How to get a bad review off the first page of search results

Your organization is bound to get at least one bad review in its lifetime. Use these pointers to ensure it isn’t the first thing people see when they search for you online.


I recently did a breakout session at Social Media Marketing World on crisis communications.

Because of that, I’ve had the opportunity to help some organizations with interesting issues and crises.

Throughout my career, I have handled everything from asbestos in a food manufacturing plant to tires that blew up when driven faster than 45 mph to the Japanese dumping fish into the United States to an employee killed at work.

Don’t panic.

There has been no shortage of scary situations, and the Internet has made them even more challenging.

Nowadays, everything is a crisis.

If someone says something negative about our organizations online or a disgruntled former employee leaves a bad review about us on Glassdoor, we want to respond as though it’s a crisis.

These, fortunately, are not crises. They are issues that could turn into crises if you don’t handle them well, but they can be handled.

I get many panicked calls from executives who need help managing issues, and I spend a lot of time talking people off the ledge.

Most of the time, it’s not worth the panic. Yes, you should pay attention and respond, but it’s rarely worth getting upset.

Work on reputation management.

Such a situation recently came up.

A woman I met at Social Media Marketing World works for a company with a bad review on Ripoff Report.

The good news is the company only has one complaint, which is commendable in its line of work. It also has one really good review on Yelp and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.

The bad news—and I’m certain it’s why the executives keep bringing it up—is that the negative review is on the first page of Google results.

It’s not on the first page when you search for the company name by itself. When you search only for the company name, you see its social networks, good reviews and A+ rating.

When you add “reputation” to the search, however, you find the Ripoff Report review.

Content is king in this case.

This is when I have to talk someone off the ledge.

If you were a customer doing research and found the great Yelp and Better Business Bureau reviews as well as the Ripoff Report review, what would you think?

Most of us expect signs of imperfection when we search for companies. Yes, we’ll read the bad review and take notes, but it only helps us ask the sales guy smarter questions before we hire the company.

It’s not life or death.

Still, it’s smart for this company to pay attention to the bad review. There are some things it can do to push the review to the second or third page of search results.

Here’s how to move a bad review from search results.

If I were working with this company, this is what I would recommend:

  • Create content that uses “[company name] reputation” as the key phrase. The company has a YouTube channel, so it should create videos that include that exact phrase.
  • The company doesn’t have a blog, so I’d recommend starting one. If it doesn’t start a blog, the company can create content for business, news and trade publications as part of its PR strategy. “[Company name] reputation” should be the key phrase in that content. (Here is my three-pronged approach to media relations.)
  • The company should promote the videos and contributed content on social media (particularly on Google+) once a week. Status updates should include “[company name] reputation.”
  • Ask people to review the company on Yelp. Though you can’t offer incentives to anyone for writing a review, you can certainly ask. Not everyone will do it, but most won’t know to do so if you don’t ask.

It won’t happen overnight, but within a few months the review will move closer to the bottom of the page. After nine to 12 months, it will leave the first page.

If you were working with this company, what would you recommend to get the Ripoff Report off the first page of search results?

A version of this article originally appeared on Spin Sucks.

Topics: PR

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