How to handle malicious online reviews

One of the most unfair aspects of online review sites is the ability for malicious
people to game the system and post defamatory and false reviews about your
business. Anyone can visit a site and post a review on just about any business, and
even if a site has a registration system, it is still so easy to use a false identity.
Although review sites are trying to put measures in place to tame this practice, small
business owners are still vulnerable to malicious reviews from disgruntled ex-
employees, jealous competitors, bitter friends, and relatives or anyone with a grudge
against them.
Here are a few tips on how to handle malicious reviews
1. First ascertain if the negative review has any truth to it. Use your business records
and information from your staff to authenticate if things really happened the way
the reviewer said they did.
2. If the negative review is indeed malicious, it is best to respond to it on the website
where it was submitted, making it clear that your research has found no evidence
of the incident occurring and if the reviewer can get in touch with your company
for further assistance. In this way, you have set the record straight, give your side
of the story, and put the ball in the reviewers’ court, all in the public domain.
3. If a review is incredibly harmful and makes a personal attack on you or your
employees that is untrue, you may want to consider removing the negative
review from your website. This step should be done AFTER you have done
everything necessary to rectify the situation. Getting negative reviews removed
from external sites such as review sites and blogs involves asking the webmaster
of the site to remove the offending content. Armed with your facts from the first
two steps, the webmaster may agree to remove the content from the website or
remove keywords from the material that show up in the search results such as your
company name or make the page a no-follow so that search engines do not index
that page. There is also the option of submitting a free legal request to the Google
Team, which may be helpful if the offending content is a Google Image or a
YouTube video.
4. The final tip, if all else fails to work, is to flood the negative reviews with lots of
positive ones. Implement a customer review campaign and point as many of your
customers to submit reviews online, especially on review sites such as Google
Places, Yelp, or whichever review site dominates search engine results for your
company keywords. In this way, the negative review will appear as the act
of a malicious person due to the high number of positive reviews surrounding it.