Here are the steps and best practices for dealing with negative content online:

Identify the Source

Where is the negative comment coming from? Start by identifying the source. Is it genuine or not? If it’s a troll or someone who revels in attacking people and businesses simply for their own entertainment and no good reason, you can ignore or remove it.

If someone makes fun of your name in the blog comments, just delete it and you’re done. If it’s an obvious troll and you don’t have the power to delete it, others will realize it’s just someone being nasty. If it’s inappropriate, you can usually get the webmaster or site to remove it since no one wants spam or offensive content on their site. If you’re getting randomly attacked a great deal, you might want to check and change your privacy settings.

Aside from the inevitable internet trolls, someone could be posting a negative comment because they have a legitimate complaint. It could be someone who doesn’t understand your product or service. Or, it could be someone maliciously trying to do you harm. Try to figure out the nature of the content.

Determine the Best Method of Response

Based on the source, ascertain the best way to respond. Your options are ignoring the comment, deleting it (or having it removed), or responding to the comment.

One factor to consider here is whether others have already seen it. If the comment was posted a while ago and others have seen it, it’s better to respond than delete it. Other users may have read the comment and they’ll know you deleted it if they return and it’s gone. This makes you look dishonest or like you’re trying to hide from a complaint or issue.

When to Delete a Comment

Aside from an obvious troll, there are a few other instances where you might want to delete a comment. Sometimes, a piece of content is negative and has no substance. If someone writes something like, “I tried this product and it sucks,” this is one where you might choose to delete it. If, on the other hand, they say something substantive, like, “I tried this product and it only worked for one day after I downloaded it,” this is a chance for you to respond and help the person figure out how to use your product.

You can safely delete anything that’s simply abusive. If someone is calling names, using profanity, using racial slurs, or otherwise making things unpleasant, it’s a good idea to delete. You can also delete anything that appears to be spam or that seems irrelevant (which is probably spam).

An example of a good time to delete content is if someone shares information that’s personal or private. For example, an ex-employee might reveal something about your business that should be kept confidential. Someone who knows you may say something personal. These comments should be deleted quickly.

How to Delete Comments

Obviously, you can delete negative content from your own website or blog. You might want to adjust your privacy settings so that comments have to be approved before they’re live. This is a good preventative measure against spam and troll comments. You can erase this content before it goes public.

On social media, you can usually erase a comment if it’s on your own profile. On Facebook, you can click on the X in the upper right-hand corner of a post and it will ask you if you want to delete or hide it. On a personal profile, you can delete it directly. On a Page, you have to hide it first, and then you can delete it. The “hide” function hides the comment from other users, but the person who posted can still see it.

You might also consider banning certain people from posting on your Facebook Page. If there are people who are consistently bothering you and posting unpleasant comments, you can make your life much easier by simply banning them.

Facebook Pages also have a feature where you can ban certain keywords. If you go to “Page Moderation,” you can select keywords that people can’t post in their comments. Think of some words and phrases that you don’t want anyone using on your page, such as profanity.

Review sites, like Trip Advisor, exist for customers to leave honest reviews so