Every company and business, whether large or small, is subject to comments and reviews. Whilst most of this may be positive, negative comments can often crop up and damage your online reputation.

When these negative comments appear online, and more specifically when you find that they are ranking on the first page of a search engine like Google, it can be very damaging to both sales and reputation. It is always good to have an online reputation management plan in place, or to hire an online reputation management company, to tackle problems such as this.

In some cases, you may be able to remove reviews, for example if you feel the comment is an unjustified review by an ex-employee or competitor looking to damage your reputation. However, you cannot rely on this method, as many negative reviews are left by valid customers.

Rather than remove reviews you should be looking to rectify the problem and resolve any issues. The best way to do this is to actually respond to the comments. This can often be discouraged, as by making further comments you can help the negative comment to rank higher. But by actually replying, you are showing good customer service; you see the customers as valued and try your best as a company to resolve the issue, which builds trust and reputation.

Before replying to reviews, you need to identify where the reviews and comments are actually being made. There are many websites and forums on which customers can post about and review a company. If you can locate the place that your customers are most likely to leave reviews, then you can respond to reviews more quickly by keeping a close eye on that site. If you’re unsure where to start, begin looking through the first few pages in Google and pick out any review sites.

Before you start replying here and there with a standard ‘we’re sorry, it won’t happen again’ kind of response, actually take the time to read the complaint and see what you can do to resolve it. Tailor your response to their review, so if they are complaining about not having their e-mails replied to, you could give them a different e-mail address which they will gain a response from.

You will find that the majority of the negative reviews can be solved quite easily, just make sure to apologise sincerely if your company was at fault, and resolve the issue as best as possible. This can only have a positive impact on your internet reputation. If they update their review reflecting what has happened after you responded, and that experience was positive, then it’s a good result.

Rather than just replying negative comments, it would be better still if you could prevent them in the first place. Have clear channels of contact on all your sites, preferably an email address, a phone number and social media channels. Make sure you respond to queries, and try to help customers now rather than after they make a negative comment about you. Encourage them to leave a truthful review and as long as they’ve had a good experience you can regain a positive online reputation.