Every business is familiar with the occasional negative review, but what if there’s a pattern? A series of coordinated online attacks. Persistent efforts to leave negative reviews with the goal of damaging a business’s online reputation beyond repair.
The first question many business owners ask is—what could make a person do something like this?
They’re likely a competitor attempting to improve their own online rankings by reducing yours. Another scenario is that they’re a very sad individual who needs to create chaos to feel superior over others.
A lot of the time it’s challenging to fight this online abuse. Because of freedom of speech as a result of the First Amendment. Websites that post these reviews are also not held liable because of the Federal Communications Decency Act.
But thankfully, there are steps you can take to win this war and protect your business’s online reputation effectively.
1. Use SEO as Your Business’s First Line of Defense Online Attacks
The reason that smear campaigns and online attacks can be so harmful. They pollute what your audience sees about your business.
So if a potential customer were to Google your business. The first thing they see is a defamatory article, even if it’s false. It will put a dent in that prospect’s trust in your business.
The same is the case for your loyal customers. They, too, will have doubts.
So to repair and manage your business’s reputation, fix what they see Online Attacks. When they search your business and related its key phrases.
Any keyword is relevant to your business that shows the defamatory content about your business. You want to use the power of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to out-rank them.
Beat them at their own little online game and make their posts not only invisible Online Attacks. But also irrelevant in Google and other search engines’ eyes.
Drown out that toxicity with positive posts or even neutral web pages about your business.
This is the reason that reputable SEO companies offer business reputation management services as well. They can help you push negative web pages that are part of smear campaigns. They can’t hurt anyone but the sad person that wrote them in the first place.
2. Provide Incentives for positive reviews from loyal customers
Target your satisfied customers and iterate how simple. It is for them to write a review as it would help your business to continue to provide them with top-notch service.
You may also add this as part of your client’s support conversation. Twitter is another means to reach out to satisfied customers.
A nuanced way to garner reviews is also by providing your customers with a QR code. They can scan on their phones. This is particularly helpful for placement on business cards on which customers can just scan. It using their smartphone and land on your review page (for example, on your business’s Google My Business page.)
Online Attacks to Calls to Action (CTAs)
(CTAs) are also powerful. You can print these and/or put them up on your website. This can work in areas of your business such as receipts, web pages, and even place-holders if it’s a physical business. Feel free to get creative because you want to remind your customers to leave reviews when they are satisfied with your service as much as is politely possible.
An easy example of a CTA for a review is: Satisfied with your service today? Please leave us a review because it helps us help you even better!”
You can test different options for CTA’s with your customers and see which ones get the most responses, then stick with the one that gets you the most reviews.
One thing that many coffee shops do now teach their customer care representatives that whenever a customer says something positive about the business, ask them to put that positive comment online while they are still in the shop.
They can have the customer come behind a designated iPad or computer where they can tell the customer how to leave their comment online.
You can implement the same principle with customer service in your business online when a customer makes a positive comment in their communications that’s not already part of an official review.
Use this wave of positivity to absolutely smother and drown the negative efforts of smear campaigns in order to repair your business’s reputation online.
3. Respond and Gather Information like a Spy, Without Getting Emotional
When you see someone consistently creating content and writing reviews that are geared toward damaging your business, that’s a problem because they’re not backing down.
So it’s time to go in with your Sherlock Holmes magnifying glass and take steps to uncover the identity behind this masked online ghoul.
An obvious sign of someone who is likely a competitor trying to reduce your business rankings is when the review… doesn’t seem like the person has actually used your business.
Negative customers often make good points on which a business can understand their short-coming and improve. Smear campaign reviews, however, tend to make things up as they go.
They want a reaction from the public and you, and the worst thing you can do as a business is to give it to them.
When you come across someone like this, don’t get into a petty online fight in which you are explaining how their comments are nonsense. It only makes your business look either petty for dealing with a troll, or (worse) guilty of the troll’s accusations.
Looking guilty in this way can really put your business in hot water and make it challenging to manage and repair your online reputation afterward because your customers will get an unpleasant whiff of this argument.
When you respond to this person’s comments, be graceful. Iterate that you’re committed to providing high-quality service to all your customers. Then ask about their customer details and contact information so that you can help them navigate their pain-points.
Think of them like a zit.
The last thing you want to do is further exacerbate an existing, painful boil.
So instead, apply ointment.
Your goal with this particular person leaving disparaging remarks about you on the internet is to first try to placate them and address their concerns while also gathering information about them which will help you in case they do not let up with their abuse.
Tally a list of URLs, profiles, and any information that can be helpful in identifying and tracking this person’s online activity and identity.
If they stop trying to hurt your business’s online reputation, great, you can move on.
But if they don’t let up, it’s time to use the knowledge you’ve gathered in your time as a Business Spy.
4. Last line of defense: Legal action and its caveats
Your last line in case using SEO, positive review, and addressing the person directly has not borne fruitful results is to pursue legal action.
You have to keep in mind that this is entirely a process that can be long, complex, and making money. The laws surrounding freedom of speech are less favorable to a business than they are to online discourse.
Also, the defendant can still write negative things about your business during litigation proceedings.
While this certainly can work, it’s an uphill battle and should really only be considered as a last resort when all of your efforts to repair and manage your online reputation yourself have not been successful.
So fire up your best SEO practices, encourage your customers to leave positive reviews, and gather information to neutralize the negativity of online attacks.