This Can Happen to Anyone

What do you do if you’re a Reputation Management company that gets slammed with a bunch of negative reviews online?

Well, that’s what happened not too long ago to several companies in this business, myself included. Somebody had posted negative comments and reviews targeting reputation management companies, and those websites started showing up on the search engine result pages.

But it was an obvious ploy by some individual with a grudge — or maybe he was just testing us. You see, all the postings were nearly identical, and it was clear he had just copied and pasted the same comments, only changing the company names. And no, I don’t think the comments had any merit.

So the lesson is that this can happen to anyone — you just have to take it in stride.

I know I keep harping on this, but managing your reputation is an ongoing effort. Think of the story of the race between the turtle and the hare.

The turtle keeps plugging away, doing a little every day or every week to make sure that potential customers find only good reviews or positive comments when they do a search online. But every once in a while the hare passes him.

Some negative reviewer feels the need to blow off a little steam, or maybe the competition has hired someone to post negative comments, so these comments and reviews pop up on the first page of a Google search. But these people aren’t in it for the long haul like you are.

Eventually they lose interest and go on to other things — or, like the hare, get a little too confident or lazy — while you keep up the steady efforts of managing your online reputation, steadily progressing forward like the diligent turtle. The positive web pages about your company keep ranking higher and higher, and everyone else gets pushed off the first page or two of the search engines.

Remember that the turtle wins the race — because diligence and persistence are the most powerful and successful strategies in all aspects of business and life.

How a Few Complaints Can Hurt Your Online Reputation

Nearly every business is going to have an unhappy customer from time to time. Often, it’s a complaint that’s easily fixed with a quick refund, a replacement item, or better customer service.

Still, you can’t please everyone. And nowadays it’s too easy for a dissatisfied person — or a competitor — to post complaints and accuse your company of being a scam or worse.

Trouble is, for every ten thousand happy customers who don’t post positive comments about you, there’s one unhappy customer who posts negative comments. So when your potential customers do an online search, all they may see will be those negative postings.

It only takes a few complaints to start showing up on the search engine results pages for your online reputation to suffer.

Now, wouldn’t it be great if every happy customer posted a postive comment or compliment about you online? Sure. And that will happen when pigs fly, hell freezes over, and we all live together in peace and harmony. In other words, don’t hold your breath.

Satisfied customers have no need or little incentive to spend time posting good reviews or comments about you.

And you may feel it’s beneath your dignity to actually suggest they do this. But it often doesn’t hurt to ask, and your loyal customers may be happy to spend the time online recounting their pleasant experiences with your company.

Try to identify those customers who have nothing to complain about and who have been with you a while. Then politely suggest that, if they are happy with your products or services, they go to such-and-such website or forum and mention their positive experience with you.

The more you can do this, the better your online reputation will be.

If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, I understand. It’s not easy asking for compliments outright. This is why I make sure good reviews get posted about my clients, which is a key strategy in reputation management.

We just don’t want to let those few complainers overshadow all the good things about your company.

Can a Negative Online Reputation Kill a Company?

How dependent is your company on online marketing or online sales? And how dependent are you on having potential customers find you through an online search?

I know of many companies that get more than half their revenue from online sales. So if their online reputation suffers, their sales can take a dive. And for a company too dependent on online sales, a negative online reputation can sometimes kill their business.

Now, I’m not trying to get you to change your business model. The reality today is that many of us do the bulk of our business online. And we all have to weather storms from time to time, including recessions, changes in the marketplace, loss of a good customer, and yes, damage to our online reputation.

This typically happens because disgruntled, dissatisfied, or unhappy people are posting negative comments on review sites — and because those review sites are suddenly ranking higher in the search engines. So your site may be number one for a keyword search, but the negative sites fill up spots two through ten.

It’s never fun to look at the first page of a Google search and see your company’s products or services mentioned on websites with words like “scam” or “rip-off” in their names. It’s like waking up one morning realizing you’ve got a bad case of the flu and will have to suffer through it.

