Online reputation management is important to your future whether you’re an individual or business, but let’s face it: not everyone understands it. Plenty of myths abound, like the ability to remove negative links forever, or that you have to resort to spam to get Google’s attention. These simply aren’t true, and we’re here to bust these reputation management myths once and for all:
- Myth: You can erase anything online. Fact: Once it’s online, content is virtually permanent.You may hear claims from unscrupulous reputation management firms or SEO service providers like:
- “We fix negative Google results.”
- “We’ll remove your negative reviews.”
But in reality, no one (not even Google engineers) has the power to permanently remove content from the Internet. Though it is possible to push down negative links on Google by promoting positive content, they’ll never really disappear — they’ll just be harder to find. And unless you ask website owners to remove the content in question, it will still be live online for anyone to find. Further, with tools like the Wayback Machine and cached pages, even content that’s removed from the source may still live on.What you can do about it: Rather that fighting a losing battle (removing content that will never go away), focus on creating positive content for the future, like blog posts, social media updates, photos, and videos that you’re proud to share. Further, it’s important to fix what caused the negative posts in the first place: poor customer service or bad behavior that goes unchecked means you’ll have more negative posts in the future.
- Myth: No reputation is better than a bad reputation. Fact: A lack of reputation looks terrible, too.While a negative online reputation certainly looks bad, you’re not really doing better if you have a complete lack of reputation, either. Anyone searching for your online identity will become instantly suspicious if they see there’s nothing to share about you online. They may even wonder why no one cares enough to say anything about you — or why you don’t seem to care about sharing anything yourself. Worse, a lack of reputation is a blank canvas for any negative links that may pop up. That means if you have nothing good to show, anything, even negative content, will immediately take prominence and be the first thing people see when they search for you. It’s even easy for a case of mistaken identity: someone who shares your name may take over your online reputation if there’s nothing that actually belongs to you online.What you can do about it: Clearly, the solution here is to build your online identity. Use your real name (or business name) online, developing a blog, social media accounts, photos, and more. Any content that you can create that’s associated with your name will help you build a positive online reputation — even if you have nothing online yet at all.
- Myth: You have to spend a lot of time on your reputation. Fact: Full-time reputation management is only necessary for large organizations, not individuals or small businesses.While it’s important for large corporations to monitor and manage their brand 24/7, the same isn’t true for individuals or small businesses. Basic monitoring tools and regular reputation building and checkups are enough — and they don’t take up that much time. What you can do about it: In just a few hours a month, you can take action to search for your online identity, assess your results, and build what you really want to be found about you online.
- Myth: Online reputation doesn’t matter unless you’re a business or looking for a job. Fact: Reputation management always matters.Reputation is especially important when you’re job hunting or trying to attract customers for your business, but reputation management is something you should always be concerned about. Reputation management requires long-term attention, connections, and online development, not intermittent spurts. It’s best to always pay attention to your reputation so it will be there when you need it — even if you have no real need for it right now. You never know when you’ll be laid off, need investors for your business, or want to build new connections — all things that can be helped with a positive online reputation. It’s also important to remember that even when you’re secure in your job or business, negative reputation actions can have a serious impact. PR disasters can send your business into turmoil, and inappropriate online posts can even get you fired.What you can do about it: Remember that maintaining your reputation is a constant need. It’s important to always work on your reputation, whether you think you need it right now or not.
- Myth: Online opinions don’t matter. Fact: Online reviews influence not just online purchases — but offline ones as well.Online reviews aren’t just for ecommerce retailers and other online businesses; they are important to local business, individuals, and more. Consider this: how many times have you searched for reviews of restaurants before heading out for the night, or looked up what customers have to say about a particular hotel before making a reservation? Online opinions matter everywhere. What you can do about it: Pay attention to online opinions. Listen to feedback and consider how you can use it to improve your business, personal brand, and more.
