1 November 2010
1 November 2010,
How to Manage Your Company’s Online Reputation

This is a question I am being asked more and more frequently. A negative review originally posted on Yelp, Citysearch, MerchantCircle, TripAdvisor, or Judy’s Book (or the many other sites that allow for user reviews), can show up on Google or Yahoo with your business’s local listing. And, there’s no question that that can hurt. But, there are ways to make sure a negative review hurts only your feelings—not your business.

So, don’t panic. You may not be able to control unfavorable reviews. But, you can, with a little attention, control the overall picture of your business by simply making sure that there are many more glowingly positive reviews than negative ones.

For some time now, there have been companies that specialize in protecting and building up a person or organization’s “reputation.” Small businesses like those 1st Click Consulting serves don’t need this kind of specialized service. But, politicians, celebrities, and the Fortune 500 hire companies to monitor what is being said about them, and manipulate where it appears online.

For example, during the BP oil spill, you can bet that there were 1000s of articles, blog postings, and web pages devoted to demonizing BP. But, for a search like “BP Oil Spill,” there are only 10 spots on page one of a search engine’s results. So, the reputation management companies only need to create their own more positive articles about the spill, post them around the Web, and attempt to capture all 10 of the top spots. If they are successful, all of the negative articles will be moved down the list of results to page 2 and following pages.

Managing the review sites uses a similar technique. I looked at the Citysearch listing for the Papadeaux Seafood Restaurant nearest my neighborhood here in Denver.

The restaurant had 31 reviews, and got an average rating of 3.5 out of 5 stars. Many people, seeing that, will not read individual reviews. Particularly when there are as many as 31 reviews, they will accept the average as a good evaluation of the restaurant’s overall quality.

But, some will read the reviews. Review page one on Citysearch displayed 10 reviews. The most recently posted review appears at the top of the list. If you get a negative review, you need to displace it’s position with a more positive review. And, as time goes on, you can move it to page 2, 3, 4, etc.

So, the best way to deal with a negative review is to dilute the overall effect with better reviews and bury it as far down the list as possible.

It is also important to be aware as soon as possible when a bad review of your business has been posted. In the “olden days,” companies hired clipping services to keep track of what was being said about them in the press. You could, of course, make a habit of visiting the major review sites and monitoring your listing that way. But, that’s really not necessary. Google will do that for you for free and will send you an email anytime your business appears online.

Just sign up for a Google alert. In the search term field, type your business name within quotations. (That ensures that you will not get alerts anytime that a single word in your business name appears online, but only when the name appears in its entirety.) Choose “everything” in the Type of Results field, and “all results” in the Volume field. Ask for the results to be sent at least daily, or “as-it-happens” if you check your email frequently. Then just type in your email address, and Google will begin to send you alerts anytime your business name appears online. If you want to keep track of your competitors, you can set up other alerts for those business’s names, as well.

That’s it! Just make sure that you keep developing happy customers who are willing to provide good reviews for you, and you can maintain a stellar reputation online.

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