When customers make negative comments on social media, the damage can spill over onto SERPs.

Businesses’ online reputations matter more now than ever before. Not just because people will start to think less of a company, although that is always a risk. Instead, a plunge in customer sentiment can have a quantitative negative effect on SEO efforts. Viral negative comments, or at least responses getting traction on the emerging semantic web, can be particularly harmful. 

For example, Brafton covered the case of Amazon Prime and the drop in customer engagement and approval that accompanied its price hike. Amazon is weathering the storm, but it will have to deal with some search marketing fallout in the meantime.

Good news, semantically speaking

Due to the ways Google and other search engines are choosing to organize data, search terms are less about keywords and more about concepts or entities, so the signals that help Bing and Yahoo keep track of a brand will be on top of SERPs. Therefore, one bad review, a single negative comment on social media or a particularly popular blog post blasting a business can send search rankings tumbling. At the very least, brands’ search presences will include negative information. 

Naturally, it’s important to deal with social media complaints as soon as possible. Unfortunately, at least half of the businesses surveyed by Social Media Marketing University don’t have a plan in place for this sort of rapid response. Additionally, 26 percent have seen their brand reputations tarnished, 15 percent have lost customers and 11.4 percent have lost revenue because of negative social media commentary by customers or clients.

Give squeaky wheels some grease

The best thing companies can do in these situations is to respond rapidly on Facebook, Twitter or whichever network the complaint first appeared. About 70 percent of the surveyed organizations said they addressed these complaints within 24 hours, but the rest weren’t as quick and may have contributed to their own losses of reputation, customers and revenue.

This highlights the ultimate power of social media, which is engagement, rather than solely content distribution. Businesses need to get away from simply automating their Facebook shares or Tweets, as this leaves the door open for unanswered negative reactions. Instead, real people should be behind social posts, and those employees must be knowledgeable about following up with customers and performing damage control when necessary. It isn’t just existing business this protects – it’s future leads who find companies through organic search. 

Alex Butzbach is a Marketing Writer at Brafton. He studied Communications at Boston College, and after a brief stint teaching English in Japan, he entered the world of content marketing. When he isn't writing and researching, he can be found on a bike somewhere in Metro Boston.