We all make mistakes occasionally and in the internet age, bad reviews and low star ratings can stay in Google’s search results and haunt you for years if not addressed.
Whether your customer service was lacking when trying to transition from part-time to full-time IT support, you made a poor hiring decision, or bad comments were undeserved, you don’t have to be defined forever by those negative online mentions.
Knowing the steps to take to clean up a bad online reputation can give you a fresh start and a whole new attitude about yourself and your tech business.
How to Clean Up a Negative Online Rep
While 80’s rocker Joan Jett may not have given a darn about her bad reputation, most businesses experience lost sales and other negative consequences from theirs.
90% of U.S. consumers say that online reviews are the most important factor in their buying decisions. Just 5 or more negative reviews posted online about your business can decrease sales as much as 70%. That’s a huge hit!
The good news is that you don’t have to feel powerless when it comes to a bad online reputation because there is something you can do about it.
Here are several practical steps to help you gain back control of your online reputation and forge a brighter future for your tech business.
Own the Reasons and Fix Them
The first step you need to take is to own the reasons why you have a bad reputation. If you blame your bad reviews on customers who just expected too much or things out of your control, then you have little chance of being able to turn your reputation around.
Yes, there are some bad reviews out there that aren’t deserved, but a bad reputation comes from more than just one or two rogue reviews. Be honest about how your negative rep happened and address the issues that caused it so you can keep those same things from happening again in the future.
For example, if you went through a rough patch and took longer than you should’ve to get back to customers, own that and put systems in place to ensure timely responses.
You need to repair the things that caused your bad reviews first and foremost, otherwise your reputation will continue to be damaged.
Apologize and Move Forward
When business owners receive negative reviews, one thing they’ll do is hide and not respond. They feel bad if they were at fault and don’t know what to say.
Responding to those negative comments on various review sites is an important step in repairing your reputation and not only will you feel better, people reading those reviews will respect that you responded.
Of the people that read online reviews, 97% of them read the company’s response to the reviewer. Research has shown that even if a company is replying to a negative review, the reader will look more favorably on the business for responding sincerely.
You don’t have to reply with anything elaborate or get into any kind of back and forth, it’s better if you don’t. Just use something simple, along the lines of:
“We are very sorry for your experience. We have made internal changes to keep this from happening again. We hope you’ll accept our sincere apologies. Please feel free to contact us at # if we can be of any assistance.”
By apologizing in reply to negative online comments and then moving forward, you can actually turn those bad reviews into a positive.
Start Building Positive Authority
Authority is a word you’ll hear often when search rankings are discussed. In a nutshell it means creating online content that Google’s search algorithm views as important and gives a higher ranking in search results.
For example, if someone is looking up “Office 365 pricing” on Google, one of the top search results is going to be Microsoft’s pricing page. Google knows that as the creator of Office 365, Microsoft has more authority than a site like “Software Pricing.com” and thus will rank it higher.
Your goal in building positive authority is to have newer, positive search results for your company name move up above the negative ones, hopefully pushing the bad ones off the front page of Google’s search results eventually.
This takes time, as does any SEO, but if done correctly it will make a significant difference in repairing your reputation.
Here are some ways you can do this:
Create Case Studies: Leverage positive reviews you’ve had in the past to create case studies. Then post those positive case studies on a blog, as a downloadable PDF, on social media, etc. (Here are tips on maximizing blogs for more coverage.)
Leverage LinkedIn Articles: Write some articles about your business, experience, and the positive direction you’re going and post them on LinkedIn using their articles post feature.
Issue a Press Release: Write a press release about a new service or product you’re offering and include a positive customer quote. Then use an online PR site to release it. There are several paid and free ones to try, like Backlinkfy, Newsvine, com, and PRLog.
Pitch Guest Articles: Guest blogs or articles in industry trade publications can help get authoritative backlinks to your site, helping both your own site’s ranking and the chance that your guest post will rank above a negative article. If you’re not the writing type, look for a service that will write them for you.
Write Blogs Using the Year in the Title: Google tends to rank more recent pages ahead of older ones. Add blogs that include the year AND your company name to push older negative content down in the SERPs. Something like, “ACME Tech Lists the Best Technology Tips for 2020” or “Colorado Cyberattacks in 2019 Reported by ACME Tech.”
Rev Up Your Review Engine
Most businesses will stop asking for reviews when they hit a rough patch. Why ask for reviews if you think they’re going to be bad, right?
Now that you’ve fixed things, it’s time to rev up that review engine and inject some power into your tech business and its reputation. One of the fastest ways to improve your star rating on Google or show that your bad reviews are a thing of the past is to have good reviews flowing in.
Automating the process can make things easy and ensure that every customer is receiving an email asking for a review with the appropriate links to review sites like Google, Yelp, and others.
Here are some statistics that show the benefit of boosting your star ratings:
- For every one-star increase on Yelp, businesses can see a 5-9% boost in revenue.
- Jumping from a 3-star to a 5-star rating can garner 25% more clicks in Google Local Pack.
- Over 50% of people won’t use a business with less than a 4-star rating.
Take Your Reputation Building Offline
Most tech business owners serve their local communities and rely on word of mouth for referrals, so you want to also rebuild a positive reputation offline.
You can do this by offering discounted service to local companies that may have had a bad experience in order to “give you another try.”
Speak at local business groups and explore other local networking opportunities that can help improve your business reputation and get your name out there in a positive light.
Know What to Say if Asked
While you’re rebuilding your reputation, you’ll most likely have to address questions about it from potential customers. For example, after you’ve discussed and quoted a project for someone, they may say, “I’ve read some negative things about your business online, can you tell me why so I’ll feel better about working with you?”
It’s important for you and your employees to have a good answer ready when this happens so you’re not caught off guard and can put the potential customer at ease.
Just as you did in your reply to negative online reviews, you want to keep your answer, simple, honest, and sincere.
Own that you went through some tough times when customer service wasn’t what you strive for. Confirm that you’ve addressed the problems and that you and your team are focused on nothing less than providing exceptional customer support. If you’ve already had some new positive reviews posted, it also doesn’t hurt to mention that.
Protect Your Reputation
Once you’ve put in the effort to turn your reputation around, you want to protect it like the dragon Smaug protects his hoard of gold. Just a few bad reviews can end up ruining months of positive reputation building and send you back to the drawing board.
To protect your reputation both during and after the rebuilding process, you need to put a few systems in place.
- Create benchmarks for customer response times and other customer service metrics.
- Train and monitor employees on customer service expectations.
- Automate sale follow up emails or calls so customers have a chance to come to you first if they’re unhappy.
- Monitor your online reviews so you can immediately respond to a negative one and have a chance to fix it (and possibly get the customer to improve the star rating).
- Continue to keep your review engine and the other positive reputation building activities going.
Reputation Management Is Ongoing
Turning your business reputation from bad to good takes time and effort, but the results are definitely worth it in both sales and self-esteem. If you consider reputation management as an ongoing part of your tech business marketing strategy, you’ll get the best results!
What’s your biggest fear when it comes to your business reputation? Share your thoughts in the comments.