- Myth: You need hundreds of positive reviews to stand out. Fact: Even just a handful of positive reviews can influence customers.Of course, the more positive reviews you can attract, the better. But don’t let the idea that you need hundreds to do well paralyze you from pursing your first few positive reviews. Anything helps, and businesses that have even just a handful of positive reviews will stand out better than businesses with none, or primarily negative reviews. A large collection of good reviews is best built up over time, so potential customers can see that you have a long history of happy patrons. Avoid thinking that you need to have hundreds of positive reviews right now, because getting started with just a few is a great strategy, and with persistence, you can build up many positive reviews over time.What you can do about it: Don’t wait, start now by seeking out reviews. The best strategy is to simply ask: get in contact with your best or most recent customers and let them know you’d appreciate their feedback online. In the future, implement a policy to ask every customer to leave a review, using email tools, receipt reminders, and in-person requests.
- Myth: Your reviews must be perfect to attract customers. Fact: A negative review can make your positive ones more trustworthy.This sounds counterintuitive, but it’s actually a good thing for businesses to have a bad review or two mixed in with their good ones. Even mostly positive reviews that have minor criticisms can help. Why? Because customers may be suspicious of businesses with entirely positive reviews. Customers understand that even the best companies fail sometimes, and every business is bound to have a few unhappy customers. So when you have exclusively positive reviews, customers may wonder if they’re fake. Negative reviews tell customers that they’re reading the straight scoop on your business.What you can do about it: Don’t sweat it if your reviews are mostly positive, but you have a few pieces of negative feedback here and there. Of course, if the bad reviews begin to outweigh the good, it’s time to reevaluate and consider what your customers are so upset about.
- Myth: You can’t fix bad reviews libelous reviews. Fact: You have options when it comes to negative or completely untrue reviews.Negative reviews sting, and your instinct may be to ignore them, or worse, fight back with a nasty response. But the fact is that every review that may damage your business deserves your attention.If reviews are entirely untrue, you may be able to have them removed. Many review websites offer policies that allow business owners to challenge reviews from users who were never customers, or who are telling outright lies. But even if what they’re saying is true, you can still work on turning your negative reviews around. Negative reviews are an opportunity to address a problem in your business. Take a truthful, objective look at what your customers are saying: is there something you could have done better? Reach out to them directly and let them know you appreciate their feedback — and ask them to give you a chance to show them you can do better. If you’re able to improve the relationship, ask for an update to their review.What you can do about it: Don’t let negative or libelous reviews sit unaddressed. While a few negative reviews are fine, they can build up, and it’s best to do what you can to change them if possible. Report fake reviews, and contact unhappy customers to find out how you can make it right.
- Myth: Removing reviews will fix your online reputation. Fact: Negative reviews are damaging, but simply removing them won’t do much for your long term reputation.Getting negative reviews wiped out may provide a temporary boost to your online reputation, but if the problems still persist, you’ll only have new ones take their place. It’s best to address the root of your negative feedback and correct the problem to avoid more bad reviews in the future. What you can do about it: Rather than wiping out bad reviews, fix what’s causing the problem in the first place.
- Myth: It’s OK to publish fake reviews now and then. Fact: Fake reviews are a very bad idea, and can do serious damage to your business and reputationFake reviews are certainly tempting. For a little cash, you can hire writers to develop positive reviews — even if they’ve never used your business. They’ll build up your ratings and profile, and make your business look better online.Until they don’t. Consumers are not stupid, and can often see right through fake feedback. Even services like Yelp and Amazon are quick to point out reviews that just aren’t real — and the consequences can be serious, including a flag on your page and even legal trouble. The bottom line is, fake reviews are never a good idea, and are likely to cause more trouble than good. What you can do about it: Don’t use fake reviews. Instead, solicit genuine reviews from your customers and clients on a regular basis to build a strong collection of fair, positive reviews.
- MythYou have to publish hundreds of pages of content and social media posts to get on top of bad links. FactToo much repetitive content is spamming, but strong links will shine through.Be careful to avoid the temptation to create social media profiles, develop hundreds of thin blog posts, write fake product reviews, or beg every blogger you know for links. That’s spamming, and Google does not look kindly upon individuals and businesses who engage in these practices. What you can do about it: A better policy for attracting Google’s attention and beating bad links is strong and steady positive content. Create social profiles, but avoid making more than one for each service. Post to them, complete your profiles, and genuinely use them to interact with others. Create blog posts that are informative and useful, rather than keyword-stuffed. Doing so will allow you to genuinely earn links that make Google and others recognize your work as important, rather than having to beg for them.