Finding a negative search result about either yourself or your business can be alarming and upsetting. But while it may be challenging to discover, it’s not the end of the world.
As long as the negative content doesn’t show up on the first page of Google, most people will not notice it. Studies show the majority of people searching your name or business online most likely won’t dig past the first page.
It’s much easier to monitor search results by taking a proactive approach to tracking your name and business in search results, but if you come across stuff that has already existed for some time, here are some emergency tactics on how to fix a negative search result.
It can be tempting to respond or take action immediately, but you need first to understand as much as possible about the content and why it’s there. Should you choose to respond in the heat of the moment, keep in mind, your response will be publicly available, and could sometimes make the situation worse.
The best thing to do is research: where is the negative search result appearing in search results? Where is it hosted? How damaging is the content? Is there a site owner you can contact?
Investigate first, then begin thinking of possible ways to handle the attack in the best and most professional way possible.
Have a Plan for the Conversation
If this is a negative review for your business, plan on it happening. More people than ever before depend on Online reviews these days, and reviews can make all the difference in the success or failure of your business.
It’s not necessarily the bad review that could reflect poorly on your company, but rather the way you choose to handle the complaint.
The ideal scenario for managing negative reviews is to have a well-crafted plan for responding to them.
Make sure to answer promptly. Especially if it’s a negative review, you don’t want that festering around online unattended. It may be unwise to respond immediately, but you should address it as soon as possible.
Be polite and professional, and establish contact with the unhappy customer. If it was a genuine mistake or issue, accept responsibility and apologize. Most clients will understand if they feel the business has heard their grievance and tried to make amends.
The plan should always be to address the issue and resolve it offline, so be sure to direct the conversation towards a private platform.
Take it Offline
There are two ways to get a negative search result removed: to have it removed or to bury it below positive results. And it comes down to the pages you own and the pages you don’t.
If you own the page or website, you should be able to remove the content on your end. But most likely if it’s a negative search result, it’s coming from a page you don’t own.
The first step you can take is to try contacting the website owner somehow and explaining that content on their site is causing issues for your business. Politely provide examples and say you’d appreciate if they could remove it. It’s worth a shot.
You can also request to have Google remove the URL, but you should check to make sure you have legitimate reasons for removal. Under certain conditions, Google will remove sensitive materials from their search index.
Just remember removing content from Google results isn’t the same as removing something from the Internet. You can have a negative search result removed, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist on the Internet anymore.
Check Google’s removal policies and reach out if you can.
Consult a Professional
If this is a case of online defamation, an intellectual property concern or online impersonation, your situation may require some consulting an Internet Attorney or a professional Online Reputation Management firm. In many cases, it is possible to remove these types of attacks from the Internet altogether.
In summary, it is best practice to prepare for negative search results. When they appear, be sure to understand as much as possible about the situation at hand. If you choose to respond, be professional and courteous, and try to take the conversation offline. If your case is more severe, you may wish to consult a professional to discuss removal or de-indexing solutions. Even if you can’t get the content removed, there are other options for how to make the negative result nearly disappear.
Storybook trolls may be mythical, cave-dwelling creatures, but Internet trolls are real. Their ugliness manifests in the form of online threats, cyber bullying and negative comments; their targeting and harassment know no bounds.
Online trolls are always fairly easy to spot as they stir things up or lash out for no apparent reason. In some cases, these trolls can be handled without drawing too much negative attention to the person or business the trolls have descended upon: just block them.
Regardless of source or reason, negative publicity online for a business is pretty inevitable these days. It’s shocking and warrants a quick reaction, but it’s so crucial to first understand the depth of the information before pulling the trigger too quickly on a rash response that could ultimately end up hurting your business more than the initial negative info.
Defense to adverse content will be much more effective with a planned response, and negative publicity can even lead to a positive outcome if handled properly.
After all, not everyone is a troll.
Create a Proactive Strategy
The most important thing a business can do to protect itself online from any type of negative information is to prepare for it to happen and have specific in-house policies and strategies in place for how to handle these situations. Being proactive is, without a question, the most helpful thing to do to ensure your business doesn’t get attacked, and should it ever, allow the attack to not have such a detrimental impact on business.
