Online Reputation Management & Bouncing Back From Failure

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The internet is powerful, so powerful that it can destroy a business’s reputation in seconds. Business owners fear the power of the internet, and are always on the lookout to remedy potential disasters. A positive online reputation is built over time, and it takes a lot of hard work as well as good service to become well known as a trusted business.

It can take one upset customer, or a major mistake that gets public attention, to completely turn the tides and change a business’s online reputation from positive to negative in the blink of an eye. We’ve compiled a list of reputation management fails, and these are exactly the mistakes we are talking about that grabs (the wrong kind of) attention. 

Sometimes it isn’t a reputation management #fail that blows up online, maybe it’s a customer who’s determined to take your business down after a bad experience. No matter how well a company treats their customers, there will always be customers who are not satisfied. Of these few, there will likely be someone along the way that is dead set on breaking walls and ruining the online reputation of a business.

We’ve literally seen it all; recently we saw a business who was attacked with social posts that gathered thousands of shares to criticize this small business, hundreds of negative online reviews and even website hostings that criticized their small business (oh and that was only one upset customer).

If a business is under siege, or they fear the day that a negative consumer experience might turn into the internet apocalypse, don’t worry, we will help. This post is designed to walk you through the process of online reputation management in the midst of panic and fear from negative exposure online.

Business owners, take notes, because no business wants to see their name tarnished online right before their eyes. Take a deep breath and use our suggestions.

Remove It!

Whether it is a mistake on social media, or a series of attacking reviews online, the best thing to do is to remove it. Obviously it’s easy to delete an accidental social media post, but it’s a lot harder to convince an upset customer to delete their negativity online. The reason that a company wants negativity eliminated is that they don’t want it to spread, or for more people to see it and get the wrong impression about their business.

If it’s a mistake that your business has made, for example an offside tweet or social post, then you can immediately delete the post. Even though it’s deleted, it’s likely that people have already seen it, so be ready to apologize. Show sincerity in your apology and truly work to atone to people who are offended or hurt by the post.

When dealing with a mistaken social post, follow these steps:

  • Delete ASAP
  • Prepare to apologize

Convincing someone to delete a review,  mention or any negativity online is really difficult. They have already expressed their distaste for your business, why would they change their mind? Well, you have to make it worth their while, and it might cost you. Part of online reputation management might involve giving something up in order to keep your reputation strong.

For example, if you are a company who does contract work and a customer really does not like your work, they might post all over the internet that your company does a poor job. In this case, you might have to call this customer, take responsibility and smooth things out by offering to fix your work or give money back to the customer. In exchange, you should ask that customer to delete their online comments and express to them that you truly care about your online reputation.

When dealing with upset customers follow these steps. .

  • Take responsibility
  • Personal response
  • Offer something
  • Ask for deletion

A great online reputation sometimes comes at a cost, however, what many business owners fail to realize is that it’s a much greater loss to a business when their online reputation looks sketchy. As Harvard Business School found, a one star increase on major review sites like Yelp can lead to 5-9% increase in revenue. Likewise, when a company’s online reputation is taking hits from negativity, that business is losing money. 

If the online review or mention does not meet the guidelines set out for that particular review site, the review can also be removed without having to contact the owner of the post. With Google owned sites, you can submit a request for removal, and they will detect whether or not the review breaches review guidelines. 

Find a way to take the conversation offline, and remedy the situation with upset or unhappy customers. Ultimately, the first step in reputation management when a business is under fire is to get rid of the online negativity.

(OR) Hide It!

Okay, so you weren’t successful in deleting the online negativity, don’t worry you still have a chance at hiding it and saving the business’s online reputation. The goal with hiding a negative online review, mention or webpage is to bury it so far back in the search results that it will never be found, or becomes irrelevant with age.

For online reviews, a negative review sticks out, but when there are an overwhelming amount of positive reviews, then consumers usually understand it’s a rare case of negativity. In fact, finding a negative review mixed in with a bunch of positive reviews can actually increase customer trust. If someone is to leave a negative review and it cannot be deleted, look to bring in positive reviews from customers who are more than satisfied with your product or service. Reputation management is a constant battle of minimizing the amount of unhappy customers and mediating online conversations. When a customer loves their service, encourage them to tell the world!

Tip:  Business owners can do a lot of things to generate more reviews: stickers in the window, asking customers at the till and automated software. One of the most effective strategies is to, well, ask! Having customers leave a review while they’re on premise can be intimidating and lead to clustered results, but requesting good customers write a review online on their way out the door can be one of the most effective strategies!

If an unhappy customer has gone as far as mentioning you on social media, simply apologize to them from the business account and let them know that you are sincerely sorry for their bad experience. This doesn’t necessarily hide the social mention, but it is part of managing a business’s reputation. Replying online with kind words drowns the mention out when the business responds maturely and positively.

Tip: If a customer is leaving negative mentions on social media about a business, do not ignore them. Offer your apologies so that everyone else knows you understand and care about upset customers. 

If you are finding content online that misrepresents a business or really makes the company look bad, make sure that it does NOT appear on the first page of Google. You want to bury these webpages or posts so far away that nobody will bother to find them from online search.

The saying goes “The best place to hide a dead body is on the second page of Google,” and this simply means that most people do not dig any further than Google’s first page of results. 95% of traffic drops from page one to two on Google searches. In fact, people mainly look at Google’s first three results and that’s it!


(Check out the online reputation management infographic)

Tip: An easy way for a small business to do this is to set up pages that rank high in local search, if they haven’t already. Make sure the business has company pages on websites such as:

(Don’t know how to set up these pages? The links will direct you to relevant set-up pages.)

These webpages rank high in domain authority and typically find their way towards the top of the search results. With high ranking pages appearing prominently, there’s a good chance nobody will find negative web postings unless they are really looking deep into the search results.

Businesses are always asking “How can I delete this?” and if nothing worked from above, the next action is to hide negativity or suppress it with positivity.

Learn From It!

After an unfortunate incident online, a business may not want to think about it any longer because it’s likely already given the company a huge headache. However, sometimes it can be a good tactic to look back at how things were handled. Look at how the incident occurred, and establish proactive measures that prevent this situation from happening again. Reputation management is not simply dealing with problems when they occur, it is also ensuring that no future problems arise.

It’s one thing for a business to have to deal with one negative customer, but there must be a bigger issue if these types of situations are happening numerous times. Do not allow a continuous trend of customers to tarnish the company’s name online—this can really hurt top-line revenue! You must address what is happening, where the business is going wrong, and fix the problem

From this incident, the business must put in place a proactive plan to eliminate negative online conversations about them.

Tip:There are tools built for businesses to monitor the conversations consumers have online about a business such as Reputation Management and Social Marketing. Control the conversation online before it gets out of hand!

Useful reputation management tools are designed for businesses to use, and to avoid uncomfortable situations these tools track wherever a business is being mentioned online. When managing a business’s reputation, remember that they might not always be perfect. Whether they give poor customer service or make a mistake online, people will talk about the business, and consumers listen to online conversations.

Bounce back from failure, use these tips, and try to avoid being one of our reputation management fails!


Zachary Yuzdepski

Zach is a marketing analyst at Vendasta, where he is constantly learning about all things digital marketing and ping pong.