How to Remove Bad Reviews – Atilus’ 8 step guide to minimizing the effects of negative reviews on search engines and retail websites, while simultaneously growing your business.
This article won’t really talk about how to remove bad reviews online – that’s really not possible. There’s no legitimate service or company you can pay to eliminate a review. Instead this article covers how you can turn that bad review into a positive marketing piece for your company, using it as a reminder of the world we currently live in – and the fact that you as a business owner of Director of Marketing can no longer ignore any space, or any customer interaction.
Over the past few years, we’ve had the opportunity to work with some amazing clients, and more-and-more these businesses are asking us how to remove bad reviews on their business from the web. They’re great companies, but 1 or 2 bad client experiences have led to retribution online – and they fear it’s hurting their business. If nothing else these reviews are hurting their egos and every entrepreneur wants to please everyone 🙂 In working through this issue with many clients we’ve created a frame work for which you can make sure the effects of these reviews are minimized and – even better – possibly grow your business.
With the below template Atilus was able to take a client who was concerned about some negative reviews online, grow their revenue by 30%+ (from an average of $1.25 million/month to an average of $1.6 million/month) all while minimizing the impact of negative reviews. This has happened on a number of similar projects.
Here’s a breakdown of how we attack each situation and help our clients to remove bad reviews from Google (or other places):
1) Remedy the Situation
The first step is trying to right your wrong. Sometimes, the company that’s hired us to try to remove the bad reviews has truly failed by their customers – this is unacceptable to us (Atilus), and no longer an acceptable business practice – as we all live in an increasingly digital world where are actions as businesses have far-reaching consequences. Sometimes however, it’s simply a communication issue (in fact many of the businesses requesting reputation management involve average consumers making highly technical purchases or decisions – decisions they are often unable to fully grasp). As a web development company we too struggle with this same issue – many times clients hire us because they feel good about the relationship, but have no grasp of the underlying tasks we are about to perform – it’s our job to constantly educate and inform our clients to ensure they have the best experience. Regardless of what has occurred, or why the relationship went south the – first step is always the same – determining what went wrong and trying to remedy it through a direct contact and good old customer service. This alone will speak volumes about the kind of company you want to be (at least to this individual) and will be important for later steps.
If the relationship can be mended – simply ask them to remove their bad review – or better yet – convert it into a positive one. Nothing speaks louder than when a company shows it’s diligence and converts a negative experience into a positive one. If you’re unable to find the contact information for the person, there are certain tools at a web developers and web marketers’ disposal that may be able to uncover the person(s) information, but hopefully your own records should reveal when such an issue occurred.
2) Contact an Attorney
If the above fails, and you truly believe the customer or client is in the wrong, is unwilling to work through the issue and is committing libel (written statements that are untrue and paint a negative image of your company) legal action may be permitted. Although this is the second step – it should be used with TREMENDOUS caution – as each communication by your attorney(s) may also be placed online and could dissuade other future customers with this heavy-handed approach. However, if all of the above instances are fulfilled, and you’ve truly tried to amend the situation – this may be a necessary step to remove the defamatory information from the web.
3) Be Amazing
This should go without saying, and is something every entrepreneur typically worries about – what are you doing in the world? Is your business, or product, or service as amazing as you want it to be? Massage your processes, coach your people, make sure that moving forward everyone at your organization understands that the experience they present to your customers will be echoed throughout the rest of time – online. This is only going to get worse, reviews will compound, information on your company will continue to grow – make sure every client or customer has a positive experience. EVERY TIME!
4) Write About the Issue
This is my favorite, and a way for you to reveal how much you care (and a way to get out in front of search engines for negative reviews or negative searches). Explain, in each case what happened and the steps you took to remedy the situation – literally on your website or blog. Talk about the situation at great length and show your current and future clients your dedication to them, by revealing what you did to remedy a situation that went sour. Make sure not to include any specifics about the person, their name, location, etc.