It’s not necessarily the content, but more how the issue gets handled that will truly reflect on your business. Always respond quickly, politely and honestly, and suggest resolving the issue in a private dialogue.
If it’s bad content based on an incorrect piece of information, the best way to handle this is to politely state that it’s incorrect, and supported your statement with evidence.
If it’s a mistake on the businesses’ end that caused the negative feedback, take ownership and responsibility of the mistake. If it’s an upset customer, one of the main sources of negative publicity online, offer to fix the mistake and refund the money, then address how the mistake will be prevented from happening in the future. You can turn this angry customer loyal by showing you care about resolving the situation and are committed to making sure it never happens again.
It’s very critical to train your staff and establish specific roles, responsibilities, and instructions for how to handle bad online publicity and respond to certain attacks – especially on social media since it’s so immediate. You are minimizing your businesses’ risk of online attacks if everyone is prepared to handle negative publicity scenarios through informed, conscious decisions.
Build A Strong Reputation
It is much easier to fight negative content if your reputation is already strong. Have a content team that regularly puts out articles on your behalf, establish and maintain social profiles and create local listings to rank for your business online.
The ideal scenario is for negative content to never reach the first page of Google, and even if there is a negative search result, it can be pushed down by creating your own positive content for the business and ensuring it ranks high enough on Google.
A great idea is to get involved with the community and engage your consumers to build brand recognition and create a sense of loyalty among customers. This is especially crucial for smaller, local businesses.
“We’ve got clients who do a lot of community service, and making sure that they’re being recognized for that throughout the community is a key priority, whether that’s coming in the form of a sponsorship or stories,” Uproar PR’s co-founder and partner Catriona Harris said in an article. “This way if a crisis is thrust upon them, their consumers have heard about the company before but in a positive light. They’ll be more forgiving than if they’ve never heard of them before.”
All Negative Content is Not Created Equally
What is the source of the negative content? On which platform can it be found?
A genuinely upset customer leaving an unfavorable review on Yelp requires extremely different action than a Twitter troll who keeps using your business handle in nasty tweets.
The most likely sources of online threats and negative comments against businesses usually come from people who have personally experienced negativity in some capacity, like upset customers, disgruntled employees, unethical competitors or personal enemies.
Bad product/service reviews seem devastating, but you can leverage negative reviews for a positive impact. Negative product or service reviews can show up on sites like Yelp and Tripadvisor that a lot of people count on to get more information before committing to business. but what once seemed like a blow to business could actually end up being beneficial for increasing consumer engagement and building trust with customers.
“Even if you do get negative feedback, you can turn it into a positive by engaging in a constructive way and showing that you’re a genuine business,” Shama Kabani, author of The Zen of Social Media Marketing and CEO of The Marketing Zen Group, said in a Forbes article.
She added: “People are not looking for perfection online. What they’re really looking for is humanity and a genuine response, so a negative review can be a great opportunity to respond in a positive and transparent manner. And that has a good impact on all your customers.”
Employment branding websites like Glassdoor and Indeed can also contain negative info, and these can be anonymous posts from disgruntled current or former employees, which could affect the types of people seeking employment or to conduct possible business. Scam and attack website like Ripoff Report and Pissed Consumer are also something to be aware of, as you want to make sure your business isn’t becoming attached with a fraud label.
Once you have a better understanding of who is attacking and which platform is being used, you can better monitor and handle the situation.
Monitor your business online
Monitoring software can be used to protect your online reputation by consistently checking all websites for negative mentions of your name online.
Social media monitoring keeps tabs on conversations happening about you or your business, and search engine alerts notify you whenever a search engine result pops up with your name or company, or an existing entry has changed. With software, you can track changes as they happen.
Should anything pop up, investigate the content, then proceed with a plan of attack.
Is the poster identified or can you contact the author to rectify the situation? Does the offending site have a process in place to help online defamation victims?
