The internet is a helpful resource to promote your business, but it can also be a way for unsatisfied customers, disgruntled former employees, fake reviewers, and competitors to tarnish your business reputation.

In order to reduce the impact of these online attacks there are certain steps you can take to be both proactive and reactive to negative content on the internet.

Take the initiative and search for negative content

Regular internet searches is one of the best ways to stay apprised of undesirable content that may be lurking on the internet. Negative and defamatory content can appear in numerous places on the internet, including: social media sites (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), message boards, consumer review websites (e.g. Angie’s List, Better Business Bureau, Yelp), and scam reporting websites (e.g. Ripoff Report).  Types of undesirable content include: negative reviews, personal attacks about owners and employees, and fabricated content.

Monitoring websites where negative and potentially defamatory content is likely to be posted will not only increase your awareness of the information about your business on the internet, but make it more likely that you can address the content before it makes a significant impact on your business. Some sites allow companies to pay to preview content related to their businesses before it is posted.

Conducting regular search engine searches of your company’s name is another easy way to search for negative content. Most search engines allow you to create “alerts” for any new content that mentions keywords that you identify. You can use this resource to input your businesses name so that you are notified when information gets posted. Do not rely exclusively on this method, however, as some posts may slip through the cracks of the alert system.

What happens if you find negative content?

If you identify negative content that you would like to address, then there are certain things that you can do to attempt to remove the content from the internet or lessen its potential impact.

Try and contact the poster. Most websites have a private message option that lets you speak to individuals one-on-one. If appropriate given the circumstances, offer to provide a refund, replacement, or ask the poster what would make the situation better. The longer you wait, the harder it may be to reach out to the poster. 

Check to see how highly the defamatory content ranks in search engine searches for your company’s name. Most people only look at the first few search results that appear. If the negative content does not appear in the first handful of searches or even on the first page of results, then it is less likely that it will reach a wide audience. Keep in mind that the negative content likely will not just appear in a generic search result for your company’s name, but will also appear in countless other searches as well so it may be hard to appreciate the full impact of the content.

If the undesirable content ranks highly in searches or if you are interested in a more comprehensive search for undesirable content, there are companies that you can contact that specialize in search engine optimization.

What happens if you think you find defamatory content?

Some content may not only be negative, but defamatory. Whether the content is defamatory requires a fact-specific analysis. If you think that the content is defamatory, it is in your best interest to contact a legal professional as soon as possible to discuss your options as these matters can be very time sensitive.

Takeaways

  • Be proactive and regularly search the internet for any negative content related to your business.
  • If you find negative content, act quickly. It can become more difficult to contact the poster the more time passes.
  • Contact a legal professional if you believe the content is defamatory in order to identify whether you have a valid claim.