10 Steps to Clean Up Your Bad Business Online Reputation Today

Published: April 27, 2022 | Last updated: June 2, 2022

Whether it’s looking a little neglected, or you just want to give your online profile a bit of a spring-clean: here are our ten quick tips to help spruce up your online reputation.


Step one: clean up and delete old content

It’s amazing just how much the internet can remember. It’s great for archiving and benchmarking our successes, but it can also highlight where we’ve let people down. After you’ve conducted your search, you might find that there’s a lot of out-of-date information or content that no longer aligns with your brand.

While you might think that your audience will be able to clearly identify out-of-date content, you should always assume that any content that is public could be a new customer’s first experience with your business. Whether that’s an old social post or a blog post buried in the archives - if there’s a potential for information in that post to cause confusion or reputational risk, it should be deleted. 

PRO TIP: Don’t forget to include your following and follower lists in this clean-up. Brands that might have aligned with your values in the past but no longer represent your brand now should be quietly unfriended. This goes for content that you’ve shared from other pages or guests on blogs and podcasts. 

Step two: lockdown problematic content

There are some things that you just can’t delete. Whether it’s someone else’s content or comments on your content that could be damaging to your reputation, this is where changing privacy settings can come in handy. 

If there’s something that you don’t want to be seen but can’t remove, try changing privacy settings. Comments can be removed or set to be hidden from anyone who isn’t already friends with the poster. While this doesn’t completely hide the issue (remember: the internet is forever!), it can limit the damage that can be done to your brand to a much smaller audience and allow you the space to address the issue more head-on.

Advocating for customers to complain privately can help protect their data as a customer and limit how far any reputational risk can spread.

PRO TIP: Settling up a tracker to keep tabs on all of the negative publicity about your business can help you take stock of what is still out there and what needs addressing.

Step three: deleting false reviews

Unfortunately, deleting the content of other people isn’t quite as simple as hitting a big red button. It’s likely that if there are bad reviews of your business online, they’re going to stick around.

There are, however, ways of limiting or removing false reviews or reviews that violate a website’s community guidelines. Review sites like Google, Yelp, and Facebook have systems in place to help you as a business challenge harmful reviews. These fail-safes are there to help you combat spam reviews, trolls posting fake reviews, or malicious reviews designed to manipulate the rating systems.

Step four: responding to your critics

Step three isn’t going to protect you from genuine bad reviews and feedback online. Content that can’t be hidden or deleted should not be ignored. Nothing tells new customers that you don’t support your current customers faster than a load of unanswered comments. After all - your customers have taken the time out of their day to interact with your business. Shouldn’t you afford them the same?

Responding to comments and interactions, whether good or bad, is a good practice to build. If you were showcasing your business at an in-person event, you wouldn’t ignore potential customers, so why do the same online?

When dealing with feedback online, remember to:

  • Thank the poster for the time they’ve taken to get in touch
  • If it’s addressing a good experience, celebrate that!
  • If they’re sharing a bad experience, you can apologize, but don’t accept fault. Phrases like “We’re sorry that this has been your experience” are a great way of validating that this is what the customer perceived their experience to be without admitting that it is a fact.
  • Invite the person to share more information in a more private setting Phrasing like “We’d like to look into this further for you” or “we’d like a chance to put this right” shows that you’re taking the matter seriously. Inviting them to contact you directly prevents the matter from being open to outside scrutiny.

If bad feedback has been left about your business on a public forum like a blog, you can ask that the reviewer take that down. Reaching out to them directly and asking them for the opportunity to make it right can result in them updating the content with a more positive outcome or removing the content entirely!

PRO TIP: If you’re struggling with disgruntled customers putting you on blast, try to steer the conversation to a private arena. Encourage the customer to contact you privately, either through direct messaging or by emailing a customer support service. 

Step five: seek out positive reviews and experiences from new customers.

Asking new customers to share their positive experiences will help to bolster your online reputation. It’s not going to cover up the harmful content, but filling your feed with positive content can go a long way in changing the perception of your business online. Share case studies that highlight what you can do, respond to positive reviews and comments to improve engagement, and encourage people to share their favorite experiences of your business. 

It’s important, however, to read the room when it comes to this tactic. As with the case study of KFC, humor has its place, but there is a fine balancing act to undergo. 

Step six: stick to brand guidelines

Brand guidelines are in place to ensure that everyone is presenting a united front at all times for your business. If your business doesn’t have brand guidelines in place, get them! Whether it’s just to affirm a tone of voice and color palette for branding or an in-depth guide that prepares for any and all possibilities: brand guidelines are a must-have for any business with an online reputation.

Here are some things to consider in your brand guidelines:

  • Information: It’s easier to represent a brand and its values when you understand where they’re coming from. Include the history of your business, who you are, and what you’re hoping to offer your audience. 
  • Design and palette guidance: The last thing you want is your brand featured on content that doesn’t align with your values. Guidance on how and when to use your business logo can go a long way to ensuring that every piece of content that is put out there is of the highest quality. Brand-specific colors? Make sure to include the Pantone and hex codes for designers, as well as clear instructions as to how assets should be displayed.
  • The tone of voice: Is your brand more corporate or casual? A set of tone of voice guidelines can help everyone that is representing your business online ensure that they’re representing the brand in the best way possible. 
  • Business code of conduct: Code of conduct is most often referred to within an office setting, but it should be considered when looking at brand guidelines too. 

Step seven: provide an authentic response. 

As silly as it sounds, the more human you are in your online presence, the more you’ll find your audience responding. While this might contradict your brand guidelines (especially if you’re presenting as a strict and strong corporate brand), when interacting with negative feedback from customers, you want to make that human connection. 

Remind your audience that the people behind the business are still human, not robots. 

Step eight: don’t make it personal.

While it’s important to show your human side, it’s also important to remember that you are still representing a business. 

Before responding, take a moment to breathe. While a timely response is very much advised, it doesn’t have to be reactive. If you need to, step away from your desk before you return to reflect on what it is that this negative response is saying. If you’re struggling to respond in a calm or measured manner, try doing an activity that calms you down first. Mindfulness meditation, a lunchtime run, or watching videos of cute kittens: whatever helps center you!

PRO TIP: If your personality is your business, try having two separate versions of yourself online. Keep a small and closed version for close friends and family where you can share more personal content and a second, more professional profile that’s for business and promotion purposes.

Step nine: don’t give up.

It can be easy to think that just deleting everything and starting over fresh might be a better way to go, but it’s not. No one is 100% perfect 100% of the time, and human error is just a fact of life. Deleting everything will look more like you’re trying to cover up and hide away your mistakes (not to mention having to re-build audiences, engagement, and brand trust!). Remember that every negative review or response is an opportunity to try again, and an opportunity to try again is a great opportunity to boost your online reputation!

Step ten: hire an online reputation agency

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at the prospect, or you think that your online reputation might need the assistance of a professional, there are lots of options available to you. It’s important that you chose someone who understands how important online reputation management is and is in line with your brand values. A good Online Reputation Manager will be someone who:

  • Has a holistic understanding of your online presence. A strong understanding and experience with social media, search engine optimization (SEO), and brand management should be a priority.
  • Experience monitoring media and third-party websites and a strong understanding of competitor monitoring and reporting.
  • Shows willingness to audit your current standing and create a strong action plan that not only attacks the problems now but lays the groundwork for a strong future management and development scheme.
  • Understands that there are no quick fixes and that reputational risk is of the utmost importance

ORM Checklist

Not sure where to start? Here’s our handy checklist to help get you through it all. Use this for each website or social media network where your business appears. 

Delete old content that is no longer accurate or aligns with your brand:

▢ Blogs

▢ Landing and web pages

▢ Social media posts

▢ Comments and responses

▢ Content where your business has been tagged

Delete false reviews from:

▢ Social media accounts

▢ Google Maps

▢ Review websites

Interact with legitimate negative feedback by:

▢ Responding politely and thanking the customer for their feedback

▢ Asking for them to contact you directly away from a public forum

▢ Providing an opportunity to rectify the situation

▢ Follow up promptly

▢ Revisit once the situation has been resolved and request that they revise their review

Want more online reputation advice? Get the FREE 30+ Page Mastering Your Online Reputation Guide

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