15 Ways to Avoid Bad Online Reviews

Imagine if there were a handful of things you could do right now to seriously mitigate the chances of your company falling victim to an online reputation management nightmare? Imagine if proactively putting in place a couple of systems would help you hear your customers in a way that is productive to the company, instead of potentially damaging?

Well, there are. And you can.

Below are 15 things you can do today to help prevent an online reputation disaster in the future.

  1. Build your reputation by dominating your Google 10. Blog, make videos, sponsor events, create a company Tumblr account, start a podcast, etc. This will help you control what’s ranking for your brand name and keep negative mentions lower on the Google totem pole.
  2. Let customers know how you prefer to be contacted. If they’re experiencing issues or concerns, should they reach out to you on Twitter, on Facebook, use your contact form, call you, etc.? Let them know the best way to resolve their issue so that they can use your company-approved method to get a response instead of ranting on Twitter or dissing you on Yelp.
  3. Add a complaint area on your website to help give customers guidance on how to get in touch with your company and keep them on the site.
  4. Follow up with customers immediately after the sale to collect feedback and tackle any issues head on.
  5. Find ways to constantly collect feedback – by holding focus groups, talking to customers at the register, calling loyal customers, etc. Once customers hand you this valuable feedback, use it and implement what they’re asking for.
  6. Be awesome at customer service.
  7. Be accessible and develop an active social media and online presence. I’m far more likely to angry-tweet about a company I don’t think is listening than someone who is active in the conversation.
  8. Use tools like Google Alerts, Twitter Search, Hootsuite and Trackur to help you monitor what’s being said about your brand.
  9. If you stumble across a negative mention of your company, become part of that conversation. Let that customer (and everyone watching) know that you want to make things right and offer a plan for how to move forward from this experience.
  10. Respond to negative reviews using humility and grace. Listen to what the negative comments really said and address concerns in a straightforward manner. Never get defensive.
  11. Avoid making the situation worse (see this Washington Post article for an example).
  12. Don’t write fake reviews or create fake accounts to tweet/post nice things about your brand. Your customers will always find out–and it won’t be pretty when they do.
  13. Proactively use Facebook and Twitter to build brand evangelists you can count on to defend you when sticky situations arise. It’s always better to have someone come to your rescue than for you to be the lone voice speaking on behalf of your brand.
  14. Repeat tip #13 for blog communities, professional sites, local-specific communities and special-interest sites.
  15. Develop a crisis plan so that if or when something does go wrong, you have a plan for how you’ll react. You don’t want to be scrambling while emotions are high. Know what steps you’ll take and who’ll do what before a problem arises.

It may look like a lot to do, but you’ll notice that everything on the list is really interconnected. That means doing one thing makes it that much easier for the rest to flow naturally. And really, isn’t your brand worth it?


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

14 Reactions
  1. I must say that the on-site complaint form is an incredibly good idea.

    Love #6 as well – be awesome at customer service. No amount of reputation management will fix that if broken.

  2. All very good advice, but make sure you have a great product/service to mitigate even more complaints.

  3. I agree with Kevin, online complaint is good, but people usually are open to click on the contact us tab and send their problems/complaints. We must be fast in answering too, so it does not escalate. Sometimes people get upset and is better to face it fast before they think that they are being ignored by the staff.

    Mark Brundage UOBIM

  4. I think that is just one of the characteristics of my generation. We want to express our feedback immediately. It’s not necessarily to tell the whole world, but to let the business know that we appreciate them or were unsatisfied with their service. Being able to capture that feedback especially if it is negative right then and there can be very valuable for any business.

    I also agree with Kevin regarding the on-site complaint form. However, physical comment cards are out-dated and do not appeal to my generation (I don’t think I have ever filled one out). Moving the comment card to the smartphone is one solution. Couple that with recommendations for popular products, a link to the business’s Facebook page, etc, and you got a new channel to engage the customer while they are in your business.

  5. These are very good tips to overcome negative reports. It’s a shame the percentage of people who leave review comments are greater for negative ones than for positive ones. I like the tip of providing a way to have the customer contact you. If you can resolve the situation then you can turn a potentially bad review into a positive one.

  6. Great post that’s stood the test of time. Generally, if a user has a good experience with a company’s products and services, they’ll generally have good things to say; they just might need that little spark.

    Having an active customer communications and/or advocacy program can be a great way for companies to generate positive testimonials and even referrals.

  7. Great advice. I especially like #1. Owning your branded keyword just makes sense. Many people don’t think about it until you sit down and show them how critical it is. When it comes to brand protection, its one of the most basic things a company can do yet it is also one of the most powerful.

    Also, focusing on feedback and giving customers a way to contact your company directly is extremely important. But it shouldn’t end there. Business owners that hold themselves and their staff accountable to continually improving customer service and the overall brand experience are the ones that will be the most successful longterm.

    Combining that with #13 and other methods of building loyalty, and then encouraging loyal customers to talk about your business is probably the best longterm marketing strategy a business can utilize. It definitely takes a lot of effort, but it increase repeat business, brings in new business and can reduce marketing expenditures over time.