Got a bad online reputation? 3 steps you can take to salvage it

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This is not a rare situation that I find some prospects in and sometimes it’s only when I conduct a free situation report for them that they are aware of the scale of such an issue. It’s not entirely surprising with so many social media channels and for that matter, directories offering a review option it can be a task seeing what a company’s reputation profile might be. I also weight this up when suggesting to work with a prospect because if a company isn’t that bothered about this issue it makes SEO a lot harder to accomplish. In fact, gaining greater exposure for such an organisation can often end up amplifying the channels for dissatisfied customers to vent their dissatisfaction.
However, in saying this, it true to say that normally the only motivated people who leave reviews are more generally those who feel negatively about the service they’ve received or how their initial complaint was dealt with. What most companies don’t realise that their reputation isn’t purely something they are powerless to influence. In fact, you may be surprised just how much you can affect your online reputation through a simple three-step plan to address poor reviews and harnessing a system to gain more positive reviews.

Contact the person who left a bad review directly
This won’t always be an option, for instance, they might not respond to your contact or you may feel things are beyond salvaging. However, it’s my experience that if you’re prepared to make the effort to contact them and have a solution in mind to address their issue they may even feel inclined to remove or change the review. However, you should never have that as your objective since it will be obvious that is what you’re trying to do. Getting an ex-client to reconsider how they feel about your company and possibly re-appraise their future usage should be goal enough. You can only hope that the solution you have in mind impresses them sufficiently that they may consider editing or removing the bad review.

Respond to the review through that channel
Not all but some of the review sites give a chance for you to respond to a review. As a matter of principle if this is the situation you should reply to any review since anyway. Why? Because it shows that you are a responsive organisation that is keen to take the time to thank people for positive reviews whilst addressing bad reviews explaining what you did or intend to do from what you have learnt. However, you may not want to do this till you’ve tried approaching them directly. One word of warning is that it is vital to be as matter of fact as possible and not to try to belittle the complaint or use emotional language wherever possible.

Ask the review site to take down a fraudulent review
It is rare, but the are occasions where say a competitor, may leave a fraudulent review. Generally, with sufficient due diligence, you’ll find that almost all bad reviews are genuine. If you are positive that the review is fake then approach the review site directly but don’t make a habit of it since you may end up building a poor reputation with the review sites! Yes, I can see the irony in that too.

And how do I get good reviews?
For any company that hasn’t gone through this task, they may find a backlog of historical reviews to either address or are deemed ‘ancient history’. The good news is that almost without exception review sites work on posting the most recent reviews first. This gives any organisation a great opportunity to make a real impact to their future online reputation from today onwards. Of course, in saying that, many sites operate aggregate star systems or histograms so it may be a slog with some but getting good reviews is easier than it may seem. Moving forwards, as you build up more and more positive reviews you will gradually dilute the negative reviews and of course how long will very much depend on your current online reputation.

Most people who are harbouring a complaint have to go out of their way to find your presence on a website for them to vent their spleen. The corollary of this argument is when you or your staff receive someone paying you a compliment then make them aware they can review you. That’s right, it’s as simple as that; make it easy for people who feel positively about the service they’ve received to leave a review. The best way to build on this positive spirit is to act on it straight away. I’ll often devise an e-mail template for clients outlining all the different channels a customer can leave a review straight after speaking or simply have it written on a business card that they can physically hand over to them. The secret is to make it as easy as possible. Don’t leave them with just the one social channel where they can leave a review. What if they aren’t already on that channel? Generally, the only people who’ll go out of their way to register will be those motivated by a perceived injustice!

Of course, some channels are more valuable than others. For instance Google+ reviews I would say to most businesses should be a priority since in any Google search that brings up local listings your reviews will come up even before the organic listings (even if you’re at the top organically you’ll still be below these). Moreover, the more you can get on this the more influential your coverage can become so to get more of these than, say Facebook reviews, then I would simply put them in order of desirability to suit that need.

You might say, for even-handedness, why not also give out your review details to someone who is complaining as well. My argument to this is that wouldn’t you expect either that you or your staff would actively handle the complaint there and then and in most cases to a satisfactory resolution. At that point, you could always give out a card at that point if you were so inclined.

I hope that this has proved how that almost all businesses can gain positive reviews very quickly. As a word of warning, I would advise caution if you’re thinking of offering inducements to obtain favourable reviews. If you begin to get reviews of your site where people report of you trying to gain positive reviews for rewards then you may be penalised. You may want to stress that their opinion is valued whatever the response. However, the best inducement to gaining positive reviews I find is simply to make the process as easy as possible!

If you’d like any help in restoring a tarnished online reputation or simply gaining one at all then don’t hesitate to contact me and, of course, all feedback is very welcome!


I've been involved in marketing for over 20 years and digital marketing over the last 6 years. My goal is to see clients thrive from using both ethically based affordable SEO services and effective digital marketing best practices.

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