Have you Googled yourself lately? Reviews and online reputation threats can derail a job interview, your customers’ trust, or even a blind date. Be proactive to find out what might cause you trouble in legal, social and business circles if malicious or unflattering information is lurking out there about you.
Even if the personal information about you isn’t particularly slanderous, it can be an invasion of your privacy to have details about your personal circumstances accessible to the world online. You might need some online reputation management help!
When people search for your personal or business name, they generally want to see what is being said online by your customers to feel comfortable engaging with you. They will want to see if there are any red flags before doing business with you, especially if you provide a service that depends on your personal integrity. Bad reviews or any negative search results hamper sales.
The Two Sides of Social Review Sites
Review sites are rising in popularity as different companies scramble to cash in on the big money business of running such a site — allowing people to log in and post reviews on local businesses.
It’s great for your online reputation when a happy customer posts a glowing review of you on Yelp, Google My Business, or any other review site. But when someone posts a negative review, whether justified or not, your online reputation suffers.
Yelp is a common source of damaging reviews, and doesn’t provide much in the way of tools to deal with them. Consumers can post blistering comments about you with no accountability or evidence that they have ever even used your services, and their low assessment drags down your Yelp score as well as your online reputation. You might have heard the horror stories of negative reviews that remain online long after a business closes, hampering that poor ex-business owner’s chance at starting over in a new job working for someone else. Ouch!
Impact of Negative Reviews
People who are researching your business online are already deep into the sales funnel, since they’ve already identified you and started checking you out. Reviews on Google page 1 are especially important, since those aren’t likely to be missed. According to Moz,
“It is critical to keep page 1 of your Google search results clean of any negative content or reviews. Having just one negative review could cost you nearly a quarter of all potential customers who began researching your brand.
Negative reviews can have a lasting effect on your business’s ability to grow and prosper.
Potential customers’ tolerance for negative feedback on your or your business varies by their age group. For example, one study showed that after reading just two bad reviews, these percentages of potential customers would be deterred from making an e-commerce purchase:
10% of people age 18-24
28% of people age 45-54
33% of people age 55-64
Expertise, Professionalism and Reliability
The images of most businesses revolves around the expertise, trustworthiness, and integrity of the company’s leaders. If you are someone who wants to establish yourself as an expert in your field, any information that is searchable about you that doesn’t correspond with that image detracts from it and makes your company look less worthy of their business than your competitors.
Big Business Reputation Woes
You might recall the firestorm that was set off a few years ago when GoDaddy’s then CEO Bob Parsons boasted about his elephant killing expedition. He had exaggerated the perception of insensitivity by taking video footage of the hunt that included people wearing GoDaddy hats, setting it to music and posting the video online as entertainment. People were outraged. To make matters worse, he wasn’t responsive to public opinion, adding arrogance to the list of his perceived faults. Parsons had already alienated plenty of people with his sexist marketing ploys that had nothing to do with GoDaddy’s industry, but now animal rights organizations like PETA joined in, urging GoDaddy customers to boycott the company and switch to other providers of hosting and domain names. Not long after, Parsons stepped down as the face of the company, to the great relief of many who just wanted to use the company’s services without all the drama, but there are those who still hold that company in contempt.
Small Business Vulnerabilities
Small businesses are little fish in a smaller bowl, so company CEOs and others in significant roles can cause damage to their companies’ reputations in the same way. In your local community your presence can loom larger as the face of your business than the CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation hidden behind layers of bureaucracy. It’s really important that potential and current customers feel that you are worthy of their business when they are choosing you over a competitor.
8 Online Reputation Threats
Beyond reviews is the larger impression your business makes online about your personal integrity. An active Public Relations department would be on the lookout for dings to your reputation, but if you are a small business without the luxury of that kind of help, here are some potential areas of concern.
You have an online reputation management problem if any of these items show up readily in a search:
- Evidence of personal traits or habits that are incongruous with your profession
- Photos from your carefree younger days that aren’t compatible with the person you are now or the person you want to be known as
- Affiliations with organizations that are socially or environmentally irresponsible
- Malicious activity from a disgruntled employee or associate or personal relationship
- Similar domain names maliciously bought and developed to make you look bad
- Ripoff reports
- Court cases and litigation records
- Negative blog comments or tweets you’ve done that you can’t take back
Keep Your Online Reputation in Mind
The best defense going forward is to take care before posting anything online and proceed with professionalism online and in your business life. There is no guarantee you can take back a bad action or comment that would inspire a malicious response. We are all people with lives we don’t have ultimate control over, though. So if you find yourself needing reputation management intervention, get help from a pro.