Gini Dietrich

Eight Steps to Clean-Up Your Online Reputation

By: Gini Dietrich | April 25, 2013 | 
51

Seven Steps to Clean-Up Your Online ReputationDo you remember the story of Florida pizza shop owner, Scott Van Duzer, who hugged President Obama during a campaign stop in 2012?

The President stopped by Van Duzer’s restaurant to recognize him for his efforts in helping provide blood to patients in his county. What Van Duzer didn’t expect was the big bear hug he gave the President to make national news…and bring out the trolls on his company’s Yelp page.

People from across the country began leaving negative reviews on the page, even if they’d never actually eaten in the restaurant. One reviewer wrote, “Most of y’all Democrats can’t afford to eat at this restaurant anyway. They don’t accept food stamps.”

Hundreds of anti-Obama reviewers flooded the page to criticize Van Duzer, his restaurant, and his political beliefs.

Big Apple Pizza Yelp Reviews

In working with Yelp, Van Duzer was able to have some of the comments removed because they violated the site’s content guidelines, yet many remained. But then something magical happened: Van Duzer’s loyal customers came to the rescue! They began leaving five star reviews, having actually eaten in the restaurant, and the negative and untrue reviews were pushed further and further down.

Clean-Up Your Online Reputation

If you have some unsavory things hurting you online – and you don’t have a community to come to your rescue – you can clean-up your online reputation with some elbow grease and a good strategy in place.

The process goes a little something like this.

  1. Conduct an online audit. Likely you already know what’s there, but it doesn’t hurt to do a Google search, see what is being said, and where it lands in search results (second listing, first page). Do this both logged into your Google account and logged out (or you can open an incognito tab in your browser without having to actually log out by going to file > new incognito window). Logged in will let you see the results your friends, colleagues, peers, and clients will see. The incognito search will show you what the rest of the world sees. It’s important to have both. Search Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Search the social networks. Search the review sites. Search the Better Business Bureau and Ripoff Report. Search employee sites such as Glassdoor. Use terms such as “I hate COMPANY NAME” or “COMPANY NAME sucks.”
  2. Create a strategy. Based on what you learn from the audit and what internal and external implementation resources are in place, put together the company’s online strategy … and make sure it’s tied to your goals. The very first thing you should do (if you haven’t already) is set up Talkwalker alerts to let you know when someone says something about you online – positive, neutral, or negative.
  3. Create a clean-up list. With the audit complete and your online strategy in place, now comes the clean-up. In some cases, there will be multiple accounts for your organization. There might be profiles you don’t need on social networks that are either defunct or they don’t help your strategy. There might be negative reviews or blog posts on the first page of search results you’d like to address and not have come up before your own sites and the positive reviews. Maybe there are “I hate Company X” groups on Facebook or untrue reviews on Yelp or TripAdvisor. Perhaps former employees have said really terrible things about you on Glassdoor or they’ve set up social networks for the company and you don’t have the login information. Whatever it happens to be, the list begins with these types of things. Write down everything you need cleaned up so the person or team responsible understands what it is you want done.
  4. Assign someone (or a team) to do the work. They will need usernames and passwords, branding guidelines, sign-off on copy/images, and the power to make changes without a laborious approval process. It’s not critical this person be in marketing or PR, as long as it’s someone who understands what you’re trying to accomplish and can get the work done and update you in a timely manner.
  5. Begin the clean-up. Some of this is a big pain in the rear because you’ll need to work with the customer service departments at the social networks to either reset login data, delete a profile, or take down an untrue review. This could take weeks. We have a client who had an employee who was very social media savvy. He set up the company on all of the social networks and then quit his job, taking the login information with him. Working with LinkedIn, in particular, took about five weeks to reset the password and give us additional administrator access. In some cases, such as on the review sites, you have to prove the review is untrue, sometimes with legal action.
  6. Build your online presence through social media. There is one social network every organization should be on: Google+. Not only does Google rank you higher if you use their social network to promote your content, it helps to push down the negative content if it has been shared on Google+. You don’t have to be “social” on the site, but please use it to promote your content.
  7. Content is king…or at least prince. There are going to be many of you who have negative reviews that are, unfortunately, true. There are many organizations who claim they will clean up your online reputation for $40 per month, deleting all of the negative reviews from search results. This is illegal. Not illegal from the “I’ll be arrested and spend time in jail” point-of-view, but from a “It’s impossible to delete things on a site where you are not an administrator” perspective. Good, valuable content that is shared is the only way to push some the negative results.
  8. Implement the strategy. Once you’ve cleaned up the organization’s online presence and figured out how you’re going to use content to build a strong reputation, it’s time to put your strategy into action. This is the scary part. You’re about to become transparent. The curtain has been pulled back now and the only way to participate in the conversation is by being transparent, which means you’re opening yourself up to criticism and feedback.

