It happens. Someone published negative content about yourself or your brand. Believe it or not, there are ways to get this content removed. Many tactics involve negotiation to get web content taken down.
As you most likely already know, life is a series of negotiations. From the moment you wake up, until the time you go to bed. For this reason, the ability to negotiate well is a core business – and life – skill.
Becoming a skilled negotiator takes preparation and practice. Many people hone their skills using onsite negotiation training programs. One powerful takeaway from these workshops is the importance of a positive online reputation. Your reputation is based on what people see when they Google your name or business. Make sure what they see is good by taking proactive measures against negative web content.
- What is online reputation?
- Why online reputation is important
- How to negotiate to remove negative online content
- How to negotiate to improve ratings and reviews
- How to promote new or existing positive content
- Frequently monitor your online reputation and presence
What is online reputation?
Online reputation refers to a person’s or organization’s internet identity. Other names used for this term are e-reputation, online identity, or internet persona.
Internet identity is a social identity. It consists of all the information found on the internet and digital platforms, whether that information is true or false, accurate, or inaccurate.
Online content is the collective term for any material found on the Web. This content includes:
- Star ratings
- Social media
When it comes to negotiating, your reputation precedes you. As someone once said: “Your reputation walks two feet ahead of you.” In this digital age, that includes your online reputation too.
Wouldn’t it be great if your online reputation led the way to success at the negotiating table? With the right training, your presence online can be beneficial to your business dealings, and vice versa.
Why online reputation is important
Online reputation is more important than ever. Check out these online reputation management statistics that show the value of a positive internet image.
- Up to 80% of a brand’s market value comes from intangible assets such as brand equity.
- 93% of people say online reviews impact their buying decisions.
- 90% of people read online reviews before visiting a business.
- 91% of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
- People read an average of seven reviews before trusting a business.
- Positive reviews make 73% of customers trust a local business more.
- 49% of shoppers need at least a 4-star rating before they choose a company.
- A 1-star increase in Yelp leads to a 5 to 9% increase in revenue.
- 44 percent of a company’s market value comes from a CEO’s reputation.
- Reputation has a strong effect on the outcome of a negotiation. It also impacts what tactics the people on the other side of the table choose to use.
How to negotiate to improve your online reputation
Although the internet has created a technological revolution, there is a downside. As is often the case, the downsides can be the same things that make something great. The internet is easy to access, with 4.54 billion people online daily (and possibly more after the Corona Virus sent people home to work). This means thousands of people can see inaccurate information in minutes.
Imagine walking into a negotiation after someone posts false information about you online. Or, trying to sell a product when most of the reviews are negative. The chances are high that you would walk away empty-handed. Getting training on how to improve your online reputation can prevent this scenario.
Here are some ways you can improve how people perceive you or your brand online. First brush up on your negotiation skills to remove negative web content. Then focus on promoting new or existing positive content to watch your search engine ranking soar.
How to negotiate to remove negative online content
Negotiating to remove online content is not easy, nor is it quick. It is a highly-nuanced strategy in which you must research and plan to get the best results. Keep in mind that no win is too small, and while we are going to start this list with the ultimate goal of getting content removed completely, there are other options if this simply is not possible.
Ask the author to delete their content
Before entering a negotiation with the author, do some research on them. Find out what motivates them. Maybe they’d appreciate a donation given to charities in their name, direct payment, or sometimes after cooling down they just felt bad and needed a little nudge to remove it. People are motivated by many things. You might be surprised by what works.
Note: This blog post on content removal may be helpful to you.
Here are a few sample talking points for when you pick up the phone to make your request to take down the content. A phone call is a great way to submit your request because any email or written communication can easily be copy/pasted into the original post. This refreshes the content, making it longer and stronger and effectively causing more damage than you were originally faced with.
- Appeal to their altruistic side: "You had every right to post that review. I hope I've made it right. At this point the post is really damaging my business - would you mind removing or updating it?"
- Try the charity angle: "I see you support the local little league. I know removing the post you wrote might take some of your valuable time. I'd be happy to donate to the _____________ little league in your name or anonymously as a thank you for taking it down."
- Take the capitalist route: "I'd like to sponsor the page you wrote about our business. We'll request a few modifications, and you'll be well compensated for your time." Note: Modifications may mean removing the business' name, adding a special meta tag to make Google ignore the page (noindex), or removing the page altogether.
Ask the webmaster or publisher of the site to remove the content
If the author of the content refuses to remove their content, try reaching out to the webmaster or publisher of the site. While this is not possible for personal blogs, it is a good option for medium-sized sites like local or small town news sites. Try modified versions of the steps above to see if you can negotiate content removal at the publisher level.
