Google reputation repair: a small business owner’s guide

In this 5-minute read:

  • Why your google reputation matters for small business
  • The two main approaches to repairing your google reputation
  • Tips on improving local SEO

If you’re reading this post, you may have felt the impact that a not-so-stellar Google business reputation can have on attracting new customers, building loyalty, and increasing revenue.

Before we talk about some ways you can help repair your Google reputation, the first thing you need to understand is you’re not alone.

A sad fact of our brave new digital world is that, while the importance of a good online reputation is growing, you really have almost no control over what people say about your business online.

Attract more happy customers and keep them loyal with reputation management software. Learn more, plus get free reputation monitoring and customer insights when you sign up for Womply Free!

Google reputation repair: the two main approaches to consider

Some clarification is needed when we discuss repairing your business’s Google reputation. There are two kinds of “Google reputation repair” that you might be looking for:

1) Removing or “hiding” negative content about your business from websites, social media sites, and Google search results and/or improving your legitimate website/content’s Google search ranking.

2) Improving your Google business reviews and cumulative “star rating” on Google My Business.

Let’s address about the first type initially, and then we’ll discuss efforts to reviews and star ratings below.

1. Trying to repair your Google reputation by “burying” online content or harmful search results can be complicated and expensive

The first step in repairing a bad reputation based on Google search results is to clarify and identify the true source of the negative content.

If your business is facing an onslaught of negative Google search results due to bad publicity, criminal action or lawsuits, news stories, or social media muckrakers posting negative, but factual material about your business, then you might choose to pursue legal action or consult a professional reputation repair firm.

If you wish primarily to remove, hide, or “push down” negative Google search results or other web-based content relating to your business, there are companies that promise to dedicate a team of SEO specialists and content experts to your problem in an attempt to improve your legitimate business site’s ranking in Google search results, as well as “burying” or hiding any negative online content.

These techniques may be moderately effective, depending on how negative your Google reputation is to start with (and how much money you have to throw at the problem). However, some companies may use questionable grey- or black-hat (read: illegal) techniques, and when we’ve researched this type of service we’ve been given rough estimates of up to $4,500 per month in 6- or 12-month terms. So, caveat emptor (and affer pecunias multas).

However, there are some cost-effective (even free!) things that small business owners can do to try to improve things. In some cases, Google will remove negative search results upon request.

What kinds of harmful Google search results can be flagged or removed?

According to Google, they will will remove results that contain:

  • National identification numbers such as U.S. Social Security Numbers
  • Bank account numbers
  • Credit card numbers
  • Images of signatures
  • Nude or sexually explicit images that were uploaded or shared without your consent
  • Confidential, personal medical records of private people

To request this type of personal information be removed, contact Google here.

Two issues when trying to remove content from Google search results

First, even if you request that Google remove potentially harmful content from their search results, the actual content still exists on the internet (and may still be found on other search engines), and people may continue to visit the website where the negative content is hosted.

Secondly, if Google determines that a negative search result doesn’t fit into one of the above categories, they won’t remove it other than as the result of legal action (To request that Google remove content for legal reasons, click here).

Furthermore, there are very few news outlets, bloggers, or webmasters who will remove factual content if it’s driving traffic to their site. If you consult Google about removing such content, they will tell you to contact the webmaster.

However, if the content is out of date, irrelevant, or contains broken links or down webpages, you may have some success in asking webmaster or curator for it to be removed, since Google punishes sites that are nonfunctional or can be shown to be outdated or no longer relevant. You can also contact Google and ask them to remove search results that redirect to content that has been removed.

2. Repair your Google reputation by optimizing your business listing and maximizing reviews

Now let’s talk about the second way you can start to fix a bad Google reputation. If you don’t have a problem with negative content hosted elsewhere on webpages and social media, your Google reputation is primarily derived from how you show up on Google My Business and Google Maps searches within the platform. Here are some techniques to improve your Google reputation:

Claim your Google My Business listing (if you haven’t already)

The first step in any reputation management or repair plan is to claim your business profiles on all the major review sites, and naturally this includes Google. 

