time the search engine checked. In such instances, you can submit a request that the search engine update their records (using Google’s webpage removal request tool or Bing’s support request form, choosing the ‘Content Removal Request’ option).

In the social media sphere, if you find someone pretending to represent your brand, sites such as Facebook or Twitter will usually respond quickly to remove imposters. Simply report the profile with evidence that it’s false.

If someone sets up a website with claims to be part of your brand, however, things aren’t quite so simple. If they won’t take it down on request, you next need to decide whether it’s worthwhile fighting it legally. In some cases, it might be that the fraudulent site has very little search engine visibility, so is only a minor threat that can be managed using a technique called ‘burying’.

Bury it

If a reviewer or site owner simply refuses to remove their content, no matter how unfair or untrue, you might wish to bury it. This involves ensuring that when your company name is searched for, mainly good things come up.

Let’s say your last client has said on GetSatisfaction that your service is rubbish. That review is here to stay and you don’t want other potential clients seeing it, so the objective is to dominate at least the first ten search results with positive things about your brand, effectively driving any bad mentions off the front page.

Social media profiles like Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as directory listings such as FreeIndex and BT Tradespace are perfect for this. Make sure those profiles are well populated with regularly updated content to keep them at the top of the search engines.

Prevent it

As with anything, prevention is better than cure. Don’t wait until you’re faced with a negative mention to start ensuring good things appear when people search for your brand.

It’s wise to buy up all likely domain name permutations of your brand (particularly your own country’s domain, plus .com), and sites like http://knowem.com/ or http://namechk.com/ will help you similarly reserve your brand name on social media sites.

Next, make sure anyone responsible for speaking on behalf of your brand online understands what they can and can’t say as company representatives.

Finally, have your response procedure planned out in advance, so you know exactly how you will deal with any problems well before they arise. If things do go wrong, be ready to answer criticism, keep emotion out of it, request removals where possible, and bury anything unfair that remains.

Need some help with bad publicity online? I am the owner/founder of NikkiPilkington.com, a 20 year old  internet marketing company based in the UK and France – drop me a line at nikkipilk@gmail.com and see if I can help!

 

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DIY Reputation Management: Five Tips for Business Owners

A guest post by Rich Gorman

There is a saying in online marketing circles, that a company’s online reputation is like its business card. In reality, though, that’s not really accurate — because in truth, online reputation is much more than that. It’s not just a company’s business card, but the very source of its credibility and authority. Your online reputation is what determines whether clients and colleagues will do business with you at all — or instead reject you in favor of your closest competition.

Think about it. In the Age of Google, a potential client can look up information about your business in a heartbeat. If that client only finds negative reviews and bad publicity, well, your brand is in trouble. It’s all too easy for the client to conduct another quick online search, and find one of your rival companies to do business with — a company with a cleaner online reputation.

If, however, a potential client Googles your company and finds only evidence that your business is sterling, trusted, and authoritative… well, then you’re good to go!

That’s what online reputation management is all about: Minimizing negative listings on the first few pages of search engine results, and ensuring that potential clients find only information that portrays your brand in a positive light — as a brand of choice among consumers.

A full-scale online reputation management campaign is something any company or brand should consider, but there are also some simpler, DIY tactics that any business owner can implement. Consider the following tips for protecting your reputation, and defending yourselves from online attacks on the Internet.

The first thing any small business owner should do is start regularly monitoring his or her online reputation. This can be as easy as regularly searching for your company’s name on Google, Yahoo, and Bing — but of course, setting up a Google alert is an even more effective method. Don’t just stop with search engines, though; you can also monitor what people are saying about your brand on social networks, simply through conducting Twitter searches.

Monitoring will let you know where you stand, and whether attacks have already been made against your brand. Your next step is to start playing some defense. Remember that there is nothing you can do to stop people from attacking you on the Web, per se — but you can make it so that consumers and online search users don’t ever see those online attacks. Your best bet is to build a strong, defensive wall of positive, brand-enhancing content — a wall to keep those negative attacks off the first page of Google.

A good defense means snatching up the best online real estate. Start with exact-match domain names — Your-company’s-name .com, .org, and .net. These are the pages that will likely rank the highest on Google, when someone searches for your company — and as such, you want to make sure your enemies and rival companies don’t have access to these pages! Even if you don’t plan to use all of these domains, you should buy them anyway. If you’ve got ’em, your enemies can’t use ’em.

Getting these domain names is important, but so is getting social media accounts — on Facebook, Twitter, and all the rest. Again, you may not plan to actively use all of these accounts, but signing up for them is still important.

After that, the next phase of the reputation defense campaign is building a strong, defensive wall. This is something you must do brick by brick — with each piece of content you write and publish being a brick in your defensive wall. The goal here is essentially to flood Google, Yahoo, and Bing with positive content about your company, effectively drowning out any negative listings or bad reviews. The more content you publish to these online domains and social media accounts, the better.

This is the most time-intensive part of the reputation defense process, but also the most important. It’s an ongoing job, too. Google rankings are based, to a degree, on “freshness” — so a Facebook account or a blog that has new posts every couple of days will be much more helpful to you than an account or blog that is only updated once every two months.

Here’s one final word of caution: Generally speaking, you’re going to want to resist the temptation to respond to negative reviews, on sites like Yelp.com. Responding to negative feedback may make you feel better, but in the end, it’s only drawing more attention to these undesirable listings. Better to aim for suppression — achieved through the high volumes of content mentioned above!

