Fighting Review-Bombing Across Platforms

Interacting with review sites is a fact of life for any consumer-facing business. Review sites are how customers decide where they’ll eat dinner, what shop they’ll visit, and what experience they’ll try. Even if your business doesn’t have a website (although it should), you will probably still have a page on several review sites – whether you created it or not. Gone are the days when professional food and entertainment reviewers had a monopoly on taste – these sites have taken that power for themselves through crowdsourcing opinion.

Online Reputation

It can be scary to know that your online reputation is inextricably linked to the opinions of strangers. It’s easy to imagine a situation in which someone holds an unreasonable grudge against your business and goes on an online agitation campaign to “review-bomb” you. Whether an isolated fluke bad experience or an accusation against an employee that has nothing to do with the business, it doesn’t take much to incite the mob.

We deal with it regularly – aggrieved parties usually aren’t interested in apologies or explanations; they just want to take revenge for a perceived slight, and they’re not very responsive to new information. In some cases, the majority of negative reviewers that result from such a scenario have never interacted with your business – they’re just following the herd. Keep in mind that it costs these people nothing except a few seconds to leave a bad review, but it can cost your business much more.

Thankfully, you can mitigate the effects of such negative attention with a sound internal review site policy. Here are some tips to guard against and recover from review-bombing.

Build a Strong Foundation

It’s harder to tear down a strong reputation than a weak one, so the better you manage your business’s online presence the more resilient you’ll be to negative reviews. This process starts with controlling where and how your business appears online, to the extent possible.

Get Google

Start by getting a Google My Business (GMB) account. It confers a ton of benefits, starting with SEO – Google likes its own products, after all. Your GMB profile is the first thing people see when they google you, so stock it with information. Your location, phone number, hours, website, menu – fill in all the details and it will function as a one-stop shop for people looking into your business. In addition, it’s where people will review you.

While you’re creating your Google presence, get an AdWords account too. You don’t even have to purchase any ads – the point is to get access to Google’s support services. If you’re having a problem with reviews, call your ad account’s support number and ask to be transferred to GMB support. They’ll do it, no questions asked, and you’ll be able to talk to a real person about your problem.

Because Google reviews appear in search results, they are the most important reviews to monitor. Before anything bad happens, build that five-star reputation! Ask customers, whether verbally or though signs and discounts, to support you by reviewing you. Respond individually to reviewers, thanking those who rate you highly and sincerely reaching out to those who don’t. Goodwill has inertia, just like bad faith, so make it work for you! The better your rating and the more reviews you have, the harder it will be for people to bring it down.

Bad Reviews – What to Do?

If you’re experiencing a flood of unfounded negative reviews, report them all. Google’s policies are clear; if the review indicates that the reviewer didn’t actually have an experience at your business, or that it’s just there to harass or demean, they will remove it. To expedite the process, call Google support and tell them about your issue. It’ll draw their attention to the situation and may result in quicker removal, especially for the more egregious reviews. One unfortunate caveat, however: Google will not remove one-star reviews with no text, as they cannot ascertain whether the person had an authentic experience, unless hundreds appear in response to some article or incident.

What About Other Sites?

We haven’t mentioned Yelp, TripAdvisor, or other platforms yet, and there’s a reason for that: Google is far more important. Yelp is the most prominent alternate site, but you’re better served by staying away from them. Although they deny it, Yelp has strong pay-for-play elements and heavily favors advertisers when it comes to support and search results. If you don’t have a Yelp profile for your business, keep it that way – you can’t leave nasty reviews on a nonexistent page! By limiting the number of places people can review-bomb you, while getting maximum value from the sites where you do have a presence, you give yourself more control.

If you’re a retail business, you probably have a Facebook page and therefore another place where people can recommend you – or not. Thankfully, the relevant steps for Facebook are similar to those for Google; make an ad account, report harassment, get in touch, and stay vigilant.

Weather the Storm

Because some reviews slip through the cracks in Google’s (or Facebook’s) review policies, a review-bombing incident will likely negatively impact your overall rating. The steps outlined above will mitigate that effect, but can’t prevent it entirely; unfortunately, the online mob has considerable power. The best thing you can do after the storm has passed is redouble your efforts to get real customers to review you positively. If the incident in question was clearly not your fault, you may be surprised by the level of support your loyal customers will show.

Review sites are the ultimate two-edged sword online. They can showcase your excellence to the world, but also be a source of pain if your profile is targeted with malicious intent. Controlling your presence, staying vigilant, and promoting positive reviews will help harden you against review-bombing, as well as making your business more attractive and accessible.

To learn about how Tucker/Hall can help you fight review-bombing and other online crises, contact Solomon Howard at showard@tuckerhall.com or 813.28.0652 x1126.

6 Reasons Claiming Your Google Business Listing is 100% Necessary

Business spend a lot of time optimizing their websites for Google. But there’s much more to Google than than a search platform and online directory. Through “Google My Business”, Google offers businesses several tools to better reach and stay engaged with their consumers. Google My Business is a directory of any and all businesses, with contact information, reviews, and links to social channels. These features can help both customers and businesses alike.

If you’re new to Google My Business, this is what you need to know about the platform:

Customers can contact you faster. Google Business accounts allow you to add a phone number, address, and website. It allows consumers to contact you directly rather than searching through your website for the information. This helps especially on mobile devices if customers want directions to your store or a number to call and ask questions.

