17 Tips for Online Reputation Repair Before Selling Your Business
| April 2022
More businesses are expected to be sold in the U.S, in 2023. However, the reputation of a business can either hurt or help its chances of being sold.
In the digital age, this is more true than ever. In a Visual Objects report quoted on prnewswire.com, 76% of consumers will look up a business online before visiting their brick-and-mortar location.
This is where online reputation repair comes in. If your brand has been hurt by bad reviews or negative press, you need to take corrective action. To boost sales and make your business more attractive to investors, you may have to use online reputation repair strategies or engage the best professional services.
It’s smart to work with a broker to determine how strong your brand’s reputation is online before selling your business. In the meantime, there are a few online reputation repair tactics you can start using right away to achieve better market positioning.
What Goes Into Online Reputation Repair and Management?
Reputation repair can be thought of as a “damage control” process for a small business.
When customers find lots of negative reviews or your business earns a reputation for poor service, whether or not it’s your fault, your brand will earn a bad mark. This can lead to fewer customers wanting to take a chance to buy from you.
In turn, that leads to fewer sales and dwindling overall brand value, which can quickly leave your business in jeopardy.
As soon as you find out that damaging information is circulating about your business, you should implement reputation repair, and it should be a continual process. The sooner you start, the better, since you’ll need to preserve the value you’ve built up for your brand while earning back goodwill.
If you ever want to sell your business, it’s crucial to begin repairing your business as far ahead of your targeted exit date as possible, up to a few years away. It can take many months of hard work to turn around the negative brand sentiment.
The good news? A professional business broker can help you employ the right online reputation repair services from the start to ensure that your brand will end up stronger than before.
Online Reputation Repair Tips to Increase Your Business’s Value
Follow these strategies to repair the reputation of your business if it has suffered from the impact of bad reviews, errors, or negative press:
1. Ask Google to Remove Problematic Reviews
Google is the most popular search engine by far. If bad reviews are listed on Google properties that point to your business, it can seriously hurt your business’s prospects.
Google’s help docs explain the established process for requesting that unfair negative reviews are removed. You can do this for reviews that are attached to your Google Business Profile, Maps, or Search.
According to Forbes.com, however, this may not necessarily work for you, depending on the feature’s availability in your Google account and the decision made by the Google support team after your request. Either way, it’s important to simply keep incentivizing your happy customers to leave more good reviews to outnumber the bad ones.
2. Reach Out to Site Owners
Sometimes, a popular website may put out unflattering content about your business. If you can prove the negative info is unjustified, malicious, or based on a misunderstanding, the website owner might agree to take down the information.
You can reach out to website owners either through the publicly-listed contact info on the website itself or the ICANN Lookup Tool.
3. File a Complaint With Web Servers
Website owners may not always be reachable or willing to remove bad press about your business, even if it is truly flagrant and inflammatory. In this case, try reaching out to the hosting service for that website instead. Web hosts can take the site offline if they find it to violate their own policies.
It may help to have a lawyer or a savvy business broker familiar with professional online reputation repair by your side to advise you on this course of action.
4. Claim Your Yelp Listing
Consumers often go to Yelp to look up reviews of local businesses before paying a visit. However, some businesses have an "unclaimed" listing with incorrect information. These profiles can exist on the site without the business owner's knowledge and can accumulate any number of positive and negative reviews.
For this reason, it’s important to look up your Yelp profile. If there is one without your knowledge, claim it so you can fill in accurate info about your business. From then on, if unfair negative reviews appear for your business, you’ll be able to respond to those reviews in detail.
5. Claim Your Google Business Profile
Your Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) is an important tool for businesses to display accurate information online in 2023. It’s possible to have an unclaimed profile, just like on Yelp. If you do, claim it and fill it in as much as you can for more control of your reputation in Google’s search results.
6. Create and Certify Your Facebook Business Page
Facebook is an important outlet for local small businesses. Even if you don’t primarily communicate with customers through Facebook, it is where some of them will look up your business and try to get more information on your products, services, and reviews.
For that reason, you should at least have a minimally filled-out and updated Business Page. Facebook also requires you to verify your ownership of the Page. Be sure to provide all info requested to legitimize your profile on the platform.
7. Use a Well-Thought-Out SEO Strategy
If negative articles about your business appear in Google searches, you can’t petition Google directly to remove them. You may be able to “suppress” them, however, by creating search-optimized articles that will push negative content down from the top search results.
This means investing the time to create keyword-rich content about your business. If your business has earned negative attention, whether fairly or unfairly, address the issues head-on in your new content and explain the public stance and values-based commitments your business is making.
Do keyword research with a tool like Google’s Keyword Planner to find out what websites are saying about your brand. You might find opportunities to use key phrases like “is [your brand name] a scam?” and “reviews about [your brand name]” in your content to capture web users who are looking up your business.
8. Build Out Your Presence Online With Good Press
The best online reputation repair services will advise you to create good press. Do enough of this, and it may well “drown out” the negativity over time.
Reach out to local content outlets like community newsletters, local blogs, and popular local businesses you’ve done cross-promotions with. Use those channels as much as possible to create positive messaging about your brand, including your approach to customer service and your brand’s greater vision.
9. Keep up Regular Blog Posts
A blog that’s constantly updated with original, locally-relevant, and interesting content is great for any business that wants search traffic online. It’s even more crucial for internet reputation repair, as high-quality blog posts can help outnumber negative articles about your business.
