Reputation management services can be problematic for small business owners. Though maintaining a positive image online is more important than ever, many of these companies go about it the wrong way.
There are two primary problems. The first is extortion. The second is fake reviews.
Some reputation management companies actually damage your reputation themselves. Then they contact you.
They put up fake bad reviews. Or they either dig up or post other damaging information about your company, or you personally.
Then they contact you offering to “get the information removed” for a “small fee.”
It’s not easy to get someone to remove content from a website. You usually have to invoke a lawyer, and it doesn’t always happen right away in spite of the lawyer. The only way to make the process quick is to own the website yourself.
A much milder version of this tactic has been practiced on several prominent review sites. If you get a bad review these sites will often contact you with an offer.
Become a “featured advertiser” and they promise to rearrange your reviews so that the most positive ones are on top. People often comply because they feel like their reviews are holding them and their business hostage.
Other reputation management companies rip you off by posting loads of fake, scammy reviews. So you look great…for a little while.
Then review filters kick in. Your great reviews disappear. Google may even black list you for failing to comply with their Terms of Service. The review company says that they have no control over Google and runs off with your money.
Squeeze Negativity Out With Positive Results
Adding lots of positive listings to the Search Engine Results Page or to your list of reviews is usually the best way to improve your reputation online.
You can do this in two ways. First, you can give great customer service and ask for reviews in an ethical manner.
Stay on top of your blog and your social media presence as well. This creates more SERPS page listings for your company and increases your positive web presence. As negative information grows older it will soon fall well outside of Google’s first page.
Talkwalker Alerts lets you stay on top of what’s being said so you can respond accordingly. And remember, not every bad review or snarky comment is worth panicking over.
And if an unethical reputation management company has posted fake reviews to try to scam money out of you then you might even be able to go to Google and ask them to remove the reviews yourself.
Do You Even Have a Reputation Problem?
I do want to note that there are, of course, some good, ethical companies out there. You’ll just have to do a lot of research and ask a ton of questions to find it. And their services don’t necessarily come cheap.
So this effort is only worth it if you truly have a reputation problem. If you just have a bad review or two then it’s better to invest in your website and in growing your list of positive reviews. This will help you more in the long run.