Ask the writer or publisher to change the content
If the writer or publisher refuses to take down the content, don’t let your negotiation end there! They may be willing to change the content to remove the search phrase that is damaging your online reputation. Ask them to remove the mentions of your name or company and replace them with more vague descriptors. This will cause the content to drop from your search ranking, as the search phrase is no longer in the article.
Ask the publisher to make the page invisible to Google
If you’ve already tried all the above tactics and it seems like the negative content is here to stay, one last negotiation tactic is to ask the publisher to add a NOINDEX tag to the header of the HTML on the page. A NOINDEX tag looks like this:
<meta name="robots" content="noindex">
A NOINDEX tag will tell search engines not to crawl the page anymore, which will normally cause the page to remove from search results within a few weeks. The negative content will still exist, but people will be significantly less likely to find it.
How to negotiate to improve ratings and reviews
Ignoring complaints or the poor handling of issues can damage an online reputation.
Most businesses make mistakes. Striving for perfection is often not a worthy goal, since customers often don’t want or trust perfection. Mistakes happen; it’s how you handle them that matters. United Airlines found this out the hard way.
The airline damaged Dave Caroll’s $3,500 Taylor guitar. Carroll tried negotiating over nine-months for compensation. United refused to pay, so Caroll wrote a song about the experience. The song went viral, and the company lost 10% in stock price value (approx. $180 million).
Here are some important factors to keep in mind.
- Avoid taking offense to undeserved or unfair reviews.
- Polite language can give negative feedback a positive impact.
- Promise what you can deliver.
- Take full responsibility for the issue.
- Use humor with extreme caution.
- Avoid addressing sensitive issues on a public forum.
Handling negative feedback well takes training and, often, negotiation skills.
How to promote new or existing positive content
Once you’ve removed as many negative mentions of your brand as possible, you can focus on the positive ones. Even if you couldn’t remove all the negative content about your brand, focusing on positive content will effectively suppress negative mentions over time. The following tips will serve as a starting point for negotiating positive brand mentions online.
Ask your customers to write reviews
Positive online reviews are worth their weight in gold. 90% of customers say positive reviews have influenced what they buy. Remember that even asking for a review is, in essence, a type of negotiation. After all, why would they want to do this for you?
In comparison, 80% of people won’t buy from a company with poor reviews.
The impact of negative online reviews can be tremendous. In 2019, Peloton’s valuation dropped by $1.5 billion following poor online feedback about an ad campaign.
Here are a few important things to keep in mind:
- Don’t wait for customers to offer feedback. Train yourself to be proactive. 76% of customers will leave a review for a business when asked.
- Asking for reviews should also not be a one-time activity. 69% of customers believe that feedback older than three months is irrelevant.
- Train your team to keep an eye out for fake reviews. Fake feedback hurts more than it helps.
Companies typically benefit from positive feedback, even if you’re in the B2B (business-to-business) sector. So, ask your vendors and partners for reviews. You don't need to ask them for "good" reviews, but if you ask they generally will leave positive reviews. A great time to ask is after a catch-up call or after helping the customer solve an issue.
Connect with your social media audience
Social media plays a pivotal role in how people perceive brands as well as others. 71% of customers say they are more likely to recommend a brand if they have a positive experience with that brand on social media.
Engaging with your social media audience helps build relationships. This habit also enhances trust and loyalty. Constant participation is also a great way to create a consistent brand image. You also create a stronger presence on the Web.
Here a few ways you can engage with your audience to improve your online reputation:
- Comment on posts.
- Spark conversations and join in with others.
- Share relevant information.
- Share user-generated content.
- Ask and answer questions.
- Address complaints and criticisms.
- Show appreciation for customers.
Keep the following in mind to make the most of social media.
- Social media networks are not all equal. Each has its pros and cons. So, be intentional with your selections. Consider the following as you choose:
- Who is your audience?
- Where is your audience active?
- Where is your audience searching?
- Social media works best when engagement is the main focus. Keep marketing and promotional efforts to a minimum, or well balanced with other types of content.
- It takes skill to handle social media effectively. If you don’t have the expertise, consider starting training or hiring someone with social media know-how.
Showcase customer testimonials
Part of negotiation is having your own positive reputation. Social proof is the new currency of credibility and trust, two crucial elements of online reputation. 92% of people worldwide trust word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family.
Give your online reputation a boost by highlighting testimonials on your website. Those reviews can come from your customers, experts in your industry, thought leaders, celebrities, or influencers.