Once you’ve decided to be transparent, honest, authentic, and human in your online conversations, the content, brand ambassadors, influencer marketing, customer reviews, and a solid product or service will help you cross the marathon finish line.

Warren Buffett famously said, “If you lose money for the firm, I will be understanding. If you lose reputation, I will be ruthless.”

An organization’s reputation, today, is only as good as its search results. If your operations are solid, you have a responsive customer service team, and you run things ethically, the rest will sort itself out.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

  • belllindsay

    “If you lose money for the firm, I will be understanding. If you lose reputation, I will be ruthless.” – what an incredible quote. I love it!! So true – your reputation is everything, personal, business or otherwise.

    • belllindsay I’m surprised you’ve never heard me use that. I use it when we media train clients, but it’s a pretty good philosophy, in general. You can earn money back; it’s nearly impossible to earn your reputation back.

      • ginidietrich belllindsay Ouch. A couple companies are coming to mind right now. Reputation can take a second to lose and a lifetime to rebuild. Sometimes, you can’t get it back. Guard it with your life.

        • belllindsay

          KateFinley ginidietrich Agreed – there’s not enough money in the world that can repair a thoroughly sullied reputation.

      • ginidietrich belllindsay I’ve heard it from you numerous times, but I dig it each time.

    • belllindsay Somewhat related is something an old boss used to quote to me all the time: “Reputations are gained by the drop and lost by the bucket.” I always wonder whether he was trying to tell me something …

  • PattiRoseKnight

    An incognito tab – is there nothing that Google hasn’t thought of?

    • PattiRoseKnight Ooo yes its a great feature!

    • PattiRoseKnight I love it! I use it all the time for a certain client that gets negative reviews.

      • ginidietrich PattiRoseKnight Call a spade a spade: it’s the porn tab. 😉

        • jasonkonopinski PattiRoseKnight HAHAHAH! I’d never even considered that. LOL!

  • I do love when you quote Buffet. Great post. Thanks.

  • trainwithcts

    Good point on #1.  I even search to see if there is a Facebook group titled”I Hate________” using the company’s name.  Amazing what you will learn

    • trainwithcts Yep! I did that while we were on a call with a client and lo and behold! The page only had two likes, but it was brand new. So you want to keep doing this. It’s not a once and done kind of thing.

  • When I moved I didn’t know anyone in the new town so I have spent far more time trying to use some of the of online ‘review services’ and have noticed that some of them are real magnets for negative comments.
    It has made me wonder about the sites and whether they have any moderators or community managers that “police” the site . 
    I am sure some of the comments are truthful and accurate but some are just so over the top it is clear that anger fueled the fire.
    And given the ease with which they can be posted it is clear to me that any business that doesn’t spend time paying attention to their online reputation is taking a risk.

    • Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes When we were in Europe, we used TripAdvisor and Yelp to help us choose restaurants. You’re right – it’s pretty amazing to see no one is policing their pages. We were at one restaurant (got caught in the rain so ran to the first cover) and, while we were sitting there, read their reviews. They were horrible, but the place was quite charming. No one is paying attention.

  • ginidietrich I REALLY like point #6. For starters, it’s hard to convince some brands to think in depth about Google+. The platform can play a crucial role for a brand’s online presence, like you pointed out. At almost 350 million users, you think it would starting get more love from some of these brands? Ignoring just about anything Google… will come back to bite you.

