By Don Sorenson.
For CEOs who have spent long years and countless funds building a solid pharmaceutical brand and life-changing drugs, discovering defamatory remarks about your company online can come as quite a shock. Even worse, the negative comments about the company are often published on social media and popular review websites that rank high in search results, so everyone curious about the company sees them. And because they rank so high, these complaints often show up in search results years after the problem is resolved, diminishing your reputation both immediately and over the long-term.
A poor online reputation also impacts your revenue. Several years ago I met with a company with a severe online reputation problem — 7 out of the top 10 search results about their company were negative. After carefully reviewing their rankings and revenues, I estimated their poor online reputation was costing them over $1.5 million in sales per year. How your company is perceived online dramatically affects your bottom line.
So what can you do to protect and insulate your company from the far-reaching effects of a few complaints others are posting online about you?
Start by understanding some basics:
What is “online reputation”?
Your reputation online is based mainly on the top 10 to 20 results in a Google search on your company name. Your reputation suffers when any of these results are negative reviews or complaints about your company, customer service, or drugs, especially if they are published on multiple complaint sites. If the results are positive or at least neutral content about your company and products, prospects perceive you as a company worth doing business with or learning more about.
Where do negative comments come from?
If someone really wants to complain about your pharmaceutical company or products, there are plenty of review and complaint sites for them to use, such as scam.com, ripoffreport.com, and complaintsboard.com. Sites like these don’t check for accuracy, don’t usually remove a complaint if you request it, and they tend to rank very high in search results. So if someone complains about you on one of these sites, expect it to show up in search results, even years after the issue was resolved.
How a few negative comments can hurt your online reputation
A complaint or two online seems like it shouldn’t matter, but it does. Even just one negative result near the top of a Google search on your company or products can scare away potential customers by making them think twice about your products.
On top of that, if a search result promises to reveal the dirt on your company, prospects are far more likely to click that result. After all, they are researching you, and your products could drastically affect their lives.
Once you understand the basics, you can take steps to manage and protect your reputation so you are not at the mercy of your critics.
First, accept that there will be negative content about you. Everyone has the right to complain. Short of outright slander or libel, there’s not much you can do to remove negative comments about your company online.
Instead of getting frustrated or responding in the heat of the moment, just accept the fact of negative online content. Sometimes you’ll need to respond, especially on social media, to take care of customer service issues. But most of the time, it’s better to not respond at all.
The reason is that search engines give high rankings to websites with relevant, regularly updated content. Every time you comment on a website, you contribute relevant, updated content. So if you get into a back-and-forth situation with a reviewer, Google sees a lot of relevant, updated content about the company and ranks the website higher for searches on your company name, making it even more likely that everyone will see not only the negative review, but the argumentative way you responded.
On the other hand, if you simply accept the fact and move on, the review will slowly lose its high ranking and you can work on pushing it down.
Second, focus on getting positive content. The goal of pharmaceutical online reputation management is pushing negative content off the first two pages of a Google search. You do that by publishing lots of positive content and getting it to rank higher than the negative results.
That means you need to always be looking for, gathering, and creating positive content to update your websites, blogs, social media, and other places online. Publishing that positive content in multiple places online helps you gain control over more search results, so you might create several websites for different purposes and audiences. For example, you might have a website for doctors and healthcare professionals, another website where you publish news and drug trial information, and websites for individual drugs and product lines.
Third, push positive content higher in search results. The higher you can push your positive content, or at least neutral content like a Wikipedia page, the lower negative content will appear. If you can push down complains and negative reviews to the second page of a Google search or lower, they may as well not exist since most searchers don’t look past the first page.
The best way to edge out the negative content is to perform search engine optimization (SEO) on your positive content. The most important things to do for proper SEO include:
- Use your company name and other important keywords throughout your website’s content and in meta titles and descriptions, image names, image alt tags, headings, and subheadings.
- Update your website often and regularly with relevant, positive content to encourage search engines to crawl your pages more often.
- Link out to trustworthy, reputable websites to create a better user experience.
- Get trustworthy, reputable websites to link to your website so Google will think it is popular and relevant to your company name and keywords.
Of course, there’s more you can do to protect the online reputation of your company and your products, but these basic steps will get you started in the right direction.
For information on accentuating positive content for your reputation, read Don’s article in the March issue of Pharmaceutical Executive Global Digest.
About the author
Don Sorensen is founder of Big Blue Robot, a reputation management consultancy.