If you’re in business, you know how important your reputation can be.
Remember in the olden days, when someone said something bad about your company? They might tell a friend or two and then you might lose a few customers. This wasn’t a great situation to be in but it wasn’t devastating.
Now a few bad reviews can be a lot more damaging. If you get just a couple of unhappy customers, it can bring down your online scores significantly. If people pull up your name on a search engine and find out you have anything less than four stars, they may go to a competitor.
What makes matters worse is that there are people out there who may post reviews of your company that are untrue. It is not uncommon for competitors to go on review sites and say bad things about your business to gain the upper hand with your customer base.
This is especially likely to happen on the Rip off Report, a site that allows consumers to file complaints against businesses they feel treated them unfairly.
But no matter how bad reviews happen, the bottom line is, you want to whatever you can to improve your business’s reputation. This article will provide suggestions for how you can do just that.
Dealing with Ripoff Report
The Ripoff Report may seem like it has the best of intentions. Advertised as a site by consumers, for consumers, it is made to expose businesses that treat customers unfairly.
However, over the years, it has developed a controversial reputation due to the many individuals who make outrageous claims against companies.
It is highly optimized for online searches, so if you received a bad review on Ripoff Report, it’s likely to come up whenever someone looks up your company.
The site gives businesses the opportunity to respond to complaints, but due to the way the algorithm works, these responses just make the complaint appear even higher in search engines.
Ripoff Report has a policy of never removing complaints under any circumstances. They remain public and unedited no matter how a business with a negative complaint may try to get them taken down.
While defamation and cyber liable may come into play, courts are typically reluctant to hold the company accountable as they are protected by free speech rights.
And while companies like the Better Business Bureau will remove reports that are filed by individuals whose identities can’t be confirmed, Ripoff Report allows anonymous, negative reviews that could be defamatory to businesses to stay on their site.
While Ripoff Report offers a Corporate Advocacy Program, A Ripoff Report Verified Program and a VIP Arbitration Program to help consumers and businesses resolve disputes, these methods are expensive and often do not result in a satisfactory solution.
The only way businesses may be able to take action against the Ripoff Report is to work with public and political leaders to revise the Communications Decency Act.
The Communications Decency Act was enacted by Congress in 1996 and provides immunity for online service providers and publishers for content created by their users. Under the act, Ripoff Report and similar web sites are in no way responsible for the content their users publish.
Therefore, the only way to take action is to sue the person who actually filed the complaint. The first step in the process will be to prove the complaint was defamatory. In order to do so, you must show that:
- A false statement is being made to seem factual.
- There was public communication of that statement made to a third party (in this case, that would be Ripoff Report)
- There is fault amounting to at least negligence
- Damages or some type of harm was made to the person or entity the statement was about
The next step is to identify the person who made the complaint. This is not easy to do as most individuals file complaints anonymously.
In these cases, plaintiffs would have to file a “John Doe” defamation law suit. This would kick off a discovery process which would force the web site to provide the plaintiff with enough information to identify the individual who posted the content.
However, this is not always effective.
For instance, if the web site is able to identify the individual, they may offer the person the opportunity to challenge the subpoena or the defamation complaint. The web site can also resist the court ordered removal which is something Rip Off Report has done in the past.
In more positive circumstances, if the individual is not identified or located, and it was determined that the complaint being made was defamatory, a default judgement may be reached which would result in the web site having to delete the post.
In any case, a defamation law suit may be the way to go when it comes to having negative defamatory content removed.
How to Improve Your Online Reputation
Let’s say the worst happens and you are unable to get a bad review removed. The good news is, there are several things you can do to improve your reputation. Here are a few suggestions.
Blogging is a good way to improve your online reputation. If you produce quality content, it will show up on search engines pushing bad reviews down. It will also show you as a company that provides valuable information consumers can trust.
However, it is imperative that the content you post is high quality. If it’s not, it can have the exact opposite effect.
Here are some tips that will ensure your content is up to snuff.
Use Proper Grammar: Nothing looks worse than a blog with sentence fragments, improper grammar, misspellings…and the list goes on. Make sure your content is written by someone with good writing skills and look articles over twice before publishing.
Use High Quality Images: Low quality and/or stock images will make your business look amateurish and may damage your reputation. The images you are using should be original and professional.
Use Clickable Headlines: Your headline will be the first thing that attracts your readers. Make sure yours stands out.
Make it Easy to Digest: Use short paragraphs and plenty of headlines to make your content easy to read and scan.
Have a Publishing Strategy: Post on platforms that are suited to your industry and your target audience. Post on a regular basis to keep yourself visible without overdoing it.
Promote Your Content Across Other Platforms: If you want to get your content read, you’ll have to advertise it across a variety of platforms. These include your social media platforms and forums that are relevant to your industry. Start a conversation, then include a link to an article on your web site that backs up your points.
Make Your Blog Search Engine Friendly: The strategies listed above will make your blog search engine friendly but you can use other tactics such as including relevant keywords, using alt tags on your images and making sure your site loads quickly and is mobile friendly. These will further assist in getting your site to the top of searches.
Link building is another way to suppress bad reviews.
The idea with link building is to create accounts on leading web 2.0 sites. These include wiki sites, blog sites, social networking sites, video hosting sites and applications that generate content for social, educational and business purposes.
Then build links to the web 2.0 content you create as well as to existing search results that appear under the negative result. Link the web 2.0 content together and to any existing non-negative results.
A press release can also help. Create a press release for your business using relevant keywords in the title, body and description of the release. Then link from the release to the web pages that rank under the negative results for the search.
Guest blogging is another way to reverse a negative online reputation.
If you guest blog on a site that gets a lot of traffic, it will outrank bad reviews on search engines working to make them less visible. It may also associate you with a company or brand people trust making consumers less likely to buy into any negativity.
Guest blogs are also good because they link back to your site. Links are usually included in your guest bio.
The more links you get back to your site, the higher your positive rankings will be and the further down your negative reviews will be buried.
If you are looking for a guest blogging opportunity, the first thing you should do is find companies you think are a good fit. These are companies that offer services that complement yours but are not direct competitors. For instance, if you’re in the restaurant business, you might want to look for a company that sells restaurant equipment.
You also want to look for a company that’s on the same level as yours. If you approach a company that’s way more established, it’s likely they will ignore the request. Go for a company that’s too small and you won’t get the credibility you need.
Once you have identified your target, go in for the kill. You might want to start getting friendly with them by joining in on social media conversations or sending them links to articles you think will interest them.
After you’ve established a reputation, just come out and ask. To make the pot sweeter, offer to return the favor by having them guest on your blog as well. The worse thing they can do is say no.
Other Tips for Improving Reputation
Here are some other tips for improving the damage of negative reviews. They may not work for Ripoff Report, but they will be effective in other situations.
Respond to Bad Reviews: In most cases, responding to bad reviews will be helpful.
In doing so, it’s important not to become hostile or defensive. Instead, try to understand where the customer is coming from and offer them something, such as a discounted or free item or service, to put you back in good standing with them.
This will placate the customer and may even cause them to remove their review. It will also show other consumers that read the review that you care about your patrons’ opinions and feedback.
Set Up Google Alerts: You can set up google alerts to be informed when your company name is mentioned on the internet. That way you can deal with negative feedback immediately, before it gets out of hand.
Have the Bad Review Removed: If at all possible, have the bad review removed. This may not be easy to do, but it could be worth it in the long run.
A bad review can be devastating. Fortunately, there are things you can do to improve your reputation and bury negative comments to come out on top. What steps do you take when someone publishes unwanted feedback about your business?