It’s no secret that multi-level marketing companies get a bad rap. Perform a Google search on any MLM company and on the first page of results will likely be at least one or two sites slamming the company or accusing it of fraud.
Many people are predisposed to dislike the business model or the entire concept of multi-level marketing. They’ll readily post a negative review online about your company and then go on to rant about the whole industry.
In this way, MLM companies face a unique challenge in protecting their reputation. And because your success or failure could depend on how prospects and customers perceive you, I want to cover the basics of how you can manage your online reputation.
1) What we mean by “online reputation”
Your online reputation is determined by what someone finds out about you when they do a search on your company. Because most people rarely look past the first page or two of the search engine results, your online reputation is really determined by the top 10 or 20 search results.
It doesn’t matter that your main company website ranks at number one. You expect your own website to rank high when someone types the company name into a search engine. The crucial point is what else appears on that first page of the search — what do other websites say about your company? That’s what makes or breaks your online reputation.
2) How prospects view your company’s reputation
The first introduction to your company a prospect gets is likely to come from a friend or acquaintance. That’s good, because there’s a level of trust that works in your favor.
Will everyone do an online search about your company? No. But more and more people these days are web savvy, so you have to accept that most prospects will type your name into Google and see what comes up — no matter who introduced them to the opportunity.
A prospect can quickly glance down the page of results and look for anything of interest that pops out at them. If a lot of those sites consists of negative reviews and complaints, that can diminish your reputation in their eyes. But if all they see is a list of sites with positive comments and testimonials, they’re more likely to sign up without further hesitation.
3) Where negative postings come from
Some websites specialize in letting anyone post a complaint. That makes it extremely easy for a dissatisfied customer to go online and share their experience with the world. And their complaint will still appear years later, even if it was a customer service issue that was quickly handled.
Sites like scam.com, ripoffreport.com and complaintsboard.com will pretty much accept postings from anyone. However, they don’t check for accuracy, nor are they likely to remove a posting if you request it.
These sites also tend to rank high in the search engines, so if your company is named in a complaint on one of these sites, expect it to show up on a search about you.
4) How a few complaints can hurt your online reputation
You might think that if you have thousands of happy customers and distributors, a few online complaints shouldn’t matter. But the math doesn’t work out that way.
Consider that a Google search returns 10 results on the first page. If just three of those are websites with complaints or criticisms, that means nearly a third of the search results are for negative sites. They may still be in the minority, but when a curious prospect sees a link that promises to reveal the “dirt” on a company, it’s hard to resist clicking through. After all, isn’t that what you’d do?
Even one review on a site like scam.com can have an impact if it shows up near the top of the page. Sometimes a single complaint, valid or not, is enough to scare away a prospect.
I know this sounds dire, but basic human psychology is at work here. Many people are already skeptical about MLM-type businesses. All it takes is one negative review to confirm their skepticism and give them a reason to say no to the opportunity.
5) What it takes to have a good online reputation
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to manage your online reputation so you are not at the mercy of ranting bloggers and critics.
The goal is to create or find websites with positive content and get them to rank high. That pushes the negative sites off of the first page or two of a Google search.
This is not always easy, and it can take months of steady effort to achieve this goal. Still, consider that the alternative is to let the complaints and negative reviews dominate the search results and trash your online reputation.
The success of your company can be put in jeopardy if your brand is damaged beyond repair. That’s why online reputation management is a crucial part of your ongoing marketing and PR efforts.