Avoid false information about your company. Anyone can claim a Google Business account, whether or not they are a member of the company. While this is rare, it’s possible, especially if another business has a similar name to yours. Claiming the Google My Business account name for your business under a generic company email will protect you from someone else taking your name.

Increase visibility of business reviews. Consumers usually read reviews on a product or service before making a purchase. If they’re trying to make a quick decision (such as which restaurant or hair salon to go to in an hour), they would prefer to compare reviews on Google rather than searching individual websites. Creating a Google My Business account allows customers to read and give public feedback on their experiences with your company.

Find out who’s searching for you. Google My Business has an Insights section, which gives you stats on your visibility, engagement and audience. Much like Facebook’s Insights, Google allows you to compare who is visiting your page most often, and what terms they search to find your business. Google Insights can better prepare you to create an AdWords campaign.

Connect your Google Account to AdWords. To create AdWords campaigns, you have to have a Google My Business account. AdWords can help you increase visibility in the search engine, and allows you to collect additional data on your target market. AdWords is the most popular pay-per-click advertising platform, and can be a highly effective form of paid digital marketing.

Be seen at the top of Google searches. Google My Business listings appear above organic search results for local searches. One third of google searches are for local businesses, and 50 percent of those who search visit a store that same day. You can rank at the top of local results by setting up your Google My Business account in just ten minutes.

To learn more about creating a Google My Business and utilizing it for digital marketing, visit the Tucker/Hall Resource Center.

The Most Important Element of ORM Most Companies Don’t Get

Public relations professionals have worked to protect their clients’ reputations for more than a century. The basic concepts of how to do this have remained relatively consistent, but the methods have changed over the years.

Case in point: Online and social media.

Back before the advent of the Internet and social media, a story critical of your company in the morning paper or on the local news might be relatively short lived. But in today’s environment, that negative story lives on forever online. Add in online reviews, social media sites, and digital forums — and your reputation can now really take a substantial hit.

In this day and age, you need a good online reputation management (ORM) strategy.

It’s important to remember that the purpose of ORM strategy isn’t just about projecting a positive image for your company, it’s also about understanding the negative things being said about your company so you can address issues quickly.

Make no mistake: Customers are in control these days. With a smartphone or a laptop, they can share information critical about your business with just a few clicks and keystrokes. One of the best ORM practices you can adopt is to respond to every online review. If someone gives you a poor review, apologize to the customer and then find out what went wrong and how you can fix it. Customers will appreciate a response, because it shows you care about their opinion. If you treat every online reviewer with respect, you can retain more customers, and strengthen your reputation with potential customers.

This same principle applies to bad reports on news or blog sites. If you don’t respond or participate in the conversation, your side will never be presented. You should take a proactive approach, and address the issues that are raised. In addition, you should always be creating new, compelling content that promotes your business. This content can be blog posts, new sections to your website, social media posts, videos, etc.

Understanding all of this is easy, but sticking to it is hard. When you’re faced with direct criticism of your company, it’s tempting to ignore it. But it’s important to engage in the conversation – even when it’s difficult – to protect your long-term reputation.

For more information on ORM strategies and concepts, talk to us.

What is Online Reputation Management and Why Do You Need It?

Twenty years ago, if something bad happened to you – the loss of a job, a personal legal issue, or a DUI – it was entirely possible that those bad things would remain hidden from public view. But now, thanks to the Internet, all of these bad things can be found with just a few keystrokes.

Just one small negative item can harm your online reputation for years. Even if the news is irrelevant now, people can still access it with a quick Google search. And with the aid of social media, anyone can have access to information about your personal life without your permission. To prevent search engines from displaying incriminating or negative personal information about you or your company, you need an online reputation management (ORM) campaign.

WHAT IS ORM?

Online reputation management is the process of replacing negative or unwanted content in the search engine results with positive or neutral content. ORM campaigns can be useful for many different circumstances, including bad business reviews, embarrassing photos, negative links about you or your company, and unfair media coverage.

ORM specialists promote content that a client wants the public to see. Items such as their professional history, positive reviews or news articles about their business, or a personal or business blog. Clients often come to an ORM specialist with specific links or content they do not want to be seen. Then the specialist will develop a plan to replace those high-ranking links with other materials.

WHY DO YOU NEED IT?

You may think, “It’s just one bad review. How much damage can it do?” But you should never underestimate how easily someone’s reputation can deteriorate when something bad about them is posted online. One negative review or article can be more powerful than a hundred positive pages. People gain authority simply by providing a “third party perspective.” You don’t know what their motives or intentions are.

Below are four main reasons you should actively manage your online reputation:

  • People are researching you right now. Whether a customer is looking at reviews of your company, or an employer is searching your social profiles, eyes are on you. You want to make sure that whatever they find is truthful.
  • First impressions are hard to change. Once someone reads a poor article or review about you, it will be very difficult to replace that impression with a positive one. It’s better to have their first impression be one that is positive.
  • A positive reputation can increase sales, clients, or employer prospects. If a negative reputation ruins job prospects and potential sales, a positive reputation can make it easier for you to succeed.
  • It’s easier (and less expensive) to build a good reputation rather than repairing a bad one. If you start producing positive content on your own, and monitor your online reputation for threats, it will be easier to manage than trying to fix it in a crisis. Talk to a professional early, and you’ll be able to save time and money for your business.

You can jumpstart an ORM campaign by setting up Google Alert for your name or your company name, and by updating your social media profiles and website. If you’re concerned about a specific piece of content that is already published, it may help to talk to an ORM specialist at Tucker/Hall.