It’s the ultimate nightmare scenario for ever small business owner. You’ve worked hard to build a niche for your brand, only to go online and find a negative review. The worst part is that sometimes these reviews aren’t even accurate. Unfortunately, when it comes to these malicious rankings, as well as honest critiques of your company, you can’t simply wave a magic wand and watch it all disappear. To help you learn how to properly handle the good, the bad, and the ugly of online business reviews, here’s what you need to know about every facet of the process.
You Can’t Pick and Choose Your Reviews
Before talking about anything else, it’s important to understand that you can’t always control online reviews. As Jacqueline Taylor of the Houston Chronicle notes, you’ll never please every customer, so it’s important to not fly off the handle when you see a bad review. Even if you have the ability to control these negative responses, such as in the comments section of your company’s blog, deleting the offerings you don’t agree with is a quick way to build a bad reputation with a digital audience that doesn’t let anything slip by its notice.
Paid Review Management Is Even More Dangerous
As for managing your reputation via paid services, the appeal of such shady tactics can never truly outweigh the ramifications of being caught red-handed. Julie Bort of Business Insider helps illuminate this concept by explaining how this process works, and what happens to brands that travel down this path. First off, if you’re not familiar with the sleazier side of paid review management, this practice essentially revolves around gaming the search ranking system via fake reviews, websites, and even Wikipedia entries. While these tactics can fool Google, Bing, and the other search engine leaders for a short time, once these tech giants find out, you can expect harsh ranking and SEO penalties that tank your brand’s online visibility.
What to Do If the Review Is Factually Incorrect
So what exactly can you do if manipulating the system, either via your own devices or with the help of a black-hat operation, is off limits? To start, you’ll need to spend some time focusing on the reviews that transcend actual negative consumer experiences and encroach into the territory of being factually incorrect. Ivan Ristic of Entrepreneur magazine points out that if you have concrete evidence that disproves or dispels these malicious comments, connecting with the operator of the site, presenting your case, and requesting its removal or retraction is completely in order. It might not be a completely foolproof plan, but considering how tough it can be to erase bad reviews, it’s the best option you have.
As for the reviews that you might not agree with, but actually come from disgruntled customers, Yelp’s Support Center offers up some advice for connecting with these individuals in an appropriate manner. Before letting your emotions get the best of you, remember that these customers are probably just Average Joes who simply didn’t enjoy your products or services. While this is unfortunate, it’s not the end of the world. Your best bet at smoothing things over is taking the time to respond to as many comments as possible and thanking them for their feedback.
In some cases, this can promote a healthy, vibrant discussion that sheds new light on your brand for future customers who have come to review sites to learn a little more about your place of business. While there might still be a blemish here and there on your digital appearance, focusing on responding properly and politely to these negative incidents is still your best bet by a considerable margin.