by Ray Larson
Protecting your firm’s online reputation is so important that we continue to blog on it. We’ve written an overview on online reputation management and a post on managing reviews on your Facebook business page. So how do you handle a negative review that shows up in the search engine results pages when someone searches for your company? What should you do?
First, take a deep breath, calm down, and push your anger aside. Look at a negative review as an opportunity. Show your clients, social media followers and future buyers you are authentic, human, and real. This is your chance to right a wrong, in full view of the world, and display the values you built your company on.
Before we proceed to advise you on how to best deal with negative reviews, we are making a basic assumption in the content that follows. That assumption is that a negative review is for you a “black swan.”
You’ve built your business the right way, and typically you receive nothing but glowing reviews about your products and customer service. If negative reviews are par for the course for your business, you have bigger issues than can be solved by this blog post. Stop reading this now, and fix your business.
Can you ignore a negative review and hope it disappears in the search engine results pages?
Sticking your head in the sand and ignoring the review is not an option. According to the latest search engine ranking factors annual survey reviews count for as much as 10% of the local ranking algorithm (the criteria for how Google and the search engines serve results). Google loves reviews because its users (you and I) love reviews of products we might be interested in. Thus reviews rank high in the results. Whether you like it or not, your business is impacted by customer reviews
So what to do first?
- Respond immediately! It’s not good enough or acceptable to wait a few days., or sometimes even hours. Waiting allows “trolls” an opportunity to pile on. This also affords you time to determine what exactly happened. And how it happened.
- Respond authentically. Don’t use a canned, half-hearted statement that sounds like your bank apologizing. Craft a response in the same tone and voice your brand is known for.
- Acknowledge publicly, resolve privately. After acknowledging the issue, offer to solve the issue in the light of day (social media). But don’t be afraid to request the customer’s contact information so that more private details can be hashed out.
- Resolve the issue. Make the client happy. Period.
- Ask the client to rethink the review. Why not? You’ve gone full out to resolve their issue. You fixed their problem to their satisfaction. Ask them to retract it or better yet, follow up with a glowing, positive review highlighting how your firm went overboard to resolve their problem.
Now that you’ve resolved the issue to the client’s satisfaction, what about that negative review? How long before it disappears? When will it stop haunting/ruining my business?
The answer? It’s complicated.
Remember Google’s in the business of returning the best (most accurate, useful, and relevant) results to a user’s query. Reviews, as previously stated, are important to both Google and its users. That negative review is not going away.
So what to do?
Search Engine News, an SEO thought leadership website suggests a brilliantly simple strategy: create new rankings. This will in effect push the negative review downward, off the first page and someday into SERP oblivion.
Here are some of their suggestions along with a few of my own:
- Make sure you have a LinkedIn company page. These rank very highly in the SERPs.
- Insure you have a Google My Business page. You can start collecting reviews here. After 5 reviews Google will include the star ratings in the rich snippets.
- Set up a Wikipedia page. Good luck with this one. Wikipedia has very stringent editorial requirements. We’ve tried for our own company, with little success. Wikipedia is a high domain authority website (it’s trust, subject authority, and reputation are non-pareil) and will outrank everything.
- Claim your YELP listing. You have a listing on YELP whether you know it or not. Search engines love established consumer review platforms.
- Check your local citations. With Google’s move to a contextual search engine (Hummingbird), it’s essential you have plenty of local references to your business.
- Try Foursquare. With only a few checkins your business listing rank highly in the SERPs.
- Establish profiles on Reddit, Quora, and Slideshare. The search engines rank content from these user generated content platforms quite highly.
The idea is to dilute the rankings for your business with these highly ranked, high traffic sources listed above, moving down that black swan review off the first page.