This week, the Supreme Court passed down a ruling that allows Yelp to keep third-party reviews on its platform, even if they're defamatory [RY1]. The primary reason for this ruling is to continually foster free speech. Although this is a huge win for the internet, this can very easily go off the rails for small business owners nationwide.
Back in May, we wrote about how third-party reviews can decide a small business' future. Now, that's true, more than ever.
With that being said, we constantly encourage all of our clients to insulate themselves from naysayers, regardless of whether or not their claims are accurate. One of the best ways to do this is to proactively collect positive testimonials from your loyal customer base.
Of course, there's two sides to every story, and no business is perfect. But by reaching out to your clientele and requesting that they share their feedback on your Google, Facebook, and Yelp listings (among others), you're reducing the chances of one bad review tanking your business.
But what if I'm flooded with a hailstorm of negative press?
In another instance, The Red Hen, a Virginia-based restaurant was annihilated on Yelp after refusing service to White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders [RY2]. This effectively brought their Yelp star rating down from a near-5 to a 1, effectively ruining their online reputation.
The worst part is that the onslaught of customer reviews weren't even a direct reflection of the Red Hen's customer service, food, prices, etc. Instead this was more of a mass effort to destroy the business. It got so ugly that at one point users were posting various obscenities, Nazi paraphernalia, and graphic images.
Similar to our earlier point, the best strategy to tackling a PR nightmare like this is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Most people are aware that incorporating taboo topics, such as politics, religion, and income, is a bad practice in any professional environment. But not everyone follows those rules.
However, The Red Hen is now placed in a position where they have to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars to hire professional PR and marketing teams. So what's the best solution?
Focus on Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
While Google continually changes its algorithm, internet users can count on a few basic principles:
Consistently publish new, relevant content.
Content is king. For our clients and even our own website, blog-style posts are regularly the top traffic drivers, eventually funneling users to other website pages.
Beyond that, new content helps businesses to climb search rankings. After all, it makes sense. When all else is equal, a search engine is going to display more recent material over something that's over a year old.
Use keywords that relate to your business.
The game of SEO is completely dependent on keywords.
If I want my firm to show up as a marketing agency, I'll include words and phrases pertinent to just that. But you can go even further by zeroing in on locations, descriptive traits, and others aspects that best describe your brand.
At the end of the day, the businesses who use the best keywords at the most consistent rate will be the ones who appear at the top of the search listings.
Promote your digital properties.
Small businesses are naturally at a detriment when it comes to this last principle. Large corporations with extensive advertising budgets have a leg up.
But that doesn't mean promoting your digital properties is a lost cause.
Far from it.
By being strategic and selective about where you focus your digital marketing efforts, small businesses can effectively become big fish. But it's a long journey and requires time, dedication, patience, and paid advertising.
As much as we hate to say it, you do have to pay to play nowadays. Otherwise, that uphill battle just grew even steeper.
By following these three basic principles, you can establish a long-running record of reputation management and content that showcases an accurate representation of your business. And by doing so, the impact of bad press can be reduced to the short-term.