Have you ever performed a search within Google, only to find a whole bunch of negative reviews about a business you’re considering working with?
It’s a bit off putting isn’t it?
It’s more than likely you might reconsider your options and choose someone else to work with.
Not a big deal as the customer, but as a business owner this can prove to be very costly – because let’s face it, the likelihood of anyone doing business with you is going to be affected if the first page of Google is full of “complaints”, “ripoffs” or “scam” related articles.
So what can you do as a business owner if you’re in this position?
Thankfully, a lot.
In this article I outline what you can do as a site owner to remove the unwanted negative reviews from the first page of Google and regain control of your “online reputation”.
Let’s get right into it.
Assessing your online reputation
The best place to start is to simply perform a few searches within Google for your brand or business name. For instance, to check for negative reviews for my own brand, I might perform a search for “SEO Point”. From there, I can see exactly what the results look like, and assess my online reputation.
Here’s how SEO Point looks at the time of writing this article.
As you can see, all appears to be okay.
Before continuing on, it’s probably worthwhile to check a few more variations of your brand name along with additional terms using search query operators in Google. Typically when you search for your own brand or business name using the example above, you’ll probably find anything worth looking for, however it’s always a good practice to dig a bit deeper by checking a few more terms.
Here are some other search phrases to try. Just swap out “your business name” of course with your own business or brand name.
- “<your business name>” + “review”
- “<your business name>” + “testimonial”
- “<your business name>” + “feedback”
- “<your business name>” + “scam”
- “<your business name>” + “complaint”
- “<your business name>” + “ripoff”
- “<your personal name>” + (the terms above)
You may also want to take a look at Google Suggest and see how people might be searching for you in Google. This will give you an idea of other terms you might have overlooked, or be unaware of.
Here are a few more tools that you might be interested in trying out. These are great to unearth complaints and negative reviews online.
- Uber Suggest – you can view all of Google’s suggest terms in one location (brand or business name + a-z type ins)
- Go Fish Digital – you can scan all the well known complaint sites for your brand or business name in one location
If you do find a negative review, you’ll need to have a good think about what to do next. I’ve outlined some recommendations below.
Don’t become emotional
Chances are, if you’ve just performed a few of the searches I suggested above, and you HAVE found a negative review – you’re going to be pretty upset and angry about it. Especially if it’s a false complaint or a completely fake review.
Rule number one is ALWAYS – keep your cool.
Before you start sending abusive emails, or calling Google with angry demands, I suggest you take a moment to calm down. I know how upsetting it can be as I’ve worked with many business owners (some in tears) over issues such as this, and there’s no denying it – it can be an extremely emotional experience.
So take my advice, before you do anything, step away from the computer, gather yourself and give yourself some time to think clearly. Otherwise you’re bound to do something silly and regret it later.
Fake reviews, scammers and unhappy customers
There are many reasons why negative reviews are published online. It’s important to be able to identify and understand each one accordingly. In my time, I’ve seen most broken down into the following 3 categories –
- Fake reviews. These are often competitors publishing nasty reviews in order to damage a competitor’s reputation online for obvious reasons
- Scammers. These are people that post negative reviews, then demand money in order to have them removed
- Unhappy customers. This one is pretty obvious. This is where angry customers have been left so upset, that they take action in an effort to voice their dissatisfaction with the company, and potentially protect others from making the same mistake.
All three can be pretty bad, (especially the scammers) however the way in which you resolve each type depends on the nature of the review itself.
What do people actually think of negative reviews in Google?
While I was publishing this article, out of interest, I wondered what people actually thought of negative reviews listed in Google, and if it would affect their behaviour in any way.
Here’s what I asked on Facebook, along with the replies I received.
What’s really interesting to note is that only one person said that they wouldn’t do business with someone if they had a negative review on the first page of Google, whilst the majority of the others said –
- they would do further research
- they would assess the “credibility” of the negative review before coming to a conclusion, and lastly…
- they would take into consideration the percentage of negative reviews as opposed to positive reviews
I found these answers interesting, especially the one that said they would almost at least “expect it”. I think it’s fair to say that negative reviews DO impact your chances of doing business online, even if it is by only a small margin.
How much is that negative review costing you?
Most business owners know that at some level, negative reviews that are positioned unfavourably within the search results can negatively impact their bottom line. The only question is, by how much?
There’s a simple equation that I use to determine the potential impact and financial loss.
Firstly, take a look at the following chart.
Image source Moz
This chart shows us the estimated click through rates based upon search result positioning. That being of course as follows –
- 1st position gets an estimated 31% of the clicks
- 2nd position gets an estimated 14% of the clicks
- 3rd position 10% of the clicks
- 4th position 7%, and so on
…right down to position 6 and lower which dwindles right off to less than 2%
We can use this data to help us calculate roughly how much traffic we’re losing to the negative review.
Firstly, we’ll want to take a look at the search volume for the offending term. That is, the search phrase that invokes the negative review.
For example sake, let’s say that we have a negative review for the term “ABC Plumbing Sydney” and the negative review we have, is in position 4.
Next, we’ll want to know how much search volume”ABC Plumbing Sydney” gets per month. Again for examples sake, let’s say it’s 1,200 searches per month.
Lastly, we will want to have a clear understanding of our customers “LTV”.
LTV stands for “life time value”. This is a rough estimate of how much customers spend when doing business with you (not just once, but on average, including repeat business)
So again using our fictitious example above, let’s say that a customer for our plumbing company “ABC Plumbing” is worth on average around $700 (LTV). (Because once customers get to know and trust us, they come back time and time again)
Okay, so now we have the following –
- Position of the negative review
- CTR %
- Search volume
- LTV of our customers
Using this data, we can now calculate roughly just how much revenue we may be losing as a result of a negative review.
