It’s the moment disaster strikes: You search for your business online, and along with the positive brand you’ve built is one or several written attacks. You have every reason to worry that these results are impacting each searcher’s first impression of your business, and you likely know that there’s little hope of ever containing or permanently removing them for good.
While it’s true that everything online lasts forever, the same cannot be said of the attention span of the average Googler. An attack is only as dangerous as it is visible, and there are many ways to take control of the negative results that appear when your business or brand terms are Googled. Here are some real-life scenarios and the non-technical techniques that we’ve used for our clients at my company, The Magistrate.
Love Thy Enemy
Scenario: A customer is furious over your service and is telling everyone on a review site to avoid your business at all costs.
Poor reviews are something that every business struggles with, but there’s a difference between minor complaints and the sort of review that comes from a customer who feels they were failed in every way. The angriest customers are often the most vocal, and when ignored, they can spread their distaste so effectively – and across so many channels – that you’ll be dealing with the fallout for years.
There is, however, an elegant and all-too-often ignored solution: Try to make things right. Most reviews can be changed by the person who registered the original account, and even the angriest of customers may be persuaded into updating or removing a review with the right incentives.
You may need to grit your teeth and bear the thought of mollifying someone who has unfairly slandered your work, but one angry customer can chase away thousands when his or her negative review floats to the top of search results.
Scenario: A vicious personal attack using your real name has appeared on a forum or other non-review space.
Armed with the power of anonymity, certain angry persons are dedicating a confounding amount of time to assassinating the characters of people they don’t like for political or personal reasons. These attacks are often hateful and may include private personal information that you’d want to protect.
Despite what you learned on the playground, tattling can be an effective and altogether necessary way of protecting yourself from these attacks. In this case, you’re bringing the attacks to the site administrators.
Is this always effective? No. However, most site administrators are wary of hosting content that’s bigoted, incendiary or vaguely violent. It’s likely that such content already violates the rules of the community that it appears on, and removing it will be as easy as using the “report” function that is already standard in so many online communities.
Harness the Power of Happy Customers
Scenario: You took over or placed a business under new management, but its old reputation is still lingering in search results.
I included this scenario because it happened to a personal friend. He made what he thought was a fantastic deal with a service company in his area, only to find out most of the customers had been outraged by the mismanagement of the few previous months. All those negative reviews didn’t start appearing and compounding until he was already the proud owner.
This is one of those situations where I really would begin by assessing the fees these sites charge for removing reviews. It may be a worthwhile investment in the end. However, if that isn’t in your budget, you need to focus hard on pleasing new customers and generating new reviews. Soliciting reviews are tough but we’ve found a way that works more often than most.
Feedback cards presented upon completion of services are great for reminding customers to leave reviews. Create an index card-sized form that asks customers for explicit feedback on parts of your service. Ask them what they liked in particular, what they would change, etc. At the end of this card, ask them for reviews on your online spaces while they’re still thinking about how they feel.
Even if you don’t see reviews, you can post friendly feedback on your own site, as you can never have too many genuine testimonials to showcase.
While directly soliciting reviews is looked down upon by some review sites, it’s pretty tough to track, and if you’ve appealed to your customers in the right way, you’re not going to produce the type of spammy reviews that are penalized or removed by these types of sites.
The people you deal with online can seem faceless, but I’ve long learned that the solutions in reputation management begin with interacting with people on a human level. Trust in them to be helpful to others, as well as rational and reasonable once they’ve calmed down. At the very least, you’re off to a good start.