Digital Insights

How to Protect Your Local Business from a Negative Online Reputation


Published: November 20, 2014

For better or for worse, the Internet has brought about an era of transparency to the marketing community where any business is no more than a single bad review away from a negative online reputation. Consumers have the ability to make or break a business with online reviews and they’re not bashful about wielding their newfound power.

According to a study conducted by BrightLocal, 85 percent of consumers are reading online reviews of local businesses before they finalize a purchase decision, and a full 79 percent trust the reviews they find online as much as they would a recommendation from a trusted friend or family member. When consumers find negative online reviews about a local business, 80 percent report having changed their mind about a purchase based on that information, according to findings published in a Cone Online Influence Report.

Are Online Reviews Really That Powerful?
Depending on the nature of the online review, a business may either reap the rewards or suffer the consequences.

  • In a study conducted by the Harvard Business School, a single one-star increase in a businesses’ positive consumer rating led to an increase in sales of 5 to 9 percent.
  • The other side of the coin is reflected in a Convergys Corporation study, which concluded that a single negative review can cost the average business a loss of 30 customers.

Avoid Business Practices that Invite Retaliation
While adopting the “Golden Rule” of treating others as you would want to be treated is no absolute guarantee that your business won’t attract an occasional negative review, it doesn’t make sense to hand cranky customers and disgruntled ex-employees a rock that can be thrown your way.

Do a little soul searching and make sure that your business policies and procedures are firm yet fair. Make sure that your employees are on board with your goal of treating everyone who comes into contact with your business with dignity and respect.

Monitor Your Online Reputation
When it comes to your online reputation, it’s what you don’t know that can hurt you. Set up Google Alerts and Yahoo Alerts for your business name. You’ll receive a notification whenever something about your business is indexed by these search engines.

Claim Your Business Listing
Claim your business listing with as many social media and review directory sites as possible. You don’t have to set up a full profile if you don’t want to, but you want to make sure that your business name is reserved. Many of these sites operate on a first come, first served basis and if your business name is taken by a competitor, you may be out of luck. When you control your listing, you’ll be able to keep inaccurate information from being posted in your name as well as have the option of responding to critical or negative comments.

Offset Negative Comments with Positive Reviews
While most review sites are reluctant to remove negative reviews, you can take some of the sting away by watering them down with a series of positive reviews by satisfied customers. Just remember that it’s illegal to compensate customers for reviews or to post fake reviews for yourself.