As an aside, I love the show Mad Men – in one of my favorite episodes Lucky Strike (one of Sterling, Draper, Price’s largest accounts) fires the ad agency. Instead of wallowing in this – Don Draper has an “aha” moment, crafting a full-page ad in the New York times – in the form of a letter – entitled “Why I’m Quitting Tobacco.” He then goes on to explain that the ending of the relationship is positive – as Tobacco is such a negative product, that doesn’t really need them anyway. Although I’m not encouraging you to be manipulative, or dance around the facts as Don Draper did, it is important to understand the context framing plays in your own marketing, and how – when you take responsibility and reveal the issue on your own terms – your own website or blog (and most importantly, discuss what you did to remedy it) your current and future customers will thank you.
5) Concentrate on Cultivating Positive Reviews
Google calls the initial process of selecting a business for a product or service the ZMOT – or Zero Moment of Truth. No longer will your customers initially encounter your product in the store – instead they’ll perform searches, and do research online encountering what OTHERS have felt about the experience of working with you and your company.
The information they find plays a major role in their decision to hire you or purchase your product.
And, although the business landscape as a whole is slowly rolling out reviews, the retail space is inundated with this information. It’s important for businesses of all sizes to take control of this aspect of their marketing and setup simple processes that will encourage people to leave positive reviews. After a service is performed for example, one technique we implement is a follow up with an automatic email thanking them for their business and asking them to leave a positive review for our client on our clients’ Google Local page. Remember, if the only review potential customers on your business find when searching and considering your business is one negative review (from 7 years ago) – that looks very bad. But if you have 1 negative review among dozens or hundreds of positive ones – future customers will understand, will read-between-the-lines, and will hire you.
6) Grow Your Brand Online (You Have to Take Control of Your Name Online)
Many times Atilus is asked to step in when a company learns of negative publicity (bad reviews) online. Time and again this is a problem for organizations that have done NOTHING to market themselves or grow their brand online. These companies have let their online brand to chance and haven’t concentrated on the web to grow or manage their business – at all. Much like the above step – if you’ve been growing your brand online the odds that a single negative review can hurt you will greatly reduced.
7) Advertise, Concentrate on SEO & Social Media
Part of the above step involves actually advertising your site, and going through the motions to grow your business conventionally, through online advertising and search engine optimization. The more places you have out there for your customers to find you – the more likely any negative reviews will be lower in search results – or simply harder to find. When a person does a search for your business – do you want them to find information you don’t have control over? Or would you rather them land on your website where you’re able to present them with the best version of yourself?
Again – see step 3 – this only works if you’re working hard to make sure your product or service is impeccable.
8) Let Go
If all else fails, let go. As my business partner reminds me – “you can’t please everyone.” Having run this business together for the last 8 years, we’ve been as equally blessed by the amazing people we’ve gotten to work alongside – as shocked by the number of people that like to suck our company (and our clients’ company) for everything they can – and then leave a bad review or leave displeased. There are those individuals out there, be it for communication reasons, personal vendettas, or simply because of the way they were raised that you will never be able to help – in which case you just have to let go – concentrate on making your business amazing, and encourage your great clients to publicize their experience with working with you.
Removing Bad Reviews Isn’t the Issue
With the above out of the way, it’s important to understand that removing bad reviews isn’t really the issue – the issue is that your clients are smart, but they’re lazy. If all they find about you online are bad reviews, you have a serious problem. People aren’t going to read the review in it’s entirety, and see it from all perspectives. They aren’t going to understand your process and the particular nuances in structure or communication that may have led to this customers’ bad experience.
Instead they’ll glance over it – ask “is this positive or negative” or just look at the number of stars next to your name – and make a decision about you.
But if you concentrate on growing your business and brand as a whole – using online marketing – and then more specifically – providing a method in which existing clients can leave positive feedback for you online – you’ll be amazed by how little those poor reviews mean, and how much your revenue grows.