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In the digital age, maintaining a positive online reputation is crucial for businesses, as customer reviews on the internet heavily influence brand perception and purchasing decisions. This article delves into effective strategies for managing both legitimate and fake online reviews, offering insights into crisis management and proactive approaches to uphold and enhance your brand’s reputation in the virtual world.

One of the biggest challenges businesses face is protecting their online reputation. Now that virtually everyone can access the internet from the convenience of their mobile device, many consumers use online reviews to share their experiences or inform their purchasing decisions. As such, many businesses are looking for new online reputation management methods to build a positive online reputation.

A strategic narrative is one of the most important tools a brand needs to survive challenges to its online reputation. A strategic narrative defines the brand’s identity, values and purpose, which should drive every interaction the brand has with its customers. If a business’s online presence and interactions with its customers don’t align with this narrative, it could harm the company’s online reputation.

How online reviews affect your brand reputation

Reviews are extremely powerful to a brand’s online image in both directions. Positive reviews create word-of-mouth recommendations that could attract new customers. On the other hand, bad online reviews can scare customers away — and even those who aren’t scared away could view your brand negatively.

However, while negative reviews are just as critical as positive content to a business, illegitimate negative reviews can be used in an attempt to destroy a business’s positive reputation. These fake reviews, whether created by bots or a party breaking the review platform’s terms of service (for instance, previous employees or a competitor), can disproportionately negatively impact the brand’s reputation if left unchecked.

Related: Protecting Your Online Reputation: How to Remove a Webpage

How to remove fake reviews to build a good online reputation

Thankfully, most online review sites realize the unfair negative consequences of these fake reviews and allow businesses to flag and remove illegitimate reviews. As a business owner, platforms like Google and Trustpilot let you log in to your admin panel and report the review as breaking the platform’s terms of service.

Generally speaking, these platforms all work similarly and are good about removing illegitimate reviews. For Google, it may take a few reports as different moderators may come to different conclusions about the legitimacy of the review. Trustpilot has premium support — sometimes even going so far as to track the IP address associated with the review to see if it is the registered address of a competitor. Employee review services like Glassdoor are an exception, where it can be much harder to get reviews removed because of the nature of these sites.

While these steps are practical for illegitimate review management, they are not advisable for legitimate reviews. Even if you manage to get a legitimate review removed from a site successfully, that will leave the customer even more angry and likely to take action against your reputation, as you will not be seen as trustworthy. Instead, when facing legitimate negative reviews, respond to them in an ethical and well-thought-out way.

Related: Creating A Review Response Strategy

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How to address legitimate negative online reviews to manage your reputation

All reputation management firms will tell you the same thing when dealing with legitimate negative reviews: having a crisis management strategy in place is essential. Although online content might not seem like a major crisis, it can become uncontrollable if you don’t know how to handle it. If you don’t respond appropriately, you could escalate and worsen the situation, ruining your online brand image.

Remember, with negative reviews, you’re dealing with someone who is already unhappy with your company, so it is crucial to respond quickly to remedy the situation. Ideally, you can help the customer reach a resolution encouraging them to delete or at least adjust their review upwards. The first step in dealing with a legitimate negative review is to identify the root cause of the issue. If the reviewer left their name or contact info on their profile or in their review, find their order or account with you and identify what went wrong.

Sometimes, the reviews you receive will be anonymous. In this case, your best option is to reply with a point of contact to reach out to so that they can provide more details. It’s a good idea to apologize that they feel negatively but not admit fault — you are still unsure of the details.

Once you have identified the party who left the negative review, try to remedy the solution. Generally, this means giving them a chance to improve their experience. For service-based companies, an ideal resolution might be a free month of your service or reassigning the customer to a different team, depending on the issue they experienced. For restaurants, the best course of action is probably inviting them back to have another meal on the house.

Related: How to Ask for Reviews (With Examples!)

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How to proactively approach online reputation management
The best way to deal with negative reviews is to prevent them proactively. Of course, you won’t be able to satisfy every customer, but not every unhappy customer will leave a bad review. Strategies like transparent communication and authenticity across platforms can help prevent unhappy customers from becoming so disgruntled that they write negative reviews.

Furthermore, you should conduct online reputation monitoring for any brand mentions. There are specialized software business leaders can use to monitor mentions of their company’s name online. However, the “DIY” method of social listening — using search engines and setting Google or social media alerts with the name as the keyword to flag relevant search results — is also an effective way of being notified when a customer has said something about the business. These alerts can allow you to respond to negative comments about your company promptly.

Although it’s not always possible to remove negative online reviews, other tried and true methods exist for repairing and restoring your business’s online reputation through effective crisis management. You can gradually rebuild trust and improve your digital footprint by actively engaging with your audience, implementing constructive feedback, and showcasing your commitment to customer satisfaction. Remember, every challenge is an opportunity to demonstrate your dedication to excellence and to turn a negative situation into a positive outcome for your brand.

Related: Top Ways To Get Higher Quality Reviews

How to Protect Your Company’s Online Reputation on Social Media

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Article by Scott Bartnick


COO at Otter PR

Scott Bartnick has been nationally recognized for his business acumen. He is a nationally renowned author, e-commerce specialist, and media expert. As co-founder of Otter PR, a multi-million dollar media agency, he works with top thought leaders and brands to break into mainstream media.