How to remove a negative online review

Coping with a bad review on a website…

How to remove a bad online review…

How to remove a negative online review
A negative review can come as a terrible shock…

It’s the nightmare for any business. You wake up, click online and there on the internet is a bad review about your company.

Maybe it’s a fair comment. Perhaps a customer didn’t get as good a service as normal. But more often than not you will feel the review is unfair, wrong and even defamatory.

The question is what to do about it? Here I give ten tips to help cope with a bad website review…

1) Don’t panic about a bad online review

Firstly however good you are as a business owner, accept you cannot please everyone. There will always be someone who will complain, someone you can’t please or someone who will be plain nasty. And one or two negative reviews when you have other perfectly good reviews are not going to ruin your business, whatever you think. After all, think about it logically – would you be put off going to a restaurant with a good reputation because of one or two poor reviews? The answer is no – and in fact a company with nothing but five star reviews might be more suspect (are they paying people to put them on?)

2) Consider contacting the host website to get the review removed.

If you suspect it is a fake review – rather than a genuine customer with a grievance – consider flagging it up to the review website it is hosted on. They should be able to check out whether it is a genuine review or not. If not, then you might be able to get it removed. Similarly check the guidelines of the review website. For example if someone has named you or identified you or shown sexist or racist language, the review might be removed because of that. So your first stop is to see if the review meets the guidelines on the review website.

A word about Rip off Report.  Rip off Report is a review website in the US where anyone – genuine or not – can post anything they want about any company or anyone in the world. Sadly it is full of malicious reports filed by rival businesses. If you are unlucky enough to find a negative review about your business on Rip off Report, don’t bother to contact Rip off Report. Rip off Report’s owner hides behind the State’s first amendment of ‘free speech’ and despite hundreds of lawsuits claiming defamation (and desperate business owners begging) he refuses to remove anything. Indeed there have been claims that the only way to remove a Rip off Report is to pay the owner an extortionate amount of money.

Unfortunately – for reasons unknown – Google often initially brings up Rip off Report quite highly in a search. But it is nothing more than a scam website – the sort of thing any customer clicking on it will quickly click off (it looks like a scam website and they will be terrified it might corrupt their computer!) The good news is Rip Off Reports generally fade away from page one of Google if you leave them alone (and you can push them down, burying them in a search by indulging in some DIY reputation management – for example getting profiles on websites that enjoy even higher Google profiles such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and other social media).

3) Don’t over-react to a bad online review

If it is a genuine awkward customer, it can be tempting to immediately reply. You might want to reply to a review left on Trip Advisor to write something back, to defend yourself – but stop before you do anything. Sometimes the best way is to do nothing – and in fact I believe for reasons detailed below, this is the best way to deal with negative information about you or your business on the internet. Left alone with no attention, most negative content quickly dies away. Yes it will still be on the internet but eventually it will be extremely hard for anyone other than the most driven searcher to find. Definitely if it is clearly a ridiculous review then it might be best to leave well alone.  Whatever you do, do not respond at all to any sort of allegation on Rip Off Report as that makes the review come up higher in a Google search. Also do not respond to any review immediately when you are feeling upset and angry. Consider your next move for at least 48 hours.

4) If you must respond

If you feel you must respond to a poor online review on a genuine review website – perhaps because it is very wrong – then keep it short and simple. Do not become defensive or make accusations. Be transparent and honest. If the customer didn’t have such a good service, admit it and apologise. If you feel the reviewer is wrong, say there has clearly been a misunderstanding (rather than blaming them, which will add fuel to the fire) and say you would welcome the chance to make amends. Be pleasant and not accusing, threatening and don’t speak in corporate language.

A note about putting any sort of explanation on your own website. Don’t do this as it simply draws a customer’s attention to the negative information! In fact many potential customers don’t check out companies or businesses before they buy (if they did people would not be scammed by scam websites!) so despite your concerns, the chances are would be clients will not be aware of the negative review that so worries you…

5) Never ask someone to remove their review

Resist the urge to ask, bribe, blackmail or cajole a reviewer into removing their review. Asking this can make someone determined to leave it on. Your best hope is that if you deal with their problem in a positive way, that person will feel guilty about how they reacted and remove the review of their own accord.

6) Accept information on the internet might never go away

Unfortunately due to the way the internet works, accept that review might never go away. In this case it is best to concentrate on creating positive information about you on the internet so that comes higher up than the review or offending website. For example, if you are a restaurant suggest someone who has clearly enjoyed their evening might like to write a review or if you are a company and have received a thank you email, suggest that person might like to write about their positive experience. This will push the negative review lower down in a search so it is less noticeable.

7) Avoid getting into rows on Facebook or Twitter

If someone tweets or Facebooks you with some negative information, it is best not to engage publicly. Responding publicly can result in an online row which will only draw attention to the initial complaint. The best way might be to simply ignore it especially if it is on a website such as Rip Off Reports. Otherwise see if you can privately message that person. Suggest a time to call –  and carry on as advised in number 3 above. Bear in mind if you message someone or email someone that your email can become public – someone could share that email – so be careful what you write.

8) Think twice before engaging lawyers

Threatening someone with legal action if they don’t remove their review, involving a lawyer to send a letter – I believe all of this can be dangerous and is best avoided. Sadly lawyers who after all make their money sending out nasty letters to people, might convince you threatening legal action is a good idea. And yes it might work if you suspect it is a fake reviewer whose story would never stand up under public scrutiny. But if the review is from a genuinely disgruntled customer then this can backfire. That person – upset by your threats – might go to a newspaper or write a public blog about you. This can have the effect of spreading the negative review further – a phenomenon known as the Streisand Effect.

The Streisand Effect is named after an incident involving singer Barbra Streisand. In February 2003 Barbra Streisand tried to get aerial view photos of her Californian estate taken down by filing a lawsuit against the photographer. The heavy handed legal action drew press attention to the photos and made it into a huge story.  The result was while the photos had only been accessed a few times prior to the legal action, they were now downloaded thousands of times. Thus she ultimately paid her lawyers to make something she wanted to go away quietly into a major worldwide story…

9) Consider using Google’s Right to be Forgotten

If you are in the UK or EU, Google will sometimes remove content if it believes the information is outdated and should no longer be on the internet. This is not available on google.com as the US believes in free speech even if it is malicious and false – so the information will still appear on there. Do not use Google’s defamation and legal report service in any country as while this might remove the offending website from a search, the reality it will simply be moved into Google’s Chilling Effects report. This is a group of academics in the US who get round repeating libellous information removed by Google by saying they are providing a service and ‘simply recording what Google does.’ And this Chilling Effects report will still come up in a search, drawing attention to your complaint, why you complained and incredibly, often even repeating all the negative information Google initially removed…

10) Sell your story to the press yourself

It might seem a strange way to get rid of negative online content but getting a story into a newspaper  or magazine can be the best way to counter a bad review. For example if you are the victim of numerous poor reviews you consider to be unfair, and you risk going out of business, a story in your local paper can set the record straight. A positive story about you or your business can also push negative content away. This is because media websites typically enjoy a high Google profile and will often show higher than the website containing the negative review about you. So your positive publicity will be at the top of that Google search…

Find out more about reputation management.

 Have you been the target of negative reviews or do you have any advice to offer? Let me know below…

Alison Smith-Squire

Alison Smith-Squire is a writer, journalist and media agent selling exclusive real life stories to newspapers, magazines and TV. She owns the sell my story website Featureworld.co.uk, which was set up to help ordinary people sell their stories to the press.

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