    • Matt_Cerms I think many think of it as a social network. I always stress it is not a social network (at least, not in the same sense as Facebook or Twitter) so stop thinking of it that way. Google has a beta of universal analytics out right now and they’ve implemented your Google+ activity directly into the data. If you’re not using it, you’ll be missing out on all of that.

  • KevinVandever

    Thank you for the tips, but…um…that’s eight.

    • KevinVandever OFGS. I’m an idiot.

      • KevinVandever

        ginidietrich It’s better than only listing six. Imagine your community holding its collective breath, waiting and searching for the seventh step? No, you’re not an idiot, you’re an extremely giving person who offered your readers a bonus step. Thank you! I know, I know…spin sucks!

        • KevinVandever LOL!! I like the way you work! I’m glad you noticed it…I had to go back and change in all the spots I posted. Lordy.

      • ginidietrichKevinVandeverOFGS? is that like fhqwhgads? Or something worse?
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ceGeTD1PN4

  • Good points, Gini, you even over-delivered with an eighth tip!!  Alternatively, you could always change your name to a famous person like me then no one will be able to find you… unless they’ve circled you on google +.  See, I’m backing up your argument – there’s really no reason I should be on first page google search for Tony Bennett… but I am for the couple thousand who have me circled!

    • TonyBennett OMG!!!!!!!!!!! HAHAHAHA! I’m a moron. I must have been more than half asleep when I wrote this. Jeez.

      • belllindsay

        ginidietrich TonyBennett Oh my God – *I* didn’t even notice that!! hahaha Man, early mornings. 🙂

  • rdopping

    I always miss all the fun. Clearly you reposted with an updated title. I don’t think I need these tips because of my level of invisibility. Now, don’tmess with me and start slamming me on-line just to prove me wrong.

    • rdopping I think bdorman264 is going to take offense to your language here.

      • ginidietrich rdopping bdorman264 hhehehehehe he said slamming. That is a sex term right? Hey Ralph I always get these direct messages on twitter that peole are saying bad things about you on Myspace. What are you doing to earn that?

        • Howie Goldfarb rdopping bdorman264 MySpace is making a comeback; now’s the time to invest….

        • rdopping

          Yeah. Me and Justin Timberlake.

        • belllindsay

          bdorman264 Howie Goldfarb rdopping Don’t call it a comeback! I’ve been here for years…!! (name that tune)

      • ginidietrich rdopping bdorman264 And I’ll break out the Kung Fu grip too.

  • Interesting topic Ms. ginidietrich  
    I have had battles with Yelp! As with social media networks and email marketing the slow accumulation of data over time to uncuratable levels has me wonder about some of this. For example a business with 250 yelp reviews I will probably just look at the overall star rating. Often when I see content attacking a brand I feel the writer is the problem. I remember stalking AT&T’s facebook page when Chris Baccus was there before changes moved the fan comments from the basic feed. People would write the most abusive comments saying how evil ATT was for turning their phone off after going 3 months of not paying.
    and if the really smart folks at Reputation.com can’t fix their online Rep can this even be achieved?
    That said I think you need a strategy and should work on it. We used to send private messages to upset customers of Chunk-n-Chip on yelp to resolve the issue. Now we usually make a public comment so others can see we responded. Ironically 80% of the folks upset who are offered a replacement product don’t take us up on it.

    • Howie Goldfarb I’ll take their replacement products!

      • ginidietrich Howie Goldfarb they owe me cookies I need to get you some! Plus I owe you a super secret package to help your foot heal LOL

    • Howie Goldfarb ginidietrich YELP is like the Mafia of the internet.

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  • OK, we have a monitoring tool which assists with reputation management, so I definitely love the topic. And I’m sharing it through my own networks because you not only give suggestions for using elbow grease and the tools already available to help find the conversations…but also how to go about prepping a strategy to fix the situation.
    #3 must be painful.
    The Hecklers’ Hangout crew was recently discussing the trolls who gleefully lie in weight to take down brands for missteps…or just perceived sleights. Blows my mind that our society has come to that point.

    • dbvickery Hey – hit me up on email about your reputation management monitoring tool, will you?

      • ginidietrich dbvickery Sent an email this afternoon from my Mantis email account.

  • ScottDylan Glad it was helpful, Scott!

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