Online reputation management is crucial. Even if you’re doing everything right, all it takes is one disgruntled customer with a decent internet connection to leave a negative review and take away your personal five-star rating.

While some people think that reputation management is only an issue for big companies with PR crises, the reality is that small businesses actually face reputation challenges, too, but they don’t have huge teams on hand to handle them.

In this post, we’re going to look at 5 of the most common reputation management problems that small businesses face and show you how to address them quickly before they can impact you.

1. Negative Reviews on Third Party Sites

Negative reviews can take a big hit on small businesses, and when they’re on third-party sites like Yelp, The Better Business Bureau, and Google, it can be difficult to monitor and keep up with them all. Since review sites often rank well in search engines when people are researching your business, it’s easy to see why a single review can affect your reputation quickly.

There are several things that you can do to quickly combat negative reviews on third-party sites, including:

    • Outrank them using the right keywords. If you’re ranking for branded keywords and other searches that are turning up the review sites, that can make a big difference. If your site ranks first and the reviews are several slots down in the search results, you get the first chance to engage the customer with content that you can control.
    • Have false or abusive reviews taken down. Some review sites will let a business defend themselves against flagrantly false reviews. Google, The Better Business Bureau, and more all let you report reviews that you believe are false. They may or may not be taken down, but it gives you a chance.
    • Address the comments head-on. If you can, publicly comment on the review. Let the reviewer know that you want to resolve the situation, and give them instructions to contact your business about it. While the angry customer may have zero interest in resolution, it will show other customers that you care. This goes a long way.
  • Focus on the positive. Work hard to get more reviews from happy customers. One bad review looks a lot more menacing when it’s on its own than it does when it’s next to fifteen raving testimonials.

2. Untagged Negative Mentions on Social Media

Social posts can go viral and have a huge impact, quickly spinning out of control before you even know what’s happened. And if you aren’t tagged, you won’t be alerted to it unless you go looking.

It’s important to have a voice in the conversations happening about you publicly on social media, whether you’re tagged or not. The best way to do this is to use mention-tracking software that will let you know every time your business is mentioned online.

Mention’s tool is a good option for this, immediately showing you all public mentions of your brand on social media in real time. That way, as soon as a negative mention pops up, you can address it if necessary.

3. Negative Media Coverage

A bad review from a newspaper, blogger, or other experts can be particularly damaging, especially when small businesses are just trying to get their name out there. You need to stay on top of what’s being said about you online for this reason, and SEMrush’s brand monitoring tool can be used for this purpose.

If negative media coverage is out there, do some damage control as quickly as possible. Look for what keywords they’re ranking for, and try to outrank them so you can bury the content. You can also reach out to a reputation management specialist for advice on how to best proceed.

Another option is to distribute your own press releases that you’ve written yourself or had a PR person write up for you. You can also reach out to other experts or influencers in the industry to try to get some additional positive reviews out into the world. Some influencers offer the option to pay them to review your product or service; consider doing this quickly if needed, because it could be well worth it.

4. Not Ranking First for Branded Searches

It’s not great if you aren’t the one ranking first for your own branded searches. How would it look if Haverty’s furniture wasn’t even ranking in the top spot for their own brand name?

If you aren’t ranking first for branded searches, you could not only lose some credibility, but it could also lose control. You’re giving someone else the first chance to reach your customers and tell them about you, and that’s almost never what you want.

If this is something that you’re experiencing, react quickly. Focus on branded keywords on several essential pages, optimizing your site for them. If you need to, you can always add them as secondary keywords or create additional content like a blog or FAQ page so that you can target different branded searches if necessary.

5. Customers Don’t Trust You

If you aren’t perceived as being transparent or if you’ve been caught in a fib, people will lose trust in you quickly– even if it was all just a misunderstanding. And once that trust is gone, it’s incredibly difficult to get it back. People have a lot of options, after all; they’d rather start fresh with a new company than work with one that they consider being a high risk of burning them again.

Sometimes a loss of trust can happen if you’re caught deleting reviews, or aren’t seen as being forthcoming. If a customer asks you what ingredients are in your product, it’s typically not a good idea to simply say “we keep it confidential.”

The best things you can do here is to focus on transparency and authenticity. Share more on social media, including how-it’s-made and behind-the-scenes posts so that people can get a better understanding of who you are behind the business. You should also let negative reviews stand (though you should address them publicly), and allow your employees to speak candidly about their experiences. The more information about your business out there, the more people can feel they can trust you.


Reputation management is an ongoing process. It shouldn’t be thought of as simple crisis management that pops up on the rare occasion that it’s needed. Instead, continual monitoring and progress is the way to go. Engage with your audience as often as possible in a transparent, authentic way, and do what you can to control the narrative of your brand so you can have a voice in the story. The last thing you want, after all, is to put your business in someone else’s hands, and ongoing reputation management will help you ensure that you don’t. If you haven’t already, take some time to read our online reputation management tips that every small business can manage. 


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