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.
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.