The digital marketing landscape has afforded lots of luxuries to the average small business owner in their battle with the big guys for market share and visibility among consumers.
With the onset of social media, email marketing and SEO management, small businesses are able to tap large channels of consumers only dreamt of 20 years ago with even meager budgets. These channels offer a real opportunity to entrepreneurs to get their brands before targeted audiences primed to make a purchase.
But with all of the digital goodness out there for small (and large) business owners these days also comes some of the biting stings of online forums used by consumers to target businesses with which they have a particular bone to pick.
Sites like Yelp and Rip Off Report offer consumers with a taste for blood a chance to materially hurt your business and possibly take it out entirely, a chance that also wasn’t there 20 years ago. So with new avenues for growth come new potential hazards. Such is the life of a small business owner. Remedies to the hazards of negative online reviews and complaints vary.
For the slanderous, of course there are legal remedies. Sites like Ripoff Report or Yelp may be forced to pull down negative remarks about your business if a judge deems them erroneous and malicious. But legal action may prove too costly and still the harm is done by the time a judgement by a court is rendered.
New customers often Google a brand to find out more about the business, and some of the review sites rank higher in a search for a business brand than the brand’s site. So we’ve laid out 3 key strategies for combating negative online reviews businesses should always be aware of and ready to employ:
1) Be Pre-emotive: For some small business owners the threat of harm from a negative online review or complaint has no real potency until it happens. Be proactive and pre-emotive by providing service knowing that each interaction can either lead to a complaint or a testimonial. Doing this ensure no unnecessary acrimony is gets in the way a of a customer or client experience and set you up for a potential online review that sings your brand’s praises. With a little encouragement, the latter can be generated without great difficulty.
2) Don’t Ignore The Negativity: Probably one of the worst things a brand can do when they receive negative feedback online is to not address it. First of all, if a customer or client feels that they are not being heard, taking to the online forums can quickly become a retaliatory means of venting frustration. Address each complaint as it comes in and go above and beyond to satisfy. That way people will feel less need to vent online and perhaps even appreciative that your addressed their concerns.
Of course, some customers live for complaining online. They see it as their moment to shine. So go to sites like Yelp to put forth a response that acknowledges any mistakes made but also all attempts to make those right with the customer.
It shows responsibility and professionalism. People respect that and can often be quite forgiving if they know you approach your work conscientiously.
For complaint sites like Ripoff Report, never respond to the complaint on the site itself, it actually helps the site to rank above yours when you add new content. Instead create your own forum, perhaps a blog post to discuss the situation that led to that online review. Never use the name of the site it was posted on. Only refer to the incident and the client name as listed in the online complaint and address each and every point made so that customers can get your side of the story and perhaps have a chance to develop an objective opinion.
A the end of the day, addressing online complaints isn’t helping your business, so being pre-emptive is vital, but these things do happen and when they do, it’s important that you don’t give the impression that you’re hiding from them hoping they just go away because most of the time, they don’t.
3) Push Back: Online review forums tend to be very well traversed, generating lots of clicks in Google search results. Because of that they tend to be SEO powerhouses. It’s tough to push them back to page two or three where fewer people will see them. But it can be done. Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook have a bit of SEO potency themselves and can easily be harnessed to create good citations that show up online for searches for your brand and outrank the toxic reviews. Create social identities for your business and post to them 2-4 times daily. The activity will help them rise above sites like Yelp and relegate those bad reviews to the Siberia that is known as Page 2.
Post some of those testimonials from your pre-emptive efforts every now and again to show you’ve got some love out there and you’ll get ahead of the negative chatter as it grows old and (hopefully) dated day after day.
Sites like Tumble, Instagram and LinkedIn are also great for this effort. The more the merrier when it comes to driving down negative online reviews.
In addition, any other positive online citation for your business you can help rise in the rankings is another listing that will drive down that complaint, linking out to those from your Website give them credibility in Google’s eyes when it comes to your brand so link away.
Press release efforts also help a great deal and you can generate positive online editorial that you can link out to (from your website and social outlets). Giving that editorial a boost will help move it up the rankings above any negative online posts.
If you would like assistance recovering from a negative online reputation or want to halt the damage negative online reviews can have on your brand, give our digital visibility specialists a call at 312.600.5155. We can help curtail the downswing in your online reputation and build your brand’s credibility online.