Online reputation management is essential for every business with an online presence. In a world where everybody can impress any negative impressions on any social network or blog instantly, so you need to pay attention to both your customers and your brand.
Most users are pretty Internet savvy these days, and it is a frequent user behavior to Google a business or a brand you are not familiar with before you decide to spend your hard-earned money on a product. But it is not only customers that rely on Google and review sites before they choose to make a purchase – companies, and recruiters are also Googling candidates that apply for a job – and study the candidate’s social profiles as well.
What might seem like harmless photos of young people partying and drinking, might give a recruiter the impression that the person is a party animal doing nothing but having fun.
The reality might very well be that the candidate is studying hard all week, taking care of two parttime jobs, and doing a volunteering job as well. But the only thing the recruiter sees is the party pictures of the weekend.
Perhaps you are very dedicated to saving our planet, the animals, or other noble courses. Advocating strongly for your beliefs might make you look like trouble makes for a future employer. So instead of getting a dedicated employee, he chooses to play it safe and hire a person that tends to be less political than you.
I certainly believe that everybody should be allowed to have and express their right to express their thoughts and point of view, but always keep in mind that words in writing can make a much more substantial impact than a face to face conversation. It is like being at a party – topics like politics, religion, immigration, guns, and similar issues can lead to heated debates.
What is the impact of lousy reputation management?
A lot of companies do not have a reputation management strategy – and the worst-case scenario is that negative reviews lead to a shitstorm where thousands of unsatisfied customers express their adverse reactions towards a company. You have probably both seen and heard about examples where multinational companies faced a shitstorm and needed to apologize in public.
Falling to deal with negative reviews can be a costly affair for a business. Sometimes it might take a while before an activity realize that they are suffering from a bad online reputation. A few years ago, we had an example of a very well known kitchen furnishing company that failed miserable dealing with their online reputation management.
It was a well-known brand, 25+ years in business, known for super high quality and high prices. But suddenly they realized a drop in orders. It took them more than a year before they realized what was going on. If they had done just a simple search for their brand in Google, they would have seen an extremely negative review on position two on page one in Google. This negative review was what their future potential buyers would see.
The review was from a customer describing the pain their family went through when they thought they had ordered their expensive dream kitchen. After postponing the installation several times, the kitchen company finally showed up. But they did a terrible job, offered poor customer service and counterless delays, and the customer had an endless conversation with an unresponsive local dealer and the company’s national customer service.
The customer took pictures of the failing installation, pointing out wrong measurements, damaged closets, holes where no holes were supposed to be – and of course the fact that the family was not able to cook at all or use their kitchen. The customer had examples of the correspondence from the dealer claiming that they did their work, and therefore considered the case for being closed! If you read a well-documented review like that, would there be any chance that you would even consider buying a 50.000$ kitchen from that company?
But think about how sad this situation would be for the company. During the more than 25 years, they had delivered thousands of fantastic kitchens – serving families for year after year. But all online attention would be focusing on this horrible review. Yes, no doubt that the kitchen company did an awful job, but not dealing with one lousy installation lead to a severe loss of business opportunities.
How to automatically monitor your brand and your mentions
Most business owners do not have hours to sit and Google their brand and products several hours every day, but you can use Google Alerts to monitor your brand and product names. It is easy to setup:
- Go to google.com/alerts in your browser.
- Enter a search term for the topic you want to track. As you enter your terms, view a preview of the results below.
Choose Show Options to narrow the alert to a specific source, language, or region. Specify how often, how many, and how to receive alerts.
Select Create Alert.
That’s it!, now you would receive an alert directly in your inbox if Google discovers a new mention of your brand or keywords you monitor.
Don’t be reactive – Be responsive instead
It is crucial, as a company owner, to monitor as well as respond to reviews- both the useful review as well as negative reviews. Connect with your consumers as well as give context to their comments or complaints.
You will unquestionably come across instances where reviewers launch a full-on attack on your business’s honesty and integrity. The comments, themselves, run out your control, but you can control your responses.
Stay clear of responding defensively. Instead, use the “consumer is always right” mentality, as well as provide an honest apology. Negative evaluations usually arise from consumers who simply want their opinion to “be listened to.” Show your customers you genuinely care about the bad experience they have encountered. If possible, try to solve the issue.
Examples of these options can be refunding cash, supplying a promo code, or merely a guarantee to repair the concern internally. You can show to your customers that you’re willing to take responsibility for errors and go the extra mile to avoid them in the future. Thank your customers for pointing out their concerns, and try to see if it is possible to get a dialogue outside the review platform by mail or phone. It is often way more comfortable to deal directly with a customer instead of facing a wall of text on a review platform.
Ask Questions for the
Ask questions to the person that did a bad review
Some reviewers will undoubtedly make false details regarding your business. Some review websites (like Google My Business) do have a button that will flag the review as unacceptable. However, it might take a while before anyone takes responsibility and remove the review. In some cases, nothing may happen at all.
If you interact directly on such review sites, you can ask questions to the persons that made a bad review of your business.
By reacting with a question, it shows that you’re taking notice of the complaints and is interested in more information to fix the situation and avoid similar situations for future customers. This review should, naturally, be dealt with by an understanding comment such as, “We’re sorry you didn’t appreciate your stay,” or “We’re extremely sorry you feel by doing this,” to prevent appearing rough.
When you’ve talked to a bad reviewer (and also let’s claim you’ve given a service they’re happy with), another vital concern to ask is, “Would certainly you take into consideration removing your testimonial?” This is your only opportunity to have a poor testimonial taken down, so don’t ask until you make sure the customer mores than happy. You need to gain the ask.
In case you are confident that a review is not genuine, you can always ask for a payment receipt or something that proves that the customer did business with your company. If the customer is not able to provide any proof that they have eaten at your restaurant, slept in your hotel, or bought from your shop, there is a pretty good chance that the review is false.
Here are five vital tips to keep in mind when responding to a negative review:
- Respond kindly and be nice
- Do not get defensive
- Don’t make it personal
- Keep the response brief and to the point
- Try to prevent an ongoing battle of words – if possible get the conversation offline
Online reputation management and SEO
Sometimes we simply just face a situation where it is impossible to deal with a bad review or remove it – and we have to face that this review would stick to the web no matter what we do. On review sites, there is a big chance that the majority of positive reviews would water out a bad review (provided that the majority of your reviews remain positive). Proactively you can try to ask other happy customers to make a review for you, and that way burry the one bad review you got.
There might be cases where this would not be an option – an example could be that an unhappy customer was running a blog and did a 3000-word angry review and deny to remove it – or if a media has made a negative article about your services or products. Media sites have very high domain authority, and a long article usually obtains a high ranking.
You might face a situation where your only option is to try to see if it is possible to move the negative review to page 2 in Google. (You probably heard the joke about the best place to hide a dead body is on page 2 in Google – no one looks at those results). So the strategy is to bump up the other (and hopefully) more positive responses in the SERPS.
Here are some actions you might consider:
- If you don’t have social profiles related to your brand, create them (Facebook fan page, Twitter account, YouTube account, Linkedin page, etc.). Those properties have a high domain authority and
- Look for properties ranking on page two in Google – are there any results you would like to see on page one? if so you should make some external link building to those listings
- Consider doing press releases – press releases have high authority, and if you are lucky, a media might bring your story. That way you can add an extra listing for your brand
Legal concerns about SEO and Online Reputation Management
As an SEO, it might be tempting to deal with Online Reputation Management for clients that need help using SEO to deal with negative reviews. Usually, it takes a lot of effort and requires time so that it might look like a sweet little retainer deal for you.
You should always pay attention to what kind of reputation management you are supposed to take care of – especially if your client is in a “Your Money Or Your Life” business. Imagine if it is your job to try to cover up a weight loss product that has a very negative impact on the user’s health or your job is to make an investment scam to look legit – and let other people risk their life savings on an obvious scam.
If you are associated with this kind of SEO work, that can seriously harm your own business and brand – and cost you a lot of right clients of the future.
There is nothing wrong with helping a business doing reputation management, as long as you are fully aware of what you are doing. There is a big difference of a complaint from a customer who got a well-done steak but ordered a medium-rare, compared to cosmetical surgery that ended in a disaster for a patient.
So before taking on a client, do your due diligence – research the business yourself, talk to the owner and ask yourself the questions:
A) Does the lousy review look legit
B) Would I do business with this particular company if I had discovered this review myself
C) Talk with the owner of the business – is there a logical explanation for the bad review (is it fake or done by a competitor to harm the company)
If you have any doubt, you might consider consulting a lawyer before you take on such a case – just to protect yourself that you are acting on legit information and can back out if required. Do not under any circumstances try to manipulate or do fake reviews by creating fake accounts.