Did you catch how to best handle negative reviews online? We hosted an action-packed Webinar with Grace Hill on the topic of how property management professionals can best monitor, manage, and maintain their online reputation. Speaker Charity Hisle is regarded as an emerging leader within the multifamily industry and she shared her expertise on how to manage review sites like ApartmentRatings and Yelp. This webinar was filled with questions and Charity was nice enough to write up some more answers below.

Yelp has removed 3 legitimate reviews from our website through their autofilter. Is there anyway to get the reviews back?
I’ve investigated these types of claims before and here’s what I found. In one case, the user was new and without even a profile picture. The only review posted was for the community and it was GLOWING. In another case, the user wasn’t new but they had previously left very positive reviews for other communities across the country. There is no way to get the reviews back EXCEPT if the reviewers start really using Yelp and Yelp’s algorithm picks up the activity and validates it as authentic. This is why soliciting reviews is bad – because Yelp will grow suspicious if only positive reviews are visible.

What is the best way to defend your site on apartmentratings.com?
A membership, responding appropriately to concerns and complaints, and using the site regularly will build credibility, visibility and authenticity.

Any top suggestions on the best way to generate reviews – hopefully positive ones?
Email marketing, signs in the office, and requesting prospects (preferably before they even move in) to leave a review. Share them on Facebook and in testimonials on your website and future email marketing campaigns to build credibility for your community.

What do you think about posting a sign in the office saying, “Like us? Have you reviewed us online yet?”
LOVE IT! Share a picture and let us know how that works for you!

Can you provide a list of all the search sites please?
Search all of these sites for your community name: Google, Set up Google Feed Reader, set up Google Alerts, SocialMention, Kurrently, Twitter Search, HyperAlerts, Bing, Yahoo, Yahoo local, ApartmentRatings, DoNotRent, Yelp, Citysearch.com, etc.

Can you ever get negative reviews removed?
It depends on the website. ApartmentRatings will remove ratings that violate their terms of service. Yelp also has guidelines that, if violated, may result in the review being removed.

How do you claim your Google Places site?
Get started here.

Is it worth paying the companies that offer to pay to fix your online reputation?
I read an article the other day about black hat reputation monitoring. Basically, some companies hack into the website to remove the negative postings and post code that prevents the postings from displaying in search. This is illegal – so please be careful who you hire!

Most of our bad post results from security deposit disputes. Residents feel they weren’t responsible for the damage that was caused to the unit. How do you suggest we respond to those posts without sounding defensive?
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Perhaps start with all new and current residents (flyers/email/website). Explain the most common damage that takes place during the normal course of residence and how to prevent the damage. In the case of reviews already posted, if they are older than 12 months, let them go. If they are current reviews, perhaps explaining the common types of damage, why your community needs to recover the costs of repair, and offer to speak with them offline (provide your name, contact info). Find more from Charity’s site, Socially Engaged Marketing

Our friends at Multifamily Insiders have a survey and if you take a few minutes to share your thoughts, you get the results for free, so you can see what strategies other apartment communities are using: Share how you handle ApartmentRatings.com.