You can’t respond to any Google reviews or customize/correct your business profile unless you’ve first claimed your Google my Business listing. Surprisingly, only 44% of Google listings have been claimed. This is a no-brainer. Plus, new research from Womply shows that businesses that claim their listings on multiple online business reviews sites make 58% more money!

Claiming your Google business listing is easy and free. Read our tutorial on how to claim your Google my Business listing.

If you have already claimed your listing, make sure you have completed all optional fields, checked your profile for accuracy, and added “next-level” info. To learn more, read our full article: The top five things every small business should include in their Google business listing.

Set up Google Customer Reviews for your business

Setting up Google Customer Reviews is of the most important (and free) Google tools that will have a direct, positive impact on your sales and search rankings. Click here for an easy walkthrough on how to set up Google Customer Reviews for your small business.

Reply appropriately to your Google reviews

According to a recent article, Google has confirmed that “responding to reviews improves your local SEO.” So engaging with customers via review replies is not only polite, and good business practice (it shows customers that you care about their feedback), it’s a way to improve your standings in Google search results. Better local SEO means more new customers, and more new customers means more reviews. It’s a virtuous cycle.

Plus, recent research from Womply shows that businesses that regularly respond to their online business reviews earn up to 49% more revenue!

Click to read our more in-depth article on how to respond to Google reviews.

Learn how to remove harmful Google reviews

You can’t simply remove all of your (legitimate) negative Google reviews but it is possible in some cases, and this can help you start repairing your Google reputation. Google doesn’t allow reviews that contain:

  • Spam and fake content
  • Off-topic content
  • Restricted content
  • Illegal content
  • Terrorist content
  • Sexually explicit content
  • Offensive content
  • Dangerous & Derogatory Content
  • Impersonation
  • Conflict of Interest

You can flag any of these types of review for removal by Google’s team. Click here for our step-by-step post on how to remove Google reviews.

In the end, it may not be the best use of your time to try to remove a bad Google review. In fact, Womply’s research shows that negative online business reviews aren’t necessarily as harmful as you might think. Businesses with between 10 and 25% negative reviews actually make the most money!

You might also like: The complete guide to removing fake reviews

Start to repair your Google reputation by getting more reviews

Want to minimize the negative impact of bad Google reviews? Work to get more positive reviews. This can be as simple as listening to your customers. A bad review can provide valuable insight into problems with your product, services, facilities, or employees. Smarter business owners see negative reviews as opportunities for improving the business. (Learn how to respond to negative reviews.)

In addition, studies show that nearly three quarters of consumers feel any reviews older than 3 months are not relevant anymore. So if you can start getting more and better reviews from your most satisfied customers, any negative reviews you have gotten in the past will fade into obscurity.

Be sure to consult our detailed post on how to get more reviews to learn the proper methods, but the TL;DR version is, simply ask. Don’t threaten or bribe customers, don’t ask for good or positive or 5-star reviews, and never deal with a company that promises to sell you good reviews or write fake reviews for your business. Simply let your customers know you truly appreciate their feedback and engage them effectively when they provide it, and soon you’ll be on your way to repairing your Google reputation.

The right software can make Google reputation repair easier

Busy shop owners should consider reputation management software that makes tracking and responding to all of your online reviews faster and simpler. Womply’s small business software not only allows you to see and respond to all your reviews from all the different sites in one place with one login, but you can also easily collect timely feedback from your customers, and encourage your best ones to review your business online.

Womply also lets you compare your revenue, transactions, and average purchase price to similar businesses nearby, and provides you a pre-loaded list of all of your customers — including spend history, name, and contact information — that automatically updates with every transaction. You can even get automated email marketing options so you can build loyalty and get more repeat business with just a few clicks. Learn more, plus get free reputation monitoring and customer insights when you sign up for Womply Free!

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