Man worried and holding his head

Ripoff Report is the website small business owners love to hate. With just a few moments of time and a touch of creativity, anyone in the world can write up a few damning thoughts about your business and take all of your profits right down the drain.

It’s a serious issue, and chances are, every single small business out there will be targeted at one point or another. Here’s what you should do just as soon as you see your name on the site.

1. Read the review carefully, and ask your legal team to do the same.

If you have in-house counsel, that team can pore over each and every word in the complaint and determine whether the writing falls within legal guidelines for online behavior. It’s possible that the words cross the line between opinion and libel, and if that’s the case, your team might want to file a lawsuit on your behalf, targeting the writer of that review. It’s a long shot, but it might be an option for some companies.

While you’re reading, you’re also looking for logic holes you can punch through in your rebuttal. And, you’re looking for other bits of data, including:

  • Keywords in headlines
  • Specific keywords or repeated phrases in body text
  • Product names
  • Employee names

These are the nuts-and-bolts of the online attack against you, and you’ll need to know what they are so you can formulate a key part of your counterattack.

2. Put your writers in motion.

While your legal team looks things over, gather together your writers for some old-fashioned SEO work. Use the keywords, phrases, product names and employee names in blog posts, social media posts and press releases. Make sure that you have the opportunity to really dominate Google’s results for those terms, so that Ripoff Report will be a little less effective.

3. Post a quick response, encouraging people to head to your website for a rebuttal.

At least one of your blog posts should address that Ripoff Report directly. Here, you’ll explain your side of the issue in a calm and objective manner, using all of the keywords and search terms you found in the original and damning report.

Once that post is up and running, hop to the complaint on Ripoff Report and direct your readers to your website. You won’t be able to put a direct link in your comments, as the site administrators wipe those links away before they publish responses. But you can say things like this:

“It seems we have a difference of opinion, and I’ve written up a long response to this issue on our company blog. I’d love for you to visit that entry (it’s right on the home page) and comment there. Let’s start a helpful dialogue about what we can do about this issue.”

A response like this makes you look rational and calm, and it helps you to drive traffic to a site that you control. When you’re under attack, both of these things are vital.

4. Monitor the damage.

After you’ve posted your response, watch the Ripoff Report site for a few days. Look for additional damning comments, and watch your own blog post for snarkiness. Also, check out your Google search results and see how well you’re dominating the conversation.

If you’re written a killer post and handled the talk just right, you might not need to do much more to make the attack fade in importance. But if you don’t see any positive results or you notice that this complaint is growing in power every day, you might need to do a little more.

5. Sign up for arbitration, if things don’t improve.

Ripoff Report makes money through arbitration. Attacked companies work with Ripoff Report founders to explain their side of the situation, and if the business owners are convincing, a new headline is popped on top of the nasty review. In some cases, parts of the attack can be blacked out altogether, depending on the whims of the folks at Ripoff Report.

Yes, this can feel a little like extortion. But, if the complaint continues to swirl out of control, it could be the best way to stem the bleeding and restore your reputation. At times, it might be best to hold your nose, pay the fee and move on with your business.

Anyone out there have alternate ideas about handling Ripoff Report? Love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Image credit: Nuttakit via FreeDigitalPhotos.net