Anyone can post anything about you online. They can do it easily, they can do it anonymously and they can do it for free. The search engines and social media sites do relatively little to monitor slanderous comments on their platforms. Any unhappy customer, disgruntled former employee or struggling competitor could seriously damage your public reputation just by posting a few negative comments online.
There are hundreds of online customer review sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, Urban Spoon, City Search and Merchant Circle that allow users to rate and review businesses. On these sites, users have almost complete freedom to post what they want, regardless if the claims are true or not. Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and the hundreds of other social media platforms allow users even more freedom to post negative comments about businesses and individuals.
How would you like “[your business] is a scam” or “[your restaurant] made me and my family sick” sitting at the top of search results when consumers search for you by name?
If a competitor or former employee really wanted to destroy your reputation they could post comments on thousands of blogs and online article directories. There are plenty of automation tools that allow users to post hundreds of articles at a time, thereby creating a huge negative online footprint in just a matter of minutes. They could even create an entire website dedicated to trashing your company. Good luck trying to get in touch with Google or Yahoo to have the site removed. In fact, because these posts most likely have your name attached to them in the title, they will rank amazingly well in search results, even above your own website.
Protect Your Online Reputation
So how do you protect your online reputation? If the comments are not true and you know who posted them, chances are you may be able to file a lawsuit. Check with an attorney, but you may need to prove damages as well.
Customer review sites are unlikely to remove the comments even if you ask them to, but most allow you to respond. In a very professional tone, address the comment as slanderous and point out all the other good reviews you have. The tendency is to lash out at the person who made the negative comment, but this would be a mistake. Remember, your response to negative comments is for other readers, not the original review. They want to see how you handle criticism.
If the comment is a blog post, web article or web page that shows in search results, the best you may be able to do is push the bad stuff further down the page so nobody sees them. Few people go past page three in search results so optimizing your own blog posts, articles and web pages to rank above the negative comments may be a good solution.
A big part of my consulting is managing your online reputation. There are ways to remove, hide or address all the bad stuff people are posting about you online; however, if your company really does suck, no amount of damage control is going to help.
Finally, you can always make a You Tube video explaining that a competitor or disgruntled former employee is posting negative remarks about your business online. Let viewers know that you have tried to handle the situation fair and professionally. Of course, if the claims are true and your business really does suck, no amount of damage control is going to help.