Have you Googled yourself lately? Trakur ran a study in 2012 and found that nearly 50 percent of respondents admitted to searching for their name within the past 24 hours, and nearly 75 percent searched within the past month. Regardless what our reasons are for searching, be it vanity, curiosity, or paranoia, one thing is for sure: we care about how Google sees us, because the world sees us through the eyes of search.
This is something that many brands have learned the hard way: your reputation follows you wherever you go. You can’t escape it. You can’t rewrite the past. And in most cases, apologies and damage control can only do so much to lighten the blow of bad press and negative reviews.
If you own a business, chances are potential customers are searching on Google, Bing, and social media, to see what others are saying about you online. According to a 2016 study conducted by Bright Local, online reviews have an exceptionally high impact on consumer purchase decisions:
- 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation
- 7 out of 10 consumers will leave a review for a business if they’re asked to
- 90% of consumers read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business
- 54% of people will visit the website after reading positive reviews
- 73% of consumers think that reviews older than 3 months are no longer relevant
- 74% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more
- 58% of consumers say that the star rating of a business is most important
*Statistics pulled from BrightLocal’s 2016 Local Consumer Review Survey. You can view the complete survey here.
As you can see, online reviews and brand reputation are a pretty big deal – not only for the brands themselves, but also for the consumer. As a business owner, you eventually have to accept that you won’t please everyone. But it’s still important to have a strategy in place that helps promote positive reviews, and minimize negative brand associations. In this post, I’ll discuss a few different strategies that businesses can use to push down negative search results and clean up their online reputation, without having to hire a reputation management agency.
If you want to clean up your online presence, you need first stop the bleeding. One of the first things I’ll do when working with reputation management clients is compile a list of all negative customer feedback, to help single out and prioritize the biggest pain points. Once you identify the core issues, you can build out a comprehensive strategy that addresses each one accordingly. For instance, if you’re a software company and the majority of your customer complaints are about server outages, your first order of business should be resolving these technical issues.
There are literally thousands of websites that allow brands to create public profiles. The main benefit of using branded profiles on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., is that they tend to rank well for branded search terms due to their high domain authority. Brands can leverage this authority to help push down other sites, such as Pissed Consumer, Ripoff Report, Complaints Board, Consumer Affairs, and even larger review sites like Yelp. That being said, it’s important to remember that many of these sites can be a double-edged sword: any site that allows users to comment, rate, or review a business is a potential threat to your brand’s online reputation. If you create additional profiles, make sure that you have dedicate the time and resources to regularly monitoring and maintaining them.
This one specifically pertains to franchises and businesses with multiple locations. When you’re targeting more than one location, it’s important to create separate profiles, when possible. In most cases, you will want to have a unique listing for each physical location. Not only does this help for local SEO purposes, but it also isolates negative reviews, so that individual locations and franchises won’t impact the brand as a whole. Additionally, multiple listings can help take up more first page real estate on Google – particularly for branded search queries. Location-specific profiles can also improve the customer experience, since your providing them with a locally relevant representation of your business. Multiple listings and profiles will require more work to manage, but they’re almost always worth it in the long run.
Citations are essential to local SEO. Similar to how links are used to measure authority, Google uses local citations to determine the relevance and prominence of your brand. Citations come from a combination of directories, data aggregators, and 3rd party websites, and typically include your business’s name, address, and phone number. Since there are so many different places on the web to list your business information, I would highly recommend using a service like Yext to manage all of your listings and citations. If you don’t currently have the budget for a citation management platform, you should start with the sites that provide the most value for your particular business. In addition to the popular “horizontal” directories, like Google My Business and Yelp, you should also look into vertical directories, such as those geared towards your specific industry or location.
Internal Review Platform
The worst part about 3rd party review sites is that there is very little that businesses can do to remove, or resolve customer complaints. That’s why it’s important for businesses to have a way for customers to provide feedback directly. If your business is facing a large number of negative reviews, you can create a page on your website that’s optimized for review-related queries – i.e. South Florida Plumbing reviews, South Florida Plumbing complaints, and so on. From there, you can add a review submission form to collect reviews, and list positive reviews from happy customers to show off all the nice things that people have said about your business. While there’s no guarantee that this will prevent customers from using 3rd party channels, giving customers the option to leave direct feedback can help businesses contain and mitigate negative reviews, while still promoting brand transparency.
Fresh Content and Media
Google loves fresh content. In fact, in November of 2011 Google released their Freshness Update, which signaled a stronger emphasis on recently published content – this basically means that fresh content would be rewarded with higher search engine rankings. From a reputation management perspective, this presents brands with a unique set of benefits and challenges. The downside is that brands are more vulnerable to negative press coverage, since trending media is typically displayed more prominently in search results. The benefit is that brands can leverage this to push their own positive and neutral content, both on their own site, as well as 3rd party sites, in the form of press releases or media. The more positive and neutral content you can publish, the more you can insulate and safeguard your business from negative brand associations.
When All Else Fails, Send in the Pros
The most important thing you can do is be proactive. Don’t wait until the negative reviews show up to take action. Most businesses that take preventative steps towards preserving their online reputation stand a much better chance of surviving the onslaught of negative reviews and bad press. Reputation management isn’t easy, but there’s a lot that can be done to keep your online presence in check without hiring an outside consultant or agency. However, there are times when businesses require some extra help. If you’re business is facing reputation management issues that are beyond your control, our team of experts would be happy to help! Send us a message, and we’ll be in touch!