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Negative Reviews: Friend or Foe?

This week news outlets have been falling all over themselves trying to convince business owners that negative reviews are a positive thing for their companies. Here’s one representative story from NBC Chicago.

The primary gist of these articles seems to be that a few bad reviews make all of your good reviews look more genuine. These stories also note that you can use a (genuine) bad review to make improvements to your company.

Both of these things would be absolutely true, if the playing field were at all even.

What would an even playing field look like? First, review filters wouldn’t aggressively filter out every single positive review that a business receives. This happens all too often on Yelp (unless, of course, you choose to advertise). And review sites would be more willing to remove false negative reviews from a business owner’s profile, especially if that business owner could prove that the writer had never set foot in their business before.

Instead, positive reviews are all treated as suspect and are filtered away, while negative reviews are allowed to float to the top of the pile. This means that the negative review is the only review left, and while it may lend veracity to your profile in the eyes of the customer it may also be the only false review on your profile.

Certainly a genuine negative review from a genuine customer can indeed help you improve your business. You should listen carefully to those reviews and do whatever you can do to improve. You should also reach out to the customer to see if you can make things better, if you can figure out which customer left the review.

But if that negative review continues to sit there, unaltered, then it will start to impact your business, even if you, as NBC said, “turned the unhappy customer’s frown into a smile.”

Fortunately, only a handful of customers arrange their lives by consulting a single review site. Others are a bit broader in their research. They turn to Google and look at a bigger picture of the company’s presence.

This means you can extract whatever positives are to be found in a negative review without letting that review hold you hostage. You can create thousands of pieces of positive content to fill up those SERPs, so that people can see that there’s more to you than one bad day with one bad customer. Eventually, they won’t see the negative review at all, which means that you can keep your business’ doors wide open even as you continue to do the hard work of improving.

Don’t just take a negative review in stride. Protect yourself and your business by making sure that you don’t give those words more power than they have to have.

Reviewed by author: Ashley Adams

Separating Personal and Professional Social Accounts: Is it enough?

As a job seeker, you may have heard advice that tells you that it is important to separate your personal social profiles from any professional ones that you may be maintaining. This is often presented as a method to keep you out of social media trouble: you talk about industry news on one account while feeling free to discuss Friday night’s party on the other.

On the surface, this isn’t bad advice. But is this separation enough to protect your online reputation and your career?

Probably not.

Separating accounts to protect your reputation relies on two faulty premises.

The first is that employers and potential employers will respect the boundary that you are trying to create. You are essentially hoping that they will find and focus on the “right” profile while completely ignoring the personal profile.

The second is that anything you say on a personal profile is permissible or forgivable simply because you’ve designated this account as your “personal” account. That’s not the case. If anything, employers will believe that your personal profile is containing all of the things that you’re “hiding from them,” which will tend to convince them to give it more weight, not less.

Certainly, you don’t want to flood your professional profiles with photos from your nephew’s Bar Mitzvah. If you’re keeping all of your social participation innocuous then there’s certainly a place for the separation of profiles.

It’s simply not enough to separate them. Separate them with the idea that your employer or potential employer is either looking at your personal social profile, or wants to. And respond by refusing to post or to become involved with things that could cause you problems at work. Anything from drunken photographs to political opinions to gripes about your boss could cause problems, so skip it on both profiles.

And if you have been relying on the “personal/professional profile strategy,” be sure to clean up your personal profile. Evaluate and remove anything that could cause problems in the future. Just because something hasn’t hurt your online reputation yet doesn’t mean that it may not become a problem later, and employers are finding more and more ways to get at the information you least want them to see.

Reviewed by author: Ashley Adams

The Cost of Fake Reviews

You may have already known that Yelp is suing companies who post fake reviews. But some state regulators are now cracking down on companies that post fake reviews as well.

A recent Search Engine Watch article mentions that New York is pursuing an initiative called Operation Clean Turf. It comes on the heels of agreements with 19 companies who have been caught posting fake reviews and who have agreed to stop. They’ve also agreed to pay a grand total of $350,000 in fines.

Fake reviews do violate the FTC’s Guides concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in advertising as well. In fact, customers who get kickbacks for posting good reviews are actually violating FTC regulations if they do not disclose the “material connections” between themselves and the company.

Why are law makers taking an interest in fake reviews? The New York Times explains.

A phony review of a restaurant may lead to a bad meal, which is disappointing. But the investigation uncovered a wide range of services buying fake reviews that could do more permanent damage: dentists, lawyers, even an ultrasound clinic.

Unfortunately, this crackdown does absolutely nothing to penalize those who post fake bad reviews. This phenomenon happens almost as frequently. Competitors trash businesses who threaten them. Disgruntled employees set out to “punish” former employers. Some customers think that they can get out of paying their bills by trashing a company on review sites.

There are no agencies racing to support those businesses. It is, perhaps, easy to see why false reviews might be a temptation in such a climate. Most of these businesses are simply trying to fight back, however ineffectively. Lawmakers even “caught” these businesses by exploiting this very problem!

In reality, however, posting a fake good review can’t help you combat fake bad reviews. Businesses that have tried are only feeding fresh content to these sites, thus guaranteeing that they get high SERPs placement and relevance. That’s the last thing you want to do.

Instead, focus on developing a good removal strategy. Get defamatory reviews removed, and then work on filling the Internet with positive content that you control. That’s not against any law and it can’t get you sued, so you never have to worry about paying the high price of fake reviews.

Reviewed by author: Ashley Adams


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