It doesn’t take much to destroy the online reputation you’ve worked so hard to build.

Look at this example in which a security-services-executive-turned-author found out just how many online enemies he had when an online publication reviewed his book. After a litany of snipes made him worry that his name could be ruined, he got the magazine to remove the comments forum where the negativity originated. Still, when he searched his named, remnants of the anonymous snipes were everywhere. Eventually he had to petition Google headquarters directly to erase the offending section from its server.

Follow these tips to turn your negative reviews into a learning experience.

Look Within

Constructive criticism is a good thing because it helps us improve. If someone has had a bad experience with your business and they present their point in a lucid, credible manner, you might have something to learn. So many bad reviews are the result of bad communication — a dissatisfied patron feels they have nowhere to turn after failed attempts to get in touch with a proprietor. Feeling they’ve run out of options, they’ll post a bad review.

Have you neglected in returning e-mails? Is there room for you or your business to improve? Learn from your legitimate bad reviews.

Build a Wall

Keep your professional life as insulated as possible from your personal life. Social media is the avenue through which you are most likely to cross contaminate. For example, experts recommend you use Facebook to post pictures of your kids and LinkedIn for business networking. Use Google+ for work, Twitter for venting political rants. By building a firewall between work and life, you’re less likely to have personal spats bleed over into your work life.

Set Up Alerts

Start by setting up a Google alert for your full name so you can be notified when anyone says anything about you. The good news is, this will alert you to positive reviews as well.

Also register your name with blog search engines Technorati and BackType. Stay abreast to developments on Twitter with tools like TweetDeck and thwirl.

Don’t succumb to frustration. Take online reviews as a learning experience.


Use search engine optimization (SEO) to push the pages you control — your blog, your Website, your contributing posts — to the top of Google. When people search, they generally stick with the top few links (or, at the very most, the first few pages). The search engines work hard to make the most relevant content appear at the top, so if you can occupy the prime real estate with pages under your command, your detractors will be out of sight and out of mind.

Keep Records

If one day you have to turn to an online reputation management firm, which should be a last resort, they’re going to ask you for information they’ll need to make any gains. Whenever you see a bad review, take a screenshot of it for your records, copy the URL, and also copy the page source. You can view the coded page source by right-clicking anywhere on the page and clicking “view page source.” This information will go a long way in helping a reputation company track down the libelous source.

Your online reputation can come under attack from a variety of angles. Jealous competitors, angry former employees, unreasonable customers, or people in your personal life who just plain don’t like you have in the Internet a powerful tool to slander you — all with the comfort of anonymity. Try to avoid negative reviews, but when you get them, try to learn from them.

Andrew Lisa is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. He writes about small business, the blogosphere, and repairing your damaged online reputation.