It Won’t Go Away! How to Repair Reputation Damage

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Whether you’ve gotten bad reviews or someone is out there writing negative blog posts about your company, one thing remains true: You want to prove that you’re one of the good guys. So what can you do when you’re being targeted with such awful press?

Your company’s reputation is important. And the good news is that it’s not impossible to repair your name. It takes time, effort, and a whole lot of dedication, but there is hope.

Here, we outline a few things you can do to begin the process.

1. Build positivity into your SEO efforts.

First and foremost, make sure that your company name is mentioned in every positive post. If positive reviews exist for you, make sure your company name is mentioned. (Sometimes, all this means is that you have to claim your listing on a directory site that allows reviews. If you need help with that, we suggest you read this post.) If a nice customer has written a review on your company elsewhere, make sure there is a link to your site or social media profiles. If for some reason they haven’t included it, just shoot them a nice email asking for them to help you out. This way, your name and your online presence become linked with positive words.

You can also check to see if your name is mentioned in the title tag of your pages. Do you have an “about” page that contains testimonials? Make sure that your webmaster–or whoever maintains the code portion of your site–links your company name with this page, and feature your best reviews here.

2. Set up your social media profiles to highlight your successes.

First and foremost, make sure you set up your social media profiles so that you get the most out of your SEO efforts. (Check out our guides on best practices for Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest!) Fill out your profiles completely. Choose a username that best matches your brand. Make sure a link to your site is clearly included in your profile, and use keywords that match your services when filling out your bio.

If you’ve done all of this, bravo! That’s a great start. Now make sure to update your profiles regularly and engage with fans on the sites. Promote your positivity and build a great relationship with your following, and you’ll be well on the road to fostering a community that will sing your praises–and send those negative reviews packing.

3. Try other forms of media to promote your cause.

So you’ve made sure your name is mentioned with every positive review. You’ve ensured your site is search-engine friendly and sings your praises. Your social media sites are ready to go.

And… you’re still not seeing much improvement.

Well, have you considered using alternative forms of media to promote yourself? Videos are a great way to bring attention to your company. They are also looked upon quite favorably in the search results. So why not create a series of positive videos and promote them under your company name? You could highlight some of your customers’ favorite products, conduct interviews with happy clients, or you could even put together a tutorial series. People love learning new things, and if you’re willing to put yourself out there, it casts you in a positive, helpful light!

4. Purchase a domain and promote it.

Alright, so you’ve tried all those things and you’re still feeling pretty down about the reviews you’re seeing.

Well, in this case, you could try registering a few more domains and building them out.

What do we mean by that?

Let’s say you own johnscarpetcleaning.com. But your problem is that this site is being targeted by negative reviews. You could also buy johnscarpetcleaning.net, johnscarpetcleaning.biz, etc. Why? Because when you include your company name is in the URL of your site, it helps you rank better.

Now, if you purchase these domains fresh out of the (virtual) box, you’re going to have a lot of work to do. It can take a long time for Google to recognize a new domain as reputable. But if you’re willing to put in the work over the course of a few months to a year, this can be an effective way to start pushing down those negative reviews in the results pages.

5. Respond to reviews where appropriate.

If you haven’t already, you should read up on why customer reviews are so important. If you have only one or two negative reviews and no positive ones, try asking your customers to review you. Offer an incentive for those who take the time to review you–a coupon or a discount work well. Be careful, though, not to make it look like a bribe, or this could backfire on youYou can encourage positive reviews by placing signs around your store or featuring a link prominently on your page. 

Finally, respond to reviews when it’s appropriate. If someone gives you a positive review, thank them for their time and effort. If someone leaves a negative review, try to help them out–solve the problem if you can. This shows that you care and are willing to go the extra mile for your customers.

6. Do press releases periodically.

Have you done a press release before? If not, perhaps it’s time to consider doing one.

What exactly can press releases do for you?

While they’re not going to instantly rocket your name to the top of the search results, you will be able to build more links and positive press for your website. When you destribute a press release through the proper channels, multiple sites will post it and link back to you. Rarely, a major news outlet will link to you too! But the important thing is to just get your name out there and build traffic that you can then direct to your website.

7. Try a new social media campaign and get your best fans to participate.

Have you ever participated in a contest online? It can be really fun–and it makes you feel positively about the company that’s hosting the contest.