The key to handling negativity online is to be proactive and diligent in monitoring content. Recognize the source of the negative content should anything show up, and keep a level head using clear judgment. Don’t wait and let the negative comments fester online; address the issue immediately and always use positivity and honesty in the responses.
The most beneficial way to handle the reality of adverse content regarding your business online is to accept and embrace it, and handle with care.
Much like spring-cleaning your house, Online Reputation Management (ORM) should become a crucial maintenance routine in your life – especially during the day and age of Internet sovereignty.
There is negative information lurking in every dark corner of the interwebs, and it can be devastating to find that type of info in such a public space; everyone can see it, read it, like it, share it and save it.
Whether you set yourself up for it by posting an NSFW photo gallery from your 21st birthday in Amsterdam on your personal travel blog, or there are negative stories on different websites that may contain unfair or outdated information, it’s important to keep tabs on potentially detrimental content attached to your name.
And just because you may not use social media a ton or keep a personal website doesn’t mean you’re off the hook; a blank page of search results can be just as unfavorable as negative content.
But the good news is there are simple steps if you want to take a proactive approach to managing your personal online reputation.
You can easily manage content involving you with time and dedication to cleaning up your act online and creating a positive personal brand.
The only way to begin maintaining a positive image online is to know exactly which information is available about you now. Stalk yourself. Hunt down every website, article, social media account, comment or review that mentions your name and keep inventory.
A great starting point to find info already available about you is a reputation audit. When configuring monitoring software like this, it’s key to focus on your name plus other major categories you want to be associated with: your company, geographical location, etc. Reputation audits allow you to understand what’s being said about you, and your brand name.
Make a spreadsheet of search results with your name: the good, the bad and the ugly. You can implement monitoring solutions, like social media monitoring and search engine alerts, to notify you whenever online content involving you shows up or changes, and you can update your sheet as necessary.
Build your brand
Let’s set this straight: your online persona is the individual brand you’re putting out to the rest of the world. That foul-mouthed Twitter tirade you went on about your NFL team losing? That’s your brand. And if you want to be seen in a positive light – by potential employers, new clients or for networking opportunities – you better make sure your online image is as pristine as you can get it.
Don’t worry if there’s something already negative out there: you can bury that by beefing up your content on websites where you are in control of the information.
Make sure your social media pops up at the top of search engine results. That means using your real name on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc. Just making accounts helps push content on smaller websites off page 1, and it’s even more effective when all the social accounts are linked together.
Build a personal website or hire an ORM company to do the dirty work for you. By creating your positive content, you’re not only building a brand for yourself, but you’re also using the new content to suppress the negatives.
Brandyourself.com has great resources for pushing your content higher in search engine results. You can even go as far as seeing which people and companies are searching for your name on Google too.
Pay attention to anywhere your name is listed online. That could include awards, listings for running a marathon, donating to charity or any volunteering work. Make a note of anything positive you can use to build your online reputation.
Write for others
Another great way to generate positive content and push the negative stuff further down the search result list is to contribute content to other blogs or websites in your industry or area of expertise.
Write for your company’s blog or try to get featured content on a website that is prominent in your career field or in line with your personal hobbies or interests.
Optimize your content
Once you have the positive content you desire, you still need it to show up high enough on the search result page to be seen.
Applying basic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies to online content makes all the difference in associating positive content with your name. It helps ensure your content and name are more likely to appear in results for specific searches.
Social media can be optimized in a few different ways. Using your real name on your accounts is a big one, along with adding photos with the correct dimensions to profiles and posts. Posting content during prime times also optimizes your accounts as well. Social media is one of the easiest ways to suppress unfavorable content.
On personal blogs and websites, properly tagging specific target keywords and phrases also helps search engines better identify the content matter and place it in search results. Moz.com also has great, easy-to-use SEO resources.
Stay up to date on everything being said about you online and go the extra mile to protect yourself from Internet trolls and haters of all different breeds.
Social media monitoring is the watchdog for conversations about you online so you can be aware of what’s being said and have the opportunity to participate in those discussions.
