By Dan DelMain
Online reviews can be gold for small businesses. People use the internet to research everything from doctors to restaurants to auto shops. Seeing five stars next to your company name can convince someone to call you.
But the opposite is also true. One bad review in a sea of good ones can make a potential customer hesitate. And if a negative review is the only review you have, you’re definitely in trouble.
So what should you do if your business gets a bad online review? Or what if there’s a damaging website slandering you, or a photo that could harm your company? In this post, I’ll explain how to prevent all those from ruining your reputation and costing you business.
Problem: A Bad Online Review
First, it’s impossible to please everyone. Even when you do your best, some people will still complain -- or maybe they have a personal grudge, or an issue with your entire industry. You may want to yell, “Do I show up at your work and criticize YOU?!” But try not to take a negative review personally. If there’s some truth to it, see it as a chance to improve. If not, shake it off and move on.
For example, say you’re a lawyer. A disgruntled client posts a one-star review to your Yelp profile. You either want to get that bad review removed, or get lots of glowing reviews to push that bad review down the page. Here’s how.
Get More Reviews
Ask your happy customers to review you on whatever site had the bad review (Google+? Yelp? Citysearch?). Getting positive reviews will eventually push that negative review out of sight and off the first page of review results, which is what you want. (This is also a best practice even if you don’t have any bad reviews yet.)
To figure out who to ask for a review, go through your email inbox. Who is a vendor, colleague, or client? All those people could review you. What about someone you know in the industry? If you’re currently working with someone, ask for a review during the final walk-through or last stage of the project.
Here is a step-by-step guide to writing reviews that you can use to send clients. You can’t edit it, so create your own Google document and copy and paste this in, then change the links so they’re your online profiles. Then send it to anyone you’d like a review from, and it will walk them through the process.
If Google+ is the site you want the review on, see if the person already has a presence on Google+. (If they have an email address ending in @gmail.com, they definitely do.) If they’re older or technologically challenged, walk them through the process of posting the review. If they try on their own and it’s too hard, they’ll just give up.
To encourage someone to write a review for you, write a review for them first, if they’re a vendor or another business. You can also give clients a small gift card to Starbucks or the like when you’re saying goodbye and ask them to review you online.
Reply to the Review
Take the high road and respond to the negative review with empathy and professionalism. Offer to make things right. Then potential customers reading this bad review will respect you (and maybe even call into question how accurate the review was). The goal is to get the last word.
Worst-case scenario: Your response might enrage the original reviewer, who might write a follow-up review. Then it’s a lose-lose situation for you, and it’s best not to respond.
Get the Bad Review Removed
It’s a long shot, but you can call a representative at the review site and ask them to remove the offending review. We actually had success with this method not too long ago. A disgruntled person posted a negative Google+ review about one of our clients. This person was unhappy with the entire industry and had never even worked with our client. We discovered that she posted the same exact review for another local company in the industry. Here’s how we got the review removed.
We contacted a Google Places representative. (Here’s the URL where you can enter your phone number and they’ll call you back.) The rep read the review out loud and said he didn’t think there was anything wrong with it.
We respectfully disagreed and asked him to escalate it to his supervisor.
His supervisor called us back a few days later. We explained why we thought the review was slanderous (it made our client look bad for reasons completely unrelated to their actual work). He actually agreed!
He told us the review would disappear in 24 to 48 hours. So within five business days of us initially contacting them, the bad review was gone. Success!
Now, getting a review removed is pretty rare. You can definitely contact the review site, but most times they’ll say no. A more sure-fire tactic is getting those positive reviews to drown out the lone negative ones.
Problem: A Damaging Website
It’s wise to Google your business name every so often, just to see what pops up when potential customers search for you.
Hopefully nothing will be surprising, but sometimes you get a nasty shock if someone has written a blog post or set up a site smearing you. Maybe the site is bad-mouthing your company, or maybe it’s a personal attack. In any case, it’s damaging to your reputation, and you don’t want potential customers to see it.
Your goal is to push that link out of the top 10 search results -- the first page of Google -- when someone searches for your company name. To do that, you’ll need to optimize your existing online presences (website, social media profiles, etc.) so they show up instead. You may also wish to create new online presences to crowd out the negative site.
What to Do on Your Site (On-Site Optimization)
There are several places on your site where you want to put your business name. That’ll help your site show up higher in Google results. Here’s your checklist:
Make sure all meta titles for your website pages have your business name in them. Your meta title is what shows up for that page title in search engine results. For example, our homepage meta title is “DelMain Analytics - A Digital Marketing Agency.” Here’s how to change meta tags and titles in Wordpress.
