How to Protect Your Business From Negative Reports on the Internet

April 26, 2009 by  Filed under: Advertising 

It can be very unnerving when a business is listed in a negative report on the Internet. When one’s business name and RipOffReport.com is in the title of a Google search result page, it immediately implies that the company has done something wrong.  When these complaint posts are resolved to the satisfaction of the consumer, one will find that the post still stays up.  One might infer that the end game of these websites it to have something “bad” on every business name to drive traffic to their advertising campaigns.

These websites make their living off of being sensational and controversial, so business owners shouldn’t expect any common courtesy or concern as to how a post is negatively affecting their business.  The owners of these websites get daily threats and letters from lawyers but most are ignored.  This can be incredibly frustrating especially when businesses could be losing hundreds or thousands of dollars each week the post remains visible. 

Is there any protection from competitors who decide to make false reports?  Not really.  If someone wants to attack there are numerous ways to defame another company anonymously.  So what is a company to do when the Internet has created a virtual soapbox for anyone to instantly create a negative global message? 

Companies need to have a strategy that includes offensive and defense measures to control what consumers are writing about them on the Internet.  Companies that stand to be hurt by sites like RipOffReport.com or ComplaintsBoard.com should implement a proactive Internet Reputation Management strategy that includes positive reviews on the Internet to create a balanced view of their company and its products or services.

The defensive elements of an Internet Reputation Management strategy would start with ensuring that a business listing is correctly represented in all the top consumer review websites.  Once this task has been completed, an email needs to be drafted to customers that would request and simplify the task of posting positive reviews on these sites. 

The customer participation email should have a few versions since there are so many places that a business will eventually want to have reviews. Businesses should not have only one version of the email that shows links to 10 different review websites; it would overwhelm customers.  IRM strategists recommend that businesses don’t put more than three choices in a customer email.

Since there are about a dozen websites that should be considered for an IRM platform, the first email could link to the highest value review sites like Google Maps, Yahoo Local and Yelp.  Once these websites had ample reviews posted, businesses should send a second version of the email to target sites like InsiderPages, CitySearch and JudysBook.  The goal will be to have at least six positive reviews on the most popular public portals in an industry.

Every industry has specific high value web review properties.  For car dealers, that website is DealerRater.com.  For restaurants, they have a few high value sites like OpenTable and ChowHound.  So, in addition to the national review websites, don’t overlook industry specific websites.

Keep in mind that only REAL customers should be posting.  Often computer IP addresses are checked when a review is posted so 10 reviews from the same IP address would most likely raise a flag and the posts would be removed. 

Fake reviews are often easy to spot.  Encourage customers to be specific in their reviews and write about whom they dealt with in your company and what was their specific interaction with your business. In your email, ask them to close the review with their full name and the State/City they live in.  By adding a name the post has an extra degree of credibility rather than a review being signed as “J. Smith”.

The offensive elements of an Internet Reputation Management (IRM) campaign will be proprietary to the firm that a company hire to assist them with their specific problem.  However, in effect, an Internet Reputation Management consultant will often employ highly focused SEO strategies and content publishing platforms to push these negative reviews off of page one.

If a business has not carefully reviewed what has been written about them on the Internet, they should take the time to assign that task immediately.  Then formulate a company IRM policy that addresses any immediate needs and protects your business from future attacks. Ignorance in this area of Internet Marketing can be costly.

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