With so many companies trying to establish themselves as the repository of customer reviews, naturally others are springing up to offer reputation management services. These businesses offer to help clients maintain a clean image online, using search-engine optimization to bury any negative comments posted on websites such as Facebook, Angie’s List, and Yelp.
Companies may claim they can push down disparaging remarks about you, but beware of strategies involving the use of writers who post fake glowing comments about you. Last fall, the New York state attorney general fined 19 SEO companies more than $350,000 for posting fake business reviews, saying the firms violated state laws against false advertising and deceptive business practices.
Real reputation management companies also focus on SEO. But they attempt to boost your online reputation by posting legitimate positive information about you and your business on micro-websites, blogs, social media, and news media outlets. For example, the company Reputation Changer says it can act like your own public relations firm, offering a multi-pronged approach to getting positive stories about you and your brand spread throughout the Web.
Such strategies may include creating a company Wikipedia page or serving as a guest contributor on an established blog to boost other content about you online. The company will focus on keywords that surface in your negative reviews and aim to counter those with positive stories using the same keywords. On its site, the company says it will “flood major news outlets with articles and press releases” aimed at establishing you as an expert and getting your brand recognized on online channels with “positive, compelling coverage.”
Most likely, you don’t need an outside company to manage your online rep. Here are three strategies you can use yourself:
Monitor: Several sites will alert you to what’s being said about you and your company online. Set up alerts on such sites as Google’s “Me on the Web”; Trackur; and Social Mention.
React: When a negative review rolls in, what should you do? Rather than try to bury such negative reviews, it's better to reach out to customers directly. Listen to and address their concerns. Then, ask if they’ll remove the comment or add a positive follow-up comment. When somebody has felt wronged, you have to sometimes park the technology and use other ways - The transaction doesn’t have to be perfect, but the communication has to be.
Promote: Build up a wall in advance so negative comments don’t overtake your reputation. The more prominent your online profile, the more likely any negative comments will seem less significant.