So who’s to say you can’t do the same? In order to build some positive feelings about your products and services, you can try hosting contests, giveaways, special events. Encourage people to sign up for a newsletter or subscribe to your blog. Offer coupons, free products, or a guest spot on your next big project. Anything you can think of that will make your fans feel like they’re a part of your success.

If you don’t have the knowledge, resources, or time to pull this off, you could simply try changing up your social media campaign. Inject some humor into your daily posts. Share inspiring stories and photos. These things don’t cost any money, and they can really help improve your image.

8. Get some positive PR by going on local media.

Do you have a local newspaper, radio station, or news network that features local businesses? If so, you might want to consider reaching out to them. Many smaller towns love doing segments on local businesses and will gladly help out.

Don’t have any content you can share? Try building some positive press by volunteering or appearing at fairs or conventions. Local news teams often make appearances here, and you might just find yourself a great platform on which you can promote your wonderful services.

9. Be patient, and continue on your course.

If all else fails, you need to remind yourself that these things take a lot of time and effort. You are doing the best you can, and while it’s not a fun process, it’s something that must be done for the good of your company. Everyone gets bad reviews, but small businesses in particular often suffer the most–just a few negative reviews can dissuade local customers from choosing you over your competitors. So keep a positive outlook on things and continue to build a good presence for your company, and it will pay off eventually!

Internet Local Listings is an internet advertising company in Santa Ana, CA, serving clients across the country with the best website marketing services available in the industry. Visit us here for more information, or give us a call at (888) 770-3950 to see how we can help you be seen online.

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Should You Ask Your Customers to Take a Survey?

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It seems almost everywhere you go now, there’s someone asking you to take a survey. Go to a store, and there’s a request to take an online survey on the receipt. Visit a website, and there’s a pop-up asking you to take a survey after you finish your shopping. Call about a bill, and sure enough, you’ll be asked to take a survey at the end of the call.

If you can time it right, it might be worth it.

You’re a business owner. You need to know how you’re doing with your business. If your customers are unhappy, what can you do to remedy that? And if your customers are happy, could they be happier? The only way you’re going to find this out is by asking them directly.

According to an article at Microsoft.com, it’s definitely worth it to send out surveys. The issue is knowing when to do so. You don’t want to send out a snail-mail survey two months after the customer has visited your store or purchased your products. Depending on your type of business, it might be effective to have them take a survey while on your site; others, it might make more sense to follow up a week after a visit. You’ll have to do some research and use some common sense to determine when you’ll get the most responses.

Don’t be misleading about the time required to complete the survey.

If your company wants to ask a lot of questions, you might want to rethink your strategy. Rarely are people going to sit down and spend fifteen minutes of their time answering questions—unless there’s an incentive. Be honest about how long your survey will take, and if it’s especially demanding of customers’ time, be sure to offer a little incentive to reward them. Something like a 10% off coupon or buy one get one free. Really pore over your questions and make sure that they’re concise and relevant. Get rid of any extra fluff.

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Follow up with your customers.

Okay, so you’ve gotten your customers to take the survey. You have data (which you need to analyze—don’t just let it sit there!) and you’re feeling pretty good about the responses.

Now you have to follow up.

Following up is a rarity today. By going the extra mile to contact a customer and thank them for their honest review and time, you put yourself in front of other companies. Even if the customer wasn’t happy, asking what you could do better or offering them an apology and a request for another chance at their business can really make all the difference in the world. They will feel like you’ve truly listened to their concerns. And as a great business owner, that’s exactly what you should be doing!

The downside to surveys is that they tend to get abysmal response rates, and if they’re formatted incorrectly, are too invasive, or take too long, they may actually decrease customer satisfaction. If you feel that you have the tools and wherewithal to invest the proper effort in preparing your surveys, the responses you get could really open your eyes to your business’s strengths as well as weaknesses.

If you don’t feel that you have these skills at this time, consider hiring someone (even temporarily) who can help coach you in the feedback department. He or she can assist you in preparing a survey and learning to analyze the results.

What do you think? Should you survey your customers? Do you have suggestions for great surveys? Let us know in the comments below!

Is It Unethical to Purchase Reviews and Endorsements?

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If you’ve ever wondered where to grab dinner, which doctor to choose, or which stores carry the best kind of artisan bookends, you’ve probably done a Google search. And, depending on which results show up, you’ll see that there are at least a few local businesses with stars next to their names—the stars representing ratings and reviews.

In the past, we’ve talked about encouraging customers to leave reviews and why reviews are so important to your business. But lately, it seems there’s been a lot of discussion surrounding this topic—is it wrong to offer an incentive for reviews? Should you ever pay for reviews? Should you be able to filter your reviews so that mostly positive ones show up?