An important part of this strategy is earning “backlinks” from relevant companies to your blog. Reach out to a wide range of relevant businesses and local entrepreneurs. Ask if you can feature their comments or ideas in exchange for a link back to your blog posts.
This is not only good for SEO, but it shows consumers your business isn’t an “island.” You’re associating your brand with other reputable companies, which helps build trust.
10. Listen to and Address Customer Needs
According to a report by PwC, one in three consumers will permanently leave a brand they love after just one bad experience, and 92% will never return after two or three poor experiences. Customers that don’t feel listened to won’t only walk away from your brand; they may discourage friends and family from buying from you as well.
Use customer surveys, and ask customers directly what they like and don’t like about your business. Then, commit to making changes and strengthening your operations accordingly.
This should go hand-in-hand with improving your internal processes to ensure better customer experiences in the future. Conduct a thorough audit of where your business has gone wrong, and plan to address the internal problems swiftly before they cause more damage to your brand.
Over time, this is an organic way to crowd out bad reviews and customer experiences from the past. When it comes to internet reputation repair, it’s key to make sure those bad experiences are never repeated.
11. Respond to Better Business Bureau Reviews
Many consumers turn to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) as a trusted source of reviews and ratings before making a purchase. It’s important to see whether your business is listed there and has accumulated any negative reviews.
Consumers often check the BBB website before making purchases, and it comes up easily in Google searches. Bad ratings on the site can hurt your internet reputation repair efforts.
If you’ve received a low rating from the Better Business Bureau due to bad reviews, respond to those reviews thoughtfully. Explain what your business will do to resolve the issues.
12. Highlight Good Reviews, Testimonials, and Case Studies
Your business may have loyal customers who have given great reviews or lengthy testimonials about their satisfaction with the products or services. These reviews need to be prominently featured across your web presence, however, to have a real impact.
It’s even more crucial to do this if you’re conducting an online reputation repair process.
Highlight happy customers on your website and social media profiles. Share 5-star reviews and detailed customer testimonials, and even consider extending their online reach with PPC and social media ads. To make a strong impression online, make sure you use video and images along with written content to get these stories out.
13. Solicit More Good Reviews From Customers
Encouraging more positive reviews from your customers is important. They may not be inclined to leave a positive testimonial on your site on their own.
According to Andrew Thomas in an article for Inc.com, customers are much more likely to leave negative ratings and reviews after bad experiences than good reviews after positive experiences. Unfortunately, negative reviews have more impact.
Incentivize old satisfied customers to come back and tell their stories by offering discounts and special deals. Over time, these should displace the bad reviews.
14. Strengthen Staff Member Profiles
A lot of the credibility of your business lies with your staff members. If customers don’t know and trust them, they may have a harder time trusting your business enough to buy, especially when your online reputation has been hurt.
To remedy this, be transparent about your staff. You could use an “About Us” section of your site to display pictures of your key personnel while explaining what they do in a friendly, relatable tone. You can also create individual LinkedIn profiles for each staff member and connect them to your brand’s overall LinkedIn profile.
15. Make Amends for Past Business Failures and Mistakes
Often, if the precipitating event for the negative press and reviews surrounding your brand is the direct fault of actions taken by you or your staff, the only thing to do is directly apologize and pledge that the incident won’t happen again.
That can involve creating content that directly addresses the issues while explaining how your business has changed and will avoid such problems in the future.
16. Create Local Goodwill
For small local businesses, word-of-mouth is key. If people in the community hear about a business that’s behaving badly, they will tell everyone they know to avoid it. Similarly, if a business is making a big positive difference locally, it can attract more attention and rebuild goodwill.
To go about this method of online reputation repair, write about your business’s community service and local activities with a sensitive tone. Whether you choose to support a charity, have your staff volunteer for a local cause, or take part in another event, make sure your goodwill activities are sensible and authentic to your brand.
17. Invest in Professional Online Reputation Repair Services
Sometimes, the work of rebuilding a damaged reputation online is simply too much for you to handle as a business owner. That is when it’s best to call on the professionals.
The best online reputation management services will advise on the exact steps your business needs to take in order to rebuild a great brand profile on the internet. They may consult with you to tell you what actions to take, or they may carry out all the necessary tasks for you.
Either way, it’s important to go with a service that has a good track record of success and that employs several proven strategies for putting your reputation in a positive light as soon as possible.
Also, ensure that the service you go with can promise results in a reasonable timeline. Avoid spending on drawn-out services that take many months to report results or demonstrate measurable improvement in your brand positioning and sales online.
To ensure you pick the right service, you may want to talk to a business broker. This is especially the case if you want to sell your business at some point. An experienced broker will be able to advise on key brand-building steps and refer you to a trustworthy online reputation management service if needed.
Talk to Raincatcher
Selling your business can be a complicated task. This is especially the case if your brand’s reputation has suffered a hit.
Whether the difficulties are truly the fault of your business or not, a tarnished brand can significantly affect the value of your business as a whole. This could turn off potential business buyers, making it hard for you to complete the exit you’ve been looking forward to.
The solution? Talk to the experts at Raincatcher. Our brokers have many years of experience in helping sellers add more value to their businesses, enabling the best possible profit when it’s time to transact with the buyer. We can help rebuild your brand reputation and bring back a solid stream of revenue well in advance of the business sale.