An increased number of small businesses are trying to find help maintaining their online reputations by turning to online reputation management services which can help bury negative comments. However, some services say they can remove negative reviews and comments altogether. According to BIA/Kelsey, small businesses could spend up to $700 million on these services over the next year. But are they really getting what they pay for?
Many of these reputation management firms state that they can remove negative comments on the web, such as Profile Defenders, whose chief executive stated in an interview on May 31st that his company’s service “100% guarantees to get rid of unwanted Yelp results… There are certain loopholes on Yelp that [Profile Defenders has] been able to manipulate.” The website RemoveMyName.com claims it “can attempt to remove the false reviews and bury within Angie’s List in a short time frame.”
A manager of local business outreach at Yelp, Darnell Holloway, said that some services’ claims regarding the removal of bad reviews on business review sites are false. In fact, Yelp even posted a statement on its blog warning small business owners about these “supposed” services. Angie, of Angie’s List, has also said that removing bad reviews off her site is not an easy task. Angie’s List is a business review site that posts thousands of reviews every month and any removal request of complaints opens an investigation. Angie says these investigations go as far as contacting the poster of the review. Simply burying a bad review on her site is also difficult because Angie’s List removes any review in which “the legitimacy” is questionable. Another consumer advocacy website, Ripoff Report, has warned business owners of these online management firms, and the founder Ed Magedson has commented that these services “use high-pressure sales tactics and make promises they cannot possibly deliver on.” In fact, Magedson says these reputation management services are beginning to receive complaints themselves.
Reputation management companies should not be confused with online monitoring companies that help small businesses keep current on what is being said about them online. Of small business, 24% are monitoring what is being said online about them. Only 5% of small businesses use reputation management services. Most monitoring services don’t try to remove complaints found online; they just help make the company or business aware of their reputation. Some monitoring services utilize honest practices encouraging companies to embolden their customers to post reviews, good and bad. VP of Sales for Reputation.com, Brent Franson, believes, “You can’t remove bad reviews. The goal is to make sure the tip-of-the-iceberg reviews are good.”
Loten, Angus. “Hoping to Fix Bad Reviews? Not So Fast.” Small Business. The Wall Street Journal. 8/06/2012. (8/15/12.) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444840104577548982072928526.html