How do you deal with it?

First, good customer service is critical. Don’t make an unhappy customer wait for a response to their complaint. Handle it quickly. The longer they have to wait, the more upset they’ll get, which makes it more likely they’ll go online to the review sites and start posting their “story” about how badly they were treated.

Second, if your online reputation is crucial to your business, then managing that reputation should be a high priority. But it’s not something you do as a reaction to a sudden drop in your rankings or the appearance of negative sites. That’s why it’s called “reputation management,” not “reputation let’s-panic-and-do-something-quickly.” If things get really bad you may need to consider the services of business lawyers in ocean city to help smooth things over.

It’s an ongoing process that makes sure your customers see good things about you online and are less likely to see any negative posts or comments.

Finally, make sure you can weather the occasional dip in your online ranking or a blow to your online image — whether that means diversifying your sales and marketing model or keeping enough cash on hand to cover a temporary loss of business.

These things happen even to the best of companies, no matter how much you do to please everyone. Being prepared is the best defense.

What to do About Negative Posts on Forums

If you participate in online forums, you may see a negative posting about your company. In fact, some forum participants can get downright nasty, even saying things that are completely untrue.

Now, since you’re sitting right there at the keyboard while reading these posts, your first reaction may be to shoot off a response to set the record straight and protect your online reputation — and possibly get into a back-and-forth “discussion” that can quickly turn into the online equivalent of mud wrestling.

Before you respond to the forum posting, stop and consider this.

First, are you really going to change anyone’s mind with your rebuttal? If it’s a site where people just come to complain, or if it’s a forum participant who simply gets joy out of bashing others online, chances are there’s nothing that can get these people to change — expect maybe a few years of therapy.

And if it’s a competitor writing these posts, you’re not going to win them over to your side no matter what. They don’t care about your online reputation.

Second, every time you or anyone posts to one of these sites, you’re just improving their search engine ranking. Why? Because you’re giving the site new content, and the search engines tend to rank sites higher that have constantly updated content.

In other words, posting your rebuttal on that particular website actually helps the negative posts gain more visibility. That makes it more likely that a potential customer will find the site, read the negative comments, and decide not to do business with you. Like scoring an “own goal” in soccer,  you’ve only helped the other side by responding to a negative forum post, which is not good reputation management strategy.

So what can you do?

Well, you can grumble a little, complain to your co-workers, kick the garbage can, and curse these poor souls who would dare to malign your wonderful products and services. Then take a breath and relax. There are better and more subtle ways to fight back.

This generally involves getting positive sites about your company to rank higher so the negative sites are pushed further down in the search engine rankings, where fewer people will see them.

Just keep in mind that a long-term strategy to boost your company’s online image is better than direct confrontation — no matter how mad you may feel about the negative postings. This is what true online reputation management is all about.

Reputation Management News

Online Reputation has a Dramatic Effect on Revenue

Recently a company asked for my expertise to help improve their online reputation. When potential customers searched on their company name, seven out of the top ten search engine rankings were negative. After careful review of their rankings, and prior year revenues, I determined that they were probably losing over $1,500,000 a year in sales due to negative search engine results. The company confirmed the fact that my estimates were indeed accurate — but low.

Why Online Reputation Management?

Today, the most common method to find out more about a company is to do a Google search, and evaluate the results. Due to the way Google ranks websites many companies are plagued with negative forum posts, articles and other uncomplimentary content about their business.

The goal of online reputation management is to help companies clean up their top ten rankings by performing search engine optimization (SEO) on websites that are positive to the business, which in turn push the negative sites down, and out of the top ten rankings.

Don’t Fight Back

Many negative posts for a company’s brand come through forums. One of the worst things you can do is to constantly write rebuttals against these negative posts. Every time you access a negative site and post a comment you’re giving them more content that the searches engines quickly discover — and in turn this will help the negative rise in the search engine rankings. It can be very difficult, but resist the temptation to fight back.

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