Another day, another brand in crisis. Whether it is Chipotle last year, United Airlines this year, or <fill in the blank> next year, there is no shortage of companies that have reputation issues to resolve. And while most aren’t as bad as dragging a concussed passenger off of a plane, even smaller issues can linger in the branded search results or company’s reviews and cause problems long-term.
Resolving online reputation management issues can be both confusing and difficult if it is your first time doing it. Because of that, I thought it would be helpful to share what some of the most common questions we receive are and how I answer them.
1. How do I respond to a negative review?
Depending on the context of the review, many business owners can cause more harm by responding to a negative review than not, namely because there are so many possible traps to fall in to when responding to an upset customer. So, rather than immediately answering, take a step back and make sure you have a strategy for responding.
Step one is assessing the review. It is very important to assess the review carefully and cautiously. Some reviewers are looking for a response right away because they legitimately need an answer to a concern which they express within their review. These reviews should be responded to right away with an answer that addresses the issue directly with a solution, if there is one.
Some reviewers are downright angry and are not looking for a resolution, but rather looking to tell other users about their horrible experience because they feel dissatisfied or personally offended by the business. Responding to these reviews in a very understanding manner is key. It is important to not fire back with a defensive response simply because you disagree with the reviewer. The review response will live forever, and will be viewed by a lot of people (not just the reviewer), so it needs to reflect positively on the business.
We recommend the following framework:
- Thank them by name for taking the time to leave feedback
- Acknowledge the specific situation (you don’t want it to seem like a generic response)
- Apologize for their negative experience
- State that what they experienced is not how the business operates
- Explain any steps you will take to ensure that nobody has that experience again
- Invite them to contact you directly as you’d like an opportunity to make it right
- Give your name and a direct phone number and/or email
Try to use your natural voice and be genuine and honest. Official-sounding PR statements just don’t work in review responses; coming off as a real human does.
2. How long will it take to fix the problem?
The answer no one wants to hear: it depends.
It truly does depend on where the problem area is, how big of an issue it is, and what the objective is.
Completely changing the Google search results does take time because there are many details that go into changing what Google sees as the ‘perfect assortment’ in the results. Google doesn’t change the search results very quickly anymore; we used to be able to completely shake up the search results in 3 months, then we had to change that to 6 months, and now it takes around 9 months to make a significant impact on Google search results. We see many incremental changes along the way, but Google is hesitant to shift away from the status quo.
For improving Yelp or Google review scores, we’ve improved scores by 2-points in a month, and we’ve also had projects extend over a year when they are particularly tricky. Every ORM project is unique, so unfortunately there is no easy answer to this question.
3. Why does Google show this negative article in the search results?
It is important to understand that Google’s algorithm tries to put together a diverse collection of search results based on the specific search query entered in the search box. If something bad is there, they aren’t singling you out and it has nothing to do with your brand personally; specific sites will show up on page one of the search results based on the information
Google gathers from the website it chooses to show, including how authoritative and credible a site is among many other indications like social shares, backlinks etc. Google is trying to satisfy every user’s search intent, which is why you will see a number of unique results appear for a search query.
For example, if someone were to type “Go Fish Digital” into the search box, they would find an array of results, some of which might include GFD’s social profiles for users who are trying to stay in touch with the brand, as well as the company website for potential clients who are looking to do business with us. You also might find a glassdoor profile, for users who are looking for a career.
Basically, Google doesn’t know the specific needs of each user, so they put together the best assortment of results to satisfy as many users as possible…. which may unfortunately include those negative articles or those negative reviews you don’t want them to see.
4. Can I remove a negative review?
Few things can bother a business owner or marketing director more than a negative review. They are just. so. frustrating. And so a common questions we get is, “Can a negative review be removed?”.
The answer is… sometimes.
Each review site has its own rules for reviews. With Yelp, the rules are very well defined over their many years of collecting online reviews. If a reviewer breaks a rule, their review can be removed. This video from my colleague Daniel Russell goes in-depth on how we go about flagging and removing reviews.
Whereas Yelp’s content guidelines are more thorough, Google Reviews are a little more wild west. Unless a review shares highly personal information (SSN, for example), the likelihood of it being taken down from your flagging is very low. Angie’s List, Glassdoor, Houzz, BBB, and others all have their own rules, so if you are worried about reviews on those platforms, it is important to understand what can and can’t be said in a review.
5. Why does it matter what people think?
It matters. If you genuinely know that your company is great, then that should be represented across your online presence. You know how they say that you only get once change to make a first impression? Well often times, your first impression will be what shows up in the search results when someone Google’s your name.
Put yourself in the customer’s shoes… if you’re choosing between many companies to work with, you do all sorts of research to find the very best organization. Although you may have a great thing going, many customers could be blinded by any negative articles or reviews you have and turn to another company, which is why it matters what people are saying about your brand online.
6. What can I do?
Many clients ask us what they can be doing to help with the process, and we absolutely love this enthusiasm and interest in helping resolve the problem. There are many things that can be done, but the most helpful action is to be continually proactive with building up your brand.
Look for opportunities constantly, whether it is doing interviews, podcasts, meetups, seminars, or events. Take the time to look for interesting events where you will have a good opportunity to represent your brand. The more you’re in the public eye, the greater chance you have to engage with new consumers (which will help improve your reputation), get recognized by publishers (which could create new content), and to get your brand involved in the conversation (which shows you care).
7. How do I change the conversation?
Many companies believe that changing the conversation about their brand is the way to go, because at the end of the day, we want to start something new, positive, and fresh for people to talk about. But have you ever thought what’s wrong with the current conversation? Instead of changing it, why not get involved with the current conversation that influencers are already having and maybe work on changing the way you involve your brand in that conversation.
Far too often, companies want to show off all of their assets, brag about what they can do, and show that they’ve improved upon something that was different before, instead of listening to what their customer really needs and wants. Asking questions and being a legitimate resource for customers is a far less pushy way to connect and engage.
Every customer is not created equal. Becoming involved with the talk around your brand will not only help the customer to express their needs but can change their perspective on your brand overall. Who wants to lead the conversation when there’s no one listening? Getting engaged in the current conversation and listening to others will set a foundation for loyal, happy customers and establish your brand’s identity on the web and in reality.