- 1,200/4% = 48
- 48 X $700 = $33,600
So given the numbers above, one negative review on Google, in the 4th spot, may be costing “ABC Plumbing” over $33,600 per month.
I say “over” because it’s likely that the negative review may be performing BETTER than 4% as negative reviews tend to draw the eye due to their nature.
Be mindful that this is by no means an accurate way of determining any absolute figures, but it can at the very least, give you *some* idea of what a negative review may be costing your company.
How to regain control of your online reputation
Look there are so many things to consider when trying to regain control of your online reputation that I simply can’t cover all of them here – otherwise this blog post would be 10,000 words long. So instead, I’m going to provide you with some brief thoughts, then a solid course of action at the very end.
Here they are…
Decide if it’s worth taking any action at all
Before you do anything, have a good think about the best course of action.
- Is it really worth taking this any further?
- Is this negative review something that I want to spend months on?
- Is this negative review actually something that readers would take seriously, or is it total nonsense?
These are all questions you’ll need to ask yourself before you do anything. Sometimes it’s best to simply leave it alone, and focus on getting back to business – especially if it’s something that’s going to distract you from your work, or lead to it taking months out of your time.
Something else you might want to consider is the search volume. If the search term is minimal (<10 searches per month) it’s probably not something to worry yourself over.
On the other hand, if it is something that is going to be extremely damaging, then you’ll want to take corrective actioning, which I’ll cover below.
Request removal of the negative review
Asking to have a negative review removed is almost like asking for a hail Mary. The chances of having something removed (especially a negative review) are probably less than likely, but you never know. It may just happen, so it’s worth a shot.
Be sure to submit the removal request professionally. Don’t send an angry email full of demands and personal threats.
Contact the person directly
Sometimes negative rewiews can be written in the heat of the moment. So it may be worth your while trying to get in touch with the person that left the negative feedback and asking them politely if they would consider taking it down. Again this may be less than likely, but often you can take a real negative experience and turn it into a positive one – simply through communicating with the person directly.
Consider getting in touch with the person and saying, “Hey I saw this review you left online, could we schedule a call to have a chat about how we can resolve this matter?”
Then of course, once you do, ask them politely to take it down.
If you head over to Whirlpool Forums, you’ll see plenty of negative reviews left for all sorts of businesses. Whether it be SEO companies, Telco companies or even lawn care businesses – it seems that forum is notorious for it. I guess with such a close knit community, everyone is looking out for each other so it seems it might be a good place to ask the question, “Hey are these guys any good?”
The problem with that though is that it leaves the gate wide open for all sorts of nasty replies, and when that happens, it really can spiral out of control.
BUT, if you DO find something posted on a forum or within a public group – don’t do anything stupid. Don’t make threats or get angry at other members.
Be polite and constructive at all times and work hard towards a positive outcome.
Regaining control of your online reputation
When all else fails, and it seems there’s nothing left you can do, it’s time to consider what’s known in the industry as “reputation management”.
What is reputation management?
According to Wikipedia…
“Reputation management is the influencing and/or control of an individual’s or business’s reputation. Originally a public relations term, the advancement of internet and social media use, along with reputation management companies, have made it primarily an issue of search results.”
Reputation management in the SEO industry is quite well known, and it’s a great way to remove negative reviews from the first page of Google. By definition, SEO based reputation management works by flooding the first page of Google for a particular brand or business name using high authority web properties, such as Facebook, Youtube, Linkedin, Slideshare, Twitter and so forth. By doing so, you’re working towards “pushing” the negative review off the first page.
In other words, you’re flooding the first page with good, legitimate properties as opposed to negative reviews.
So how is this done?
There’s a great online tool called knowem that allows you to scan every single useful property on the web, and see if it’s available for use with your brand name.
Here’s how it looks.
To use it, it’s very simple. Just type in your brand or business name, then hit CHECK IT.
Knowem will then run a scan and determine which properties are still available for your brand or business name.
Here’s how it looks. You can see any properties that are taken are grey shaded – the others, highlighted with “available” beside them.
What’s great about this tool is that you can perform a search for domain names, social properties, blogging platforms and more.
Okay, so you’ve performed a few searches and found a whole heap of properties available for your brand name – what now?
From here, you will want to setup each property and optimise it for your brand or business name. So for examples sake, using the image above, I might want to setup a “SEO Point” Youtube channel, and upload some of my videos there. It’s likely that Youtube will show up on the first page of Google for my brand search, because it’s a site with a lot of power.
Essentially, you’ll want to create as many properties as it takes to fill the entire first page of Google with properties you OWN and CONTROL.
Quick tip – if you’re not sure where to start, try Googling your competitors and see what properties they have on the first page. This will help guide you.
How would I know if someone has posted a negative review?
It’s always best to know about a negative review as quickly as possible as opposed to finding it a year later, knowing that it’s cost you a lot of business. There are a number of online tools that are free to use that will help notify you of anything that pops up.
- Google alerts – This Google tool will send you email notifications directly to your inbox for search phrases and keywords you want to monitor (hint: brand name)
- Mentions – A lot like Google alerts but much more powerful
Your online reputation whilst important, really isn’t something you should lose sleep over.
Sure, keep an eye on it from time to time, but don’t “obsess” over it like I’ve seen some site owners do.
With the tools that I’ve provided here, you should be able to automate the majority of your efforts anyway.
If you’ve got something to say, or would like to add your thoughts please leave a comment below, or of course if you’ve found this useful please share it with your friends.