Well, in this post we’d like to clarify a few things and hopefully answer some of these questions once and for all. Of course, this is simply our take on the subject—opinions on the ethicality of these subjects definitely wavers.

The Incentive

Some people think it’s unethical to offer an incentive for a review. Just look at what happened to VIP Deals. An Amazon Marketplace seller, VIP Deals had been compensating customers when they submitted positive reviews. The incentive was a full refund for Kindle cases.

Now, a full refund may be a bit over the top. But we don’t see anything wrong with offering your customers a little extra something for participating.

Yes, offering an incentive—whether a 10% off coupon for any old review or a full refund for a positive review—can sway reviewers. Even if you don’t “have” to leave a positive review, you may feel inclined to do so to get the reward.

So we can see where the line gets a bit fuzzy. But if you want to encourage customers to leave you reviews and do so in an ethical way, simply post a sign in your store or send out emails to your subscribers and ask them politely to help you out with a review. If you really want to offer an incentive, something small like a coupon or your photo on a happy customer collage certainly can’t be construed as manipulative or misleading.

The Purchased Review

This is a pretty black-and-white issue for most people: Purchasing reviews is seen as disingenuous. Companies that offer anywhere from $5-200 to leave a positive review seem desperate at best, and completely untrustworthy at worst.

Yelp has cracked down on this, and hard. This article is two years old now, and Yelp has worked hard to improve their algorithm to uncover more problem reviews. And it’s worked—many of the reviews that were actually bogus have been hidden away in an inconspicuous spot on the page (behind a link at the very bottom of the page, where you have to click to get the rest of the reviews to even show up—and they’re printed in gray, meaning they’re not counted toward the overall rating).

But the unfortunate part of this is that sometimes these reviews are genuine, and still get flagged as “not recommended”. This means that, even if you avoid purchasing reviews, sometimes your happy customers will oblige you with a kind review, and their words won’t even end up being seen. This isn’t incredibly common, but because of the rocky history of review purchasing, it has become an unfortunate problem.

The bottom line? Don’t purchase reviews. They will be removed, you will be punished or banned from the site, and it can only result in your own reputation being harmed.

The Retaliatory Review

Some companies go as far as to have their customers leave nasty reviews on competitors’ sites, while rating their own products highly so that they appear to be the better choice.

Now, obviously we all think our products are the best. And we strive to provide the best customer experience possible. We don’t want to think that someone else out there could be stealing our potential customers.

So for some reason, unscrupulous business owners have paid people to go out and leave these exceedingly negative reviews. And guess what? Places like Amazon and Yelp have figured out how to discover whether you’ve actually purchased the product you’re reviewing or not. For example, on Amazon.com, reviews will say something like “verified purchase”. This way, a customer can easily see who has actually purchased the product and who hasn’t.

If you’ve been thinking of sending out the minions to make your competitors look bad in comparison to your awesomeness, you’d better think again. This will backfire on you.

So what’s a company to do?

According to the LA Times, very few customers write reviews. In fact, for one case study, fewer than 2% of customers wrote reviews.

It’s all in your judgment—you can offer a small incentive for customers who review you, and you can make sure that your politely-worded request is visible on your website, social media sites, and any advertising that you do—as well as in your store, if you have a storefront. There’s nothing wrong with encouraging reviews. It’s when you start paying for them, lying about your competitors, or offering incentives worth far too much money (basically, you’re paying for the reviews at this point), that you have a problem.

Don’t risk your reputation. Keep your reviews honest, and it’ll pay off.

Comments or thoughts you’d like to share? Put them in the comments below!

Back to Basics #14: How to Deal with Bad Reviews

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It happens from time to time: We all get bad reviews.

It happens to the best of us: At some point in your small business career, you’re going to get a negative review. Even if you try to make every business decision with the customer’s needs in mind, and even if you strive to ensure 100% customer satisfaction every day you’re open for business, someone will still find something to complain about. From contractors to preschools to salons, no one is immune from the dreaded bad review.

Well, that was a depressing intro. Sorry about that.

So, now that you’re feeling deflated and sad, how can we go about making sure that you’re a) prepared for the review when it arrives and b) educated with a few basic skills to help you make the best of a bad situation? In this article, we’ll talk about how you can best go about addressing a bad review. Of course, we’ll also mention a few things you should avoid at all costs–because not every review is worth responding to.

