Ethical and Effective Reputation Management

March 25, 2016
Finding a false, misleading or damaging review online is one of a small business owner’s worst nightmares.

Finding a false, misleading or damaging review online is one of a small business owner’s worst nightmares. Reviews such as these carry a lot of weight, and can potentially cost you business, as 83 percent of consumers read online reviews before making purchase decisions. To counter bad reviews, many small business owners turn to companies that falsely claim they can “erase” such reviews, marketing it as “reputation management.” In fact, there has been a proliferation of such companies, some of which bilk business owners out of thousands of dollars on a promise they cannot deliver.   

However, there do exist a number of ethical reputation management -- the practice of attempting to shape public perception of a person or organization by influencing online information about that entity -- companies who will honestly say that erasing bad reviews, on Yelp in particular, cannot be done. Despite this, many still insist that bad reviews on Yelp, which was designed as a listing site to give consumers honest reviews of different businesses, can be fixed or abolished altogether, despite the fact that Yelp will not remove them unless they violate its terms of service.

In fact, Yelp has won several major lawsuits concerning online review removal. It has even sued two “reputation management” companies for alleged trademark violation, unfair competition and breach of contract. Furthermore, Yelp does not remove reviews for its own advertisers; therefore, advertising on Yelp will not allow you to monitor or remove negative reviews. The bottom line is only Yelp and its algorithm can decide which reviews get posted and which reviews do not.

However, there are other ways to combat negative reviews, and as a small business owner it is imperative to maintain a positive online reputation. One effective method is to commission a professionally written, newsworthy press release about your business, which has the potential to create positive exposure and dramatically change your business. Issuing a carefully crafted, positive press release can also attract more traffic to your website, not only boosting your reputation but your lead generation, as well as potentially push down any negative content.

Bad review damage control also includes promptly, yet politely, responding to the review showing your customers you value their opinion, which has the potential to also inspire the person(s) who posted the negative review to retract it or give your business a second chance. However, in order to respond to negative reviews, you must first know what people are saying about you and where they are saying it. An effective method in fighting bad reviews is to simply encourage your loyal, satisfied customers to leave Yelp reviews, while not persuading them to only leave positive reviews as Yelp adamantly discourages this tactic.

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