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From Yellow Pages Finger Walking to Click Power of Google

How many times have you chosen a restaurant, a hotel, a dentist, a lawyer or landscaping service, based on an online review? Probably more times than you can remember. More so than any other review source, ratings found through Google search engines or on Google Maps offer the potential to promote or harm the reputation of your business. This is due to the high volume of Web traffic that Google generates, and to the way in which these reviews have increasingly taken the place of traditional and online Yellow Pages. This article will explore a few of the ways in which you can be proactive in removing negative review content from Google searches, and protecting your online reputation.

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Going After Negative Reviews at the Source

When reviews are generated directly through Google-owned sites such as the Google Local Business Center, it is simple to get a negative review removed. Simply contact the site webmaster and request the removal of the offending review, including details of why the content is false or inappropriate. Unfortunately, most of the online reviews associated with your business are not directly generated by Google, but are aggregated from third-party sites. Google compiles these reviews in a listing when you search for a particular business, or do a location-based search for businesses in your area. This makes it problematic to take down negative reviews of your business that may have been spread maliciously--often by competitors, or disgruntled ex-employees.Rather than approach Google directly, the best solution is often to have the negative review removed from the site of origin. Contact the website's webmaster, asking him or her to remove the content.

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Using Google's Public URL Removal Tool

In order to expedite the removal of materials, especially private and confidential information that urgently needs to be deleted from search engines, Google offers a public URL removal tool. This will flag the offending URL for Google crawlers when re-crawling websites, and any outdated URLs will eventually drop out of search results. Unfortunately, this approach is largely ineffective for removing negative reviews from Google search results compiled from reputable sites like Yelp.com or tripadvisor.com. Many businesses have found that, even after contacting third-party review websites and having negative reviews completely removed, the objectionable material continues to show up prominently in Google searches for several months, even up to a year. Fortunately, there are now online reputation services that are able to work with you to actively defend your business, controlling what information appears on the Web through Google searches.

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Exile Negative Reviews: Crowd Out Method

One way many businesses fight negative reviews is to crowd them out with positive content. One or two negative reviews among twenty is to be expected. How do you promote positive reviews in sufficient quantity to make a difference? One technique is to offer discount coupons or other promotional materials to customers, pointing them directly to a link where they can leave reviews. You might also ask people who have recently had a positive experience with your company if they wouldn't mind writing a review. Satisfied customers will often be glad to help, if you give them that little nudge. Whatever method is used to generate positive Web feedback and publicity about your enterprise, remember: it is never a good idea to write positive reviews about your own company.

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When Positive Content=Negative Backlash

Even very subtle wordings and inflections in positive reviews can raise red flags if they are not 100%genuine. Standing out as attempts at self-promotion, they raise doubts about your company's legitimacy in the eyes of potential customers. If you are simply unable to generate positive Web reviews in the quantity necessary to crowd out spurious negative ones, you may be tempted to go the self-review route. This is a mistake. Filing false reviews is unethical and can lead to even bigger reputation problems for your business.

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FINAL GOOGLE HOT TIP: "Abracadabra" Can Mean Shutting Down Bad Reviews

If you're fighting an adverse opinion or negative review and the webmaster of the original site won't remove the negative content, contact Google and use magic words. Ask Google to not crawl or index the page. Websites may require a compelling reason to remove reviews, so back up your request with as much proof as possible.