5 Ways to Control Your Online Reviews Without a coherent review management approach, negative reviews can tear your brand down quickly.

By Adam Petrilli

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Does it sometimes seem like online review sites have your brand in a vise? With the ongoing popularity of consumer review platforms, not to mention their favored status in local search results, online reviews on Yelp, TripAdvisor, Trustpilot and other review sites can pose a genuine and ongoing threat to your small business.

A negative review sitting at the top of a Google search doesn't just create problems for your online reputation; it can scare prospects away, hurting your ability to connect with customers, close deals and hit monthly sales targets.

What is worse is that the longer those negative reviews remain unmanaged, the worse the damage gets, disintegrating your brand trust and revenue streams. It would help if you had this money and trust to connect with stakeholders and grow your business. In some cases, failing to manage online reviews can snowball into a significant reputation management crisis that threatens your company's survival.

With hundreds of review platforms and industry-specific reviews promoting customer feedback on the web, a robust online review management strategy is essential. Knowing how to manage reviews correctly is key to protecting brand integrity and positively impacting customers. Here are five crucial tips for building a review management plan that does just that.

1. Target the business review sites that matter most

If you bypass online review management software and manage reviews independently, it's essential to identify each review site with the most relevance and influence over your brand. Sites like Yelp, Amazon, and Google will likely fall on that list, mainly due to their visibility and market share. Still, seeking out platforms with specific and significant influence over your industry is essential. No matter your market, chances are high that a few unknowns exist, potentially impacting your industry and business significantly.

Once these sites are identified, you have a stronger foundation for managing reviews and carving out a feedback footprint that resonates with your audience.

Related: 4 Lesser-Known Customer-Review Platforms You Need to Know About

2. Claim (and manage) your profile on preferred platforms

Many online review sites allow you to claim your local business profile on their platform. Once confirmed on sites like Yelp, Facebook, Google and Angi, you're given control over your company's unique business page. You have authority over any company images, logos, bios and text featured on the site. In most cases, claiming your profile allows you to monitor reviews and respond to feedback, opening an essential gateway to more effective review management.

The process for claiming your business varies across each site. But knowing each approach and how to take advantage of a claimed profile can pay dividends when managing customer reviews and mitigating the impact of negative feedback.

3. Map out your strategy for managing business reviews

With a relevant review site list and claimed review profiles in hand, it's time to carve out a review management plan that anchors your approach. Creating a comprehensive strategy provides a framework for dealing with positive and bad reviews as soon as they go live. This should include a roadmap for how and when to respond to feedback, collect reviews from happy customers, and choose who will oversee your review management process.

Such a strategy helps establish a central location to manage all your reviews and limit the fallout from negative customer feedback, no matter the source. It lets you focus your efforts and map out a crucial piece of your online reputation management plan.

Related: Creating A Review Response Strategy

4. Learn how and when to remove bad reviews

You may provide a consistently exceptional customer experience and even win awards for doing so. Yet, no matter how flawless your business model is, it's not uncommon to have unhappy customers. Those customers are often inclined to share that unhappiness through negative online reviews. This is more or less a consequence of running a business, but it does provide the opportunity to learn and show your commitment to making things right.

Some negative reviews don't come from actual customers. Many online comments are entirely fabricated, posted by competitors or malicious actors for no reason other than damaging your brand. Often, these reviews violate review site guidelines and can be flagged for removal.

Knowing this, it's essential to learn how to identify fake reviews, navigate each site's review removal process, and delete that feedback quickly.

Related: 4 Things to Know About Online Reviews (and Why You Can't Afford to Ignore Them)

5. Generate and optimize positive content for search

Creating optimized blogs, landing pages and social media posts is a core component of a search engine optimization (SEO) or online reputation management strategy. But such tactics can also help battle and counter stubborn Google reviews, especially when they refuse to budge from local search pages.

A focused content development approach can be a great way to market your values and drown out unkind feedback, supplementing your other review management efforts with meaty, brand-positive blogs and guest posts that steer the conversation. Designed and executed correctly, your review marketing content strategy provides a compelling alternative for consumers researching your business, reducing the reach and impact of bad reviews.

Adam Petrilli

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

CEO & Founder, NetReputation.com

Adam Petrilli develops and executes winning strategies while inspiring teams to embrace change to promote business excellence. He thrives during challenging situations and in making high-risk decisions with a strategic revenue-focused perspective to generate growth.

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