Take a cooling-off period.

When you see that bad review, your first reaction is probably going to be anger. A few thoughts will probably be running through your head: “What did I do to deserve this?” “I don’t recall anything like this happening.” “Well, this customer is clearly mistaken.” “They’re lying.” “I’m just going to ignore them.” And the list goes on.

Well, any or all of the above may be true, but unfortunately, most small businesses lack the means to prove their side of the story. So in this situation, before you sit down and type a response to the reviewer in an attempt to defend yourself, it’s best to just back away and think about what the customer has said. The reviews generally fall into two camps: The people who complain for the sake of complaining, and the people who want to offer constructive criticism.

The people who like to go online and vent about things for no real good reason are nearly impossible to appease. Respond to their complaint and they could berate you. Ignore them and they could get angry that you don’t respond at all.

On the other hand, there are always going to be reviewers who have a legitimate complaint. Maybe there was a miscommunication, and it was just an accident. Maybe one of your employees was having a bad day and it ended up affecting their work. Either way, it’s your job to consider what the reviewer has said before jumping to conclusions

Most importantly, it’s vital that you be able to admit that maybe you really did make a mistake, if there was indeed a mistake made.

Then, once you’ve calmed down and evaluated the situation, you’ll be ready to deal with the bad review in a professional manner.

Determine whether a response is needed.

As mentioned above, some cases will call for a response, while others are best left untouched. Situations where you will just want to ignore a response would be:

  • If the reviewer is using inflammatory language or just trying to pick a fight
  • If the reviewer is ranting about something that doesn’t have anything to do with your services
  • If someone is leaving repeated reviews in an attempt to flood your page with negative comments

While most companies make every effort to respond to each review, sometimes dealing with the very angry or hostile reviewers can end up making the experience worse. Knowing how to identify these types of reviewers is a great skill for your company to develop.

In other situations, you’ll want to respond to your negative review. Doing so requires you to have professional language and a legitimate apology. Don’t just make excuses for the mistake. Acknowledge that this person is trying to constructively help you with your business—they’re hoping that by leaving their review, you can see where you might be falling short of good customer service. Then you have a chance to win back business or, at the very least, to show customers how much you care.

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Respond in a timely manner.

There are instances in which businesses take too long to respond to a review. This can actually make a company look bad—like they can’t be bothered to address the concerns of a customer. It’s best to respond within a week of the initial comment, so check the popular review sites regularly and make sure that you’re following up with your customers. 

Next, write a draft of your review. If the review was written recently and you’ve taken the time to cool off before you reply, it’s still best to compose a draft. Have a friend or someone you trust read it through and make sure it doesn’t come off as passive-aggressive or inflammatory.

Write a real apology if needed.

There have been a number of articles written on flimsy apologies vs legitimate ones. The intricacies of constructing a PR-friendly, yet personalized apology and follow-up promise to improve is beyond the scope of this article. However, the following tips should prove useful: 

  • Don’t make excuses. Treat the customer with respect and dignity. Offering an impersonal and lazy excuse like “well the cashier was new” or “it was rainy that day and some people couldn’t make it in to work” is not going to cut it.
  • Explicitly state that you are sorry for the inconvenience you have caused. Not the inconvenience you may have caused, or for the customer’s feelings. (i.e., “I’m sorry you feel this way” or “I’m sorry if we offended you.” The customer is telling you exactly how they feel. You need to apologize for the mistakes made on your end, not for how the customer feels.)
  • Follow up with something to make it up to the customer. Whether that’s a 10% off coupon, a free meal, or a complimentary service from the owner, any sort of offer to fix the problem will be appreciated. An apology needs to be followed up with the intent or promise to improve, or the customer will find it empty or phony.
  • If the customer doesn’t accept your apology, move on. Don’t argue. It will hurt that they still don’t want to visit your business. But you can’t please everyone—and arguing or begging will just make you look bad.

Finally…

Don’t send your replies in a private message. Post these apologies publicly. People will see that you took the time to respond and it will only reflect well on you!

See more information on how you shouldn’t respond to negative comments here: The Wrong Way to Respond to Comments

Encourage more positive reviews. As we discussed in a previous article, it’s always a good idea to encourage positive customer reviews. There is a difference between begging for a review or being too aggressive in your requests vs posting a friendly reminder that you need customer reviews to help grow your business. You can offer an incentive for people who participate and generate more good talk about your company! 

Can you think of anything we missed? Let us know in the comments!