Use video testimonials whenever possible. Video triggers emotions, which are a powerful decision-making driver. This type of content also has a 95% retention rate. People only remember 12% of textual information. People also share videos 12 times more than text and images combined.
Share user-generated content
Sharing user-generated content (UGC) is a great way to strengthen your brand’s reputation. People trust customer reviews 12 times more than manufacturer’s product descriptions and sales copy. User-generated content also influences 90% of decisions.
Not only is user-generated content free, but it also comes across much more authentic. You can use existing user-generated content or create a contest if you are looking for something more specific.
Starbucks’ holiday Red Cup Art contest is an excellent example of user-generated content. This activity encourages positive customer engagement. In turn, engagement boosts a company’s reputation.
Claim all your online business listings
A common thread of advice in negotiation training programs is to focus on what you can control. Many factors impact how people view a brand or person on the Web. Some you can manage, and others you cannot.
Business listings or directories are something you can control. A business listing is an online portfolio that contains information about your business. This record includes name, address, phone number, hours of operation, and other data.
80% of people lose trust in local companies with incorrect online details. So, claim each record so that you can control what information appears online. Companies that claim their listings make 58% more money.
Also, look into claiming your business listings on independent review sites. Taking control of your pages allows you to respond to feedback.
78% of customers say company responses make them believe the business cares more. It’s also a great way to boost credibility and trust. These are two factors that go a long way during negotiations.
There are several business listings and review sites on the internet. While it’s important to manage your business listings on as many sites as possible, your main focus should be on the larger directories. Also, focus on sites your target audience uses and visits.
Here are some of the top online business directories:
- Google My Business
- Bing Places
- Better Business Bureau
- Angie’s List
- Merchant Circle
- Yellow Pages
- Chamber of Commerce
If your industry has a niche review site, don’t forget to check those out as well. One-third of patients use healthcare-focused review sites to find doctors. 81% of millennial-aged consumers prefer lawyers with online reviews.
Here are a few examples:
- Home Improvement
- Angie’s List
- Lending Tree
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Create high-quality content
Creating great content is an effective way to improve your online presence.
High-quality articles and information improve credibility and brand authority. Authority is an essential element for creating trust.
To improve your image, articles need to be engaging, educational, and valuable. Positive feelings connected to content tend to track back to the creator.
Impressive content also pushes down negative or irrelevant results. 90% of people don’t go past page one of Google’s search results.
Frequently monitor your online reputation and presence
It’s essential to keep a constant eye on what’s happening to your online presence. Your personal or company image can take years to build and seconds to damage. However, it is unwise to attempt to monitor all your online mentions manually.
Things happen fast on the internet. For example:
- WordPress publishes 2.75 million posts per day.
- TripAdvisor posts 270 user contributions per minute on average.
- Instagram users share 95 million photos and videos per day.
An automatic media monitoring program is a better way to track what people say about you or a brand online. These tools let you track your online reputation from a single dashboard. Not only do social monitoring tools save valuable time, but they also ensure issues don’t slip through the cracks.
Google Alerts, Social Mention, and Cision are some examples of tools you can use to monitor your online presence. Online reputation management companies can also help you keep track of and improve your image.
First impressions count when it comes to negotiating. There are things you can do to help a negotiation go your way, and there are things like your own reputation that can assist you in this endeavor because, let's face it, they are going to look you up online before or during the negotiation.
45% of people say they've found something online that made them decide not to do business with a company or person. Knowing this fact, not managing what people can find on the internet is taking a significant risk for your business and future negotiations.
Content Negotiation FAQs
What is reputation?
Reputation is the subjective qualitative belief a person has regarding a brand, person, company, product, or service. It impacts nearly every aspect of your life, such as whether someone will want to make a connection with you, buy something from your business, or refer you to friends.
What is online content?
Online content is the collective term for any material found on the Internet. This content includes reviews, articles/blogs, comments, star ratings, photographs, videos, and social media.
How can I negotiate to remove negative online content?
Negotiating to remove online content is not easy, but it can be done. Here is a series of actions you can take to make the attempt. Start by asking the author to delete their content. Then, ask the writer or publisher to change the content. If that doesn't work, ask the publisher to add a NOINDEX tag to make the page invisible to Google.
What do I do if I can't remove negative content about my brand?
If you can't remove all the negative content about your brand, focusing on positive content will effectively suppress negative mentions over time.
How do I promote positive content?
Ask your customers to write reviews. Connect with your social media audience. Showcase customer testimonials. Share user-generated content. Claim all your online business listings. Create high-quality content.