Do the same thing for meta descriptions (make sure your business name is in there). For example, our homepage meta description is “DelMain Analytics specializes in SEO, Local SEO, Paid Advertising, Social Media and Conversion Optimization. Let’s Talk.”
Put your company name in H1 (header 1) tags. Each page on your site will only have one H1 tag, which is the page title. It’s part of the HTML. For example, our H1 tag for our contact page is “Contact Us | DelMain Analytics.”
Use your company name in the text on site pages and in blog posts. An easy way to do this is to say things like, “We here at Company Name try hard to…” or “One thing we’ve found here at Company Name is…” rather than just saying “we” and “us.”
Also put it in your image file names and alt text. For example, if you have a photo of your storefront on your site, don’t use a file name like “store.jpg.” Get your company name in there. For example, we might use “delmain-analytics-office-building.jpg.”
What to Do on Other Sites (Off-Site Optimization)
You can also take steps on other sites that will help knock the negative site out of the top 10 results. Here’s what to do.
Beef up your social media profiles. Claim your business listing or create a new account. Then post regularly. Here are the big ones:
Set up a business listing for your company on various online directories. Here are the main ones:
There you go -- now you have up to 10 new URLs for your business that could potentially push down that negative site. You can’t just create them and forget about them, though (at least not the social media ones). Update them regularly, because Google likes that.
Problem: A Damaging Image
Sometimes what you find when you search for your company isn’t a damaging site; it’s a damaging photo. Like the previous section, your goal is to optimize other images enough that they push down the bad image, knocking it off of the top image results.
What to Do on Your Site (On-Site Image Optimization)
I’ll walk you through 5 key steps to getting your images to show up when people search for your company.
1. Log into Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools. Look at what words and phrases people use in their search query before clicking on your site. (Here’s how.) Pay most attention to phrases that include your company name.
2. Rename all your images on your site so they include your company name when appropriate. (Depending on your site, this might take a while, but get you the best results.) Use slight variations, but mainly stick to the terms that result in the troublesome image in Google Images. Also change each image’s alt text so it matches its new file name, because matching file names and alt text make images rank higher in search results.
example: <img src=”http://delmainanalytics.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/towne-storage-building.jpg” alt=”towne storage building” />
- Make sure your new file name and alt text describe the image and aren’t just keyword stuffing. The file name “delmain-analytics-office-building.jpg” is OK; “delmain-analytics-portland-digital-marketing.jpg” is probably not.
- Use hyphens between words, not underscores or plus signs.
- Keep the new file names and alt text under 150 characters.
- Properly set the image width and height attributes, which improves user experience and makes the page load faster.
3. Compress your images so the file size is as small as possible. Below 70 kb is ideal. This improves page load times as well as affects which images Google shows in search results.
If you’re using Photoshop, select “Save for web and devices,” not print quality. The best file type to use is .jpg, but .png will suffice.
4. Make sure all these re-optimized, resized images are included in your sitemap. We recommend creating a separate sitemap for images, but you can also include them in the existing sitemap. Then submit your sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools (located under Optimization > Sitemaps). Here’s how.
What to Do on Other Sites (Off-Site Image Optimization)
You know how earlier I told you a way to bump a bad site out of search results was to create social media profiles for your business? Well, the same thing works for images. Here’s how to upload a bunch of images to your profiles, ideally crowding out the offending photo.
Sign into Google if you have a Google or Gmail account, or create a business account here.
Check if your business is already in there by using your business phone number. If it already exists, edit your address and other information so it’s correct. If there’s no profile for your business, create a new one. If there are multiple pages for your business, delete the extras, or mark old locations as “Closed.”
Upload tons of images to your business profile (after optimizing them for file names and alt text, of course -- see above).
Create albums to keep photos organized
Uploading images won’t automatically share them. Use the Share button in the top right to share a different image every day or every other day.
Add images that already show up high in Google Image search results for your business -- this will make them stronger
Create profiles on sites that are feeding images to Google Image search results, such as Yelp, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
Set up a Pinterest business page.
Create several boards, like “Employees,” “Logos,” “Projects,” “Behind the Scenes in the Office,” and more.
Give proper title and full description to each image.
Make sure to put a link in the description which links back to the image on the site (or another site).
So there you have it. How to crowd out a bad review, troubling website, or incriminating picture online. If you still have questions, ask me in the comments. Or if this sounds too time-consuming and you need help managing your company’s reputation, let me help.
Dan DelMain has a history of helping businesses realize their potential through online marketing. Before developing DelMain Analytics, Dan DelMain managed the marketing department for an e-commerce company. He left that company to form DelMain Analytics in 2009, where he could share his digital marketing talents with multiple businesses. A graduate of University of San Francisco with a degree in International Business, Dan enjoys being active indoors and outdoors, traveling abroad and playing bagpipes.