Reputation management is not easy, and it does require some time and a commitment to writing good, compelling content on a regular basis. With that said, a strong online reputation is invaluable. There’s no way for a business to succeed without one. As such, investing in reputation management is something no company should fail to consider.

About the Author

Rich Gorman is involved with multiple companies and is an expert in reputation management. Additionally Rich operates the official blog for the Direct Response industry where he shares his thoughts on Direct Response Marketing.

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Two new articles – Internet Marketing Myths & Brand Trashing Online

A big thanks to Mad.co.uk for featuring two of our recent articles on their website. And an even bigger thanks to Emily Cagle of Emily Cagle PR, who has been doing some great PR work for us, and is responsible for bringing us to Mad’s attention. If you’re looking for online PR, then drop her a line and see if she can help you too!

Below is a synopsis of each article, with a link so you can read the full thing if you want to!

It’s every business’s worst internet nightmare: you head over to Google, tap in your company name to see how your web presence is coming along, and there in prominent position is something far from positive about your brand. Deserved or not, this entry could be damaging your business with every passing second. Nikki Pilkington, founder of NikkiPilkington.com explains more.

It’s very common for a business’s first foray into internet marketing to be a low cost DIY job, but this approach carries risks explains Nikki Pilkington, owner/founder of NikkiPilkington.com.

Here are ten of the most common misconceptions about internet marketing, and what you need to know to ensure you don’t fall foul of a DIY disaster.

Protection and management of your online reputation

It’s been a grumpy day for me today, made a bit grumpier because of a tweet I came across on Twitter, and 2 phone calls I had this morning, both about similar things.

Part of the service we offer is Online Negative Reputation Management. We don’t make a big deal out of it, as it’s not cheap, and it’s not something that most people need, but we do get the occasional call about it and take on one or two jobs a month. It’s also not something we can put out case studies for, for reasons that will become obvious!

The tweet came from @france_normandy – gite owners in Normandy, France, who have recently had a couple of fake negative reviews on Trip Advisor, resulting in this blog: Trip Advisor Fake Reviews

The calls came from a photographic studio and a jewellers, both who were finding that when searching for their company name, the front page of Google brought up reviews that were negative and, as far as the callers were concerned, untrue. They were well aware that by having these negative reviews, they were losing customers – and in both cases, the loss of just one or two customers meant a considerable amout of money.

While writing this blog I’m reminded of another call a couple of weeks ago from a wedding organiser who organised weddings in another country. She had some great testimonials, but a disgruntled ex employee had started a campaign against her, and knowing the internet better than her, had managed to get some great front page positions slagging her off, posing as an unhappy customer.

See, one of the things I love about the internet is freedom of speech. Anyone can have their say on bad customer experiences – I use the web frequently to moan about Orange.fr and Aweber, among other things! But it can also be a bad thing, because if your livelihood is online, and bad reviews and negative comments can affect you, then you’re vulnerable and at risk.

It’s bad enough when the reviews are true – and believe me, we’ve had plenty of customers where we’ve quickly realised the reviews were true and had to implement a strategy to deal with that and enable them to come out of it looking better.

But when they’re untrue and the sites involved have published them without checking, without thinking, and in a lot of cases without verifying the person involved, it’s worse. Reviews that are negative and downright untrue, yet have no real name attached, can’t be traced back to an actual customer, and may even be a competitor or ex employee / business partner can still be accepted and read as if they’re true.

And in a lot of cases the vendor has no comeback – not all review sites let you challenge a review, and some of them will just refuse to remove the bad reviews, no matter what proof you send.

In the cases I talk about above, the jeweller, the photographer and the wedding planner, we are able to help – we can implement a strategy to drive the negative reviews off the front page, limit the damage caused by the reviews in other ways, and help to limit the impact they have.

In the case of @france_normandy, Trip Advisor is a big part of their business, and really needs to tighten up its processes to avoid a backlash. Happily it looks as if that one will be sorted out in the end, but at what cost? The longer a negative review is in a prominent position, the more damage it can do.

It’s a timely reminder to keep on top of what is being said about you online – make sure you at least have Google Alerts set up so that anything published with your copany name is seen by you immediately and can be responded to – if it’s in the public eye then your potential customers could be seeing it.

In a world where ‘to Google’ is common before choosing a supplier, make sure that if someone ‘Googles’ you, they see what YOU want them to see, not what your enemies do…

If you’re having problems with negative online reputation management, drop me a line, I might be able to help.

BT Tradespace – 10 out of 10 for Online Reputation Management

A few days ago I posted a blog entry titled Places to find Nikki Pilkington – not because I imagine that the world and his dog cares about where to find me, but in response to fairly regular emails and because I had run out of things to say 🙂

In it I mentioned BT Tradespace and commented that i used to use them a lot, but as the system had slowed down I had stopped. 3 days later I rceeived a comment on the blog post from  Alex, the Head of Technology and operations at BT Tradespace. I’ve conversed with Alex in the past and now he is always open to new ideas and thoughts.

Today I received another comment on the blog, this time from Antonio, the impressively named Chief Architect of BT Tradespace.

What struck me is that this is an impressive piece of Online Reputation Management – my criticism of BT Tradespace amounted to only a few words, and they could have ignored it and hoped it wouldn’t affect anyone’s perception of them. They could have responded defensively and aggressively, as I have seen other companies do.

But they didn’t. instead they took the time to respond in a very friendly and appreciative manner, and to let me knwo the steps they were taking to fix the issues.

THAT’S what online reputation management is about and for that alone i’m giving BT Tradespace 10 out of 10.

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