How to Protect Your Online Reputation

Having a bad reputation is never a good thing, particularly if you are a business. A bad reputation in business will result in a loss of revenue and a loss of brand value. In today’s online world, managing your business’s reputation is more difficult than ever. Information available online can severely damage your brand and reputation and is publicly available to everyone.

Majority of Consumers Research Before Buying
More than 80% of consumers today will research products and services online before committing to make a purchase or utilize the services offered. Therefore, it is imperative that businesses monitor and take affirmative action regarding their reputation as portrayed through online sources. Damage to reputation can come from multiple sources including customer complaints, competitors seeking to gain an advantage, and (usually disgruntled) ex-employees. There are several ways to negate the damage but the level of response should take into consideration how harmful the online content is and whether the source of the negative content will stop after a single post or continue the attack on the business’ reputation.

Complaints vs Fraudulent and Defamatory Content
Handling complaints and poor reviews from unhappy customers is often the easiest attack on your reputation to remedy. Efficient handling of these matters requires constant monitoring and early contact with the content poster. Often, these content posters can be convinced to remove the negative reviews if they feel their complaint is appropriately handled. Offering a refund, replacement and apology can go a long way and will often result in the poster removing their negative review or updating the review with positive comments about your business.

Downright fraudulent and defamatory content is often the most damaging and can be the most difficult to mitigate. Sometimes, contacting the website is the best approach. Most websites prohibit defamatory content and will remove it if you can show that the content violates that particular websites Terms of Service. When contacting the website directly make sure to find the right person to speak with regarding your take down request and BE NICE. State clearly and briefly why the content should be removed and suggest alternatives if removal is not possible. Being gracious and appreciative will go a long way when your request is being considered.

Check Your Legal Footing
Unfortunately, it will sometimes be necessary to take legal action which may initially be in the form of a cease and desist letter and possibly a lawsuit. Prior to initiating legal action you must first ensure that you have legal grounds. Next, you should consider the public relations outcome. Will you be perceived as the victim or will you come across as a corporate bully? Finally, if legal action is necessary make sure you act quickly as many states have a one year statute of limitations on such actions.

The best way to protect your online reputation is to be more proactive in creating and managing your own content which will give you the control over your image and improve search results. If you can’t completely remove the negative at least you can overpower it and drown it out with the positive!