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This is a hypothetical story about Buddy, owner of BuddysFantasticLawnSprinklers.com.

Buddy has done everything he can to build a legitimate business. He relies on his superior customer service, transparency and good products to cultivate a stellar reputation in the community.

He attends trade shows, seminars, meetups, and actively participates in online conversations through social media and his blog.

He even encourages feedback from his customers, and handles complaints quickly and professionally.

But what Buddy doesn’t realize is that even one bad review can potentially cause a great deal of damage to his brand.

One day, a customer discovered a defective sprinkler was delivered. The customer contacted customer service, and was told to send the defective part back, and a new part would arrive in a few weeks. But when the customer received the new part, he discovered it was defective too.

Turns out all 500 sprinklers in a particular batch from the manufacturer are defective, and now Buddy has a few irate customers.

KSL-TV’s Bill Gephardt reached out to SEO.com to find out what exactly a business can do in the wake of a negative online review.

SEO.com President Ash Buckles Gives Advice for Businesses Dealing with Negative Online Reviews

Ash Buckles SEO

Credit: KSL-TV

“Once there is information out online, you can’t always remove it,” said company president Ash Buckles, in an interview that aired Wednesday. “But what you can do is augment the positives you’re providing as well.”
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No company is perfect. Mistakes will be made, customers may have a negative experience, and a product or service may live up to expectations or promises. But Buckles says SEO can go a long way in bolstering the positive associations people make with your brand online.

“If you are part of local associations or do business locally and support the kids in the community or what have you, you can use those as an opportunity to help people understand that you might have made a mistake, but you are not generally a scumbag business owner,” he said.

Often, those researching a particular brand or company will use a search engine, but when negative reviews or news stories are showing up in the search results, it can leave a bad impression.

Reputation management is an important component to an SEO campaign. When a business uses search engine optimization to become more visible in the search engines, positive impressions are made through the great content created for the campaign. The same course of action can be used to move negative listings off the first page of results. giving a chance for the positive content to shine.

Here are 3 ways businesses can handle negative online reviews:

1. Address complaint with the customer privately. Emotions can become heated when someone feels compelled to write a negative review, but sometimes a public response can fuel the fire. Someone in the public relations, customer service or marketing department should reach out to the customer through a phone call, email or message on social media with an invitation to continue the discussion.
2. Own more web properties. Social media profiles, blogs, micro-sites and company profiles on industry websites will often rank alongside a company’s main website for a branded search. Authoritative, content-rich web properties will have a chance to rank on the first page of the results, which makes it less likely for a negative review to be displayed there. Of course, that’s why a proactive approach to reputation management should start at the very first step.
3. Encourage positive reviews. Along the notion of being proactive, business owners should curate positive reviews through social media, testimonials, forums and blog post comments. Never feel awkward about asking customers to post about their experience. Happy clients are more likely to take the time to post a review, and usually don’t mind if the process is easy enough.

What are your tips for dealing with negative reviews? Post your thoughts in the comments below.