Hootsuite and Talkwalker offer great resources for social media monitoring.
You can also set up an automated alert system in search engine alerts that let you know anytime your name (middle and nicknames could be included too) appears on a search engine, whether it’s in the headline, body of the story or a tag.
Google Alerts is free software to do this easy thing. Brandyourself.com also offers alerts when Google search results change with progress reports.
There are a variety of different ways to handle negative content that already exists online, but sustaining a favorable online reputation is best executed with proactive efforts. Start your damage control earlier rather than later.
Personal and business attacks online happen more than ever this day and age, and with the traditional concept of a playground bully reincarnating into a digital troll, these attackers hurl vitriol from behind a computer screen.
Should you discover either you or your business have been attacked online by a troll or hater of some kind, there are various strategies to handle different scenarios. For example, procedures depend on whether the offending post shows up on a search result or someone’s social media account.
Curb Responses Until Emotions Have Settled
If someone is attacking you online, it’s a natural reaction to form strong feelings about it. However, sometimes those emotions – notably anger and frustration – can lead to very rash reactions, which could turn out terrible for your business, you personally – or both.
If there is some harmful content online, do not panic. Chances are you can turn this into a positive thing if you handle it appropriately.
Try to understand the attack before responding or otherwise reaching out to the author concerning his or her online assertations.
Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by pulling the trigger on a brash response. A hasty response could do more harm to your reputation than the initial attack ever did. Remember, everyone can see what you’re writing on the Internet, and future clients, employers or friends may consider how you handle disputes online. Check yourself, collect yourself, then take action once the emotional dust has settled.
Make a Plan to Address the Attack
Handling online haters is a modern day art form. Anyone can respond to online attacks, but the most beneficial responses are crafted with positivity and flip the situation entirely.
Is it a person writing a nasty comment on a blog? Or is it ruthless social media post? A biased or unfair product or service review? Or is this something more serious?
Identify possible responses for the particular platform when considering a plan of action.
You can delete controversial comments off Facebook and other social media accounts, but be aware of how removing your commentary may be perceived. Sites like Facebook also have well-documented terms of service; they will remove posts which violated these terms.
If this is an attack on your business, try to get to the root of the problem before responding. Try to understand why your company was attacked and address the concern promptly and politely. It’s important to acknowledge complaints, but you can answer in a way that highlights all the beneficial aspects of your company.
Especially if this is a business concern, you should try to establish contact with the unhappy customer, and take it from there. There are different ways of recovering a reputation when attacked online.
Prepare for negative reviews to happen and set company policies in place. There are tons of different ways to respond to negative reviews in a positive, beneficial way.
Take it Offline
The best way to deal with unhappy customers, if possible, is in privacy. If there’s a negative comment or review about a mistake on the company’s end, address the concern promptly and direct it to a private platform, like a direct message or email, where it can be resolved offline between just the company and unhappy party.
Accept responsibility, be professional and polite, and offer to fix the mistake by either correcting it, providing a refund – or both.
Even though a customer may have a bad experience and complain, if the company reaches out and attempts to make things right, there is a much higher chance the client’s conflict can be resolved. If this is the case, the author may be willing to revise or remove the original negative content.
If the person has incorrect information, which is very possible, professionally present the correct info to them without coming across as defensive.
Consult a Professional
If it’s a case of online defamation or there is info published that puts you at risk, you can probably contact either the search engine or website to have the content removed.
You should also consider consulting an Internet Attorney or Professional Online Reputation Management firm.
Should you discover either your business or you personally have been attacked online, there are different ways to go about handling the situation based on the type of attack and the platform where it’s published.
There are different tools you can use to monitor your presence online – from search engine results to social media comments, reviews on various websites and news articles mentioning either your name or business name. Social Mention is a free resource to use for that.
Others like Google Alerts will send email alerts anytime Google finds new mentions of your business, and there are other tools for monitoring social media mentions and activity.
The most efficient damage control to protecting your presence online is having a proactive approach to online reputation management.