Reputation Repair

 Remember a time where all you had to do to maintain a good reputation was treat your customers well and keep promises about deliveries and timeframes? A time where reviews were spread through word of mouth, by people telling friends about their experience with your business? Before the advent of the internet, opinions of a poor experience only had the ability to reach a handful of people who would also be able to take into account the reliability of the person making those negative comments because they knew them. Well, times have changed.

Technological advancement has made it so that a negative comment can be posted the moment someone walks out of your building pissed off. Within moments, that comment can be exposed to hundreds of thousands of people on third party review sites that people rely on when they research for a company to do business with. The power of search engines makes it possible for someone to search for your business and see these negative reviews – if the subject has gotten a lot of attention and social shares, they can even be ranked above your own website. So while this may be an encouraging thing when it comes to positive reviews, it can be downright horrifying to consider the impact a negative online review can have on your business.

The capacity for negative reviews to impact a company affects small, local businesses and large corporations alike. Even bogus complaints that really have nothing to do with your business or its conduct can have an impact. For instance, if you own an outdoor boutique or attraction, things like the weather and crowds can impact someone’s experience and therefore, their reviews.

Since Google began including reviews for any business with an address, managing your online reputation has become paramount to the effectiveness of any internet marketing strategy. If you haven’t been keeping track of what people are saying about your company online, it’s time to find out. Perform a search for your company and read some reviews. If they are mostly positive, kudos! However, negative reviews should not be left unattended, so keep reading. If your reviews are not as positive as you were hoping, don’t worry. You can repair and maintain your reputation through Reputation Management.

1. First Things First, Identify the Problem

Discover your existing reputation profile. First go to each of the major search engines i.e. Google, Bing and Yahoo.  Search for your business name, your personal name and your brand individually.  See the page 1 results (90% of all searches begin and end on the first page).  See if there are any reviews, positive or negatives. Where are they writing these reviews? On third party sites like Yelp! and Google Local? On your own website or blog? On others? Why are they writing? What happened? Who was involved? There are a variety of different kinds of negative reviews, but discovering and understanding the major problems and complaints people have will go a long way toward repairing your reputation because then you can do something about it. If your company has made a mistake, take the high road and be honest about what happened. Most importantly, realize that you can address this effectively no matter how bad it seems.

2. Address Negative Reviews

Before you run off and reply to every negative review you can find, realize that there are guidelines to make this a beneficial action. Only reply to recent reviews. Responding to old reviews, especially ones that aren’t even on the first page of results might only give those pages new freshness, a key factor the search engines use for ranking purposes, which will make them rank more highly. Instead, target recent reviews and respond to them. Attempt to take the conversation offline; it’s not something you want to do publicly. The point of a response is to get the reviewer’s attention and to have others who see their negative comment also see your customer service at work, illustrating that your company cares about unsatisfied customers and that you want to rectify the problem.

Acknowledge that there has been a problem but be sure to do so where the negative review was posted; you want people to see your response! Sympathize with their dilemma and ask them to contact you to discuss it further and come to some sort of resolution. Small businesses should leave a direct number; larger businesses should create a dedicated toll free number just for negative reviews. Offer to have a senior staff member resolve the issue personally through direct contact and work it through to a satisfactory conclusion.

If the website hosting the reviews allows comments, do not make “sock puppets.” These are fake accounts created by a business to make it seem like there are additional positive comments posted by happy customers. Obviously, this is deceitful and is easy to discover by anyone who is paying attention. In the end, this kind of approach will only create more of a problem than you started with. Remember, being honest about the problem is the only way to mend it.

3. Content Creation to Promote Your Authority

A key component of any reputation management campaign is the generation of fresh, positive content. One way to push negative reviews down in the search results is to target seemingly negative keywords such as “company name scam,” “company name complaints,” or “company name reviews” and write content that twists these negative terms into article topics that illustrate the positives of your business. It can be a little tricky, but when implemented effectively can work wonders for improving your online reputation. However, please bear in mind that this process will NOT work if you sincerely do not target excellence in customer service satisfaction at your business.

Creating this content is not the end of the process. You must then build your company’s authority with that content by distributing and promoting it through different online media outlets, most importantly social media. Creating social media profiles on sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ allow you to demonstrate your expertise on subjects relevant to your niche while simultaneously providing backlinks to your content that will allow them to compete and improve their ranking on the first page of search engine results. If your company has made noteworthy progress in dealing with negative reviews or has improved its customer service in some significant way, distribute a press release on the topic outlining any actions that have been taken to correct complaints or issues. Press releases will get the word out about your efforts and also provide more of those valuable backlinks.

4. Other Suggestions

Rally your loyal clients, customers and friends who use your service or with whom you have a personal relationship. Have them write reviews in their own words describing how reputable your company is and what it has done for them. Reviews like this are invaluable for reputation repair. Their writing style, the different services or products used and their individual relationship with you and your company will make these reviews genuine, sincere and ultimately trustworthy.

Because the internet is full of forums, it is a good idea to find ones relevant to your industry and dedicate an employee as a regular commentator on them. This will build the employee’s credibility over time as well as their personal reputation. When something negative is posted, most often by someone who only signed up to the forum only to that end, your employee, with their personal history on the board and familiarity with the other people who use it, will be able to step in and appropriately respond to the post with the support of other long-term members of the forum. This will also allow you to respond promptly and an immediate response can only work in your favor.

Also, find creative ways to get your clients or customers to leave positive online reviews. This can be as simple as asking them about their experience as they leave your establishment and offering them a coupon when they post a review on a third party site.

5. Words of Caution

No matter how well you address an issue, it is important to remember that you may not be able to resolve every issue. That’s okay. Others will still see your attempt to rectify the problem and respect that about your company, but, don’t harass people trying to get a resolution. Also recognize that reputation repair alone is sometimes not enough. It cannot be used to hide unethical business practices or to defend a poor business model. If these are the kinds of complaints that you are getting, your reputation repair may require more work than what has been outlined in this article meaning that a complete revamp of your business model needs to be seriously considered. A reputation management campaign can only be as good as your company is, and no matter how good it is, negative reviews are still going to be written. The most important thing is to continually monitor what is being said about your company and address the issues as soon as you find them. So once you have repaired your reputation, continue to manage it with a free tool like Google Alerts that will notify you any time your brand is mentioned, allowing for a quick and easy response, whether the reviews are negative or positive.

Since every business is different, it is wise to build a customized reputation management strategy for your own business. For help with this and much more, contact Optimum7 today!