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How Should I Handle Negative Online Reviews?

What should I do about complaints that come in the form of negative online reviews that are somewhat permanently out there? A lot of complaints these days stick around even if you've fixed the problem that inspired them.
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True confessions: When I first started blogging about a decade ago, I wrote a post for a top 10 website where I made what I thought was an innocent off-the-wall comment, meant to be (at least in my mind) somewhat humorous. Let me tell you, the barrage of hate email I got scared me to death and almost had me quit my keyboard clacking for good!

My first instinct was to angrily defend myself and point out how these vitriolic readers had misunderstood my meaning and good intentions. Fortunately a good friend, who at the time had more experience than me in blogging, calmed me down and suggested another way. Today I teach four ways to respond to negative comments online: (1) Focus on the facts and neutrally and nicely correct any errors; (2) disagree, but politely; (3) let other readers’ comments to the naysayer do the talking; and (4) if the commenter has a point and you are wrong, say so. Lastly, don’t take it personally, and just let it be. Some angry, negative comments simple don't deserve a response.

That having been said, don’t let the only thing that comes up online when someone Googles your name be the negative, nasty, mean and ornery stuff someone wrote. If you have some really bad PR floating around, write and post online at various places a series of blog posts or articles using your name and business name (product or service) so that the search engines pick those up as well.

Lastly, you need to pay attention to the way your brand is being perceived and spoken about online. If you see a trend in these negative comments -- pay attention. As one of my mentors told me years ago, "If one person calls you a horse, ignore them. If two people call you a horse, forget it. If three people call you a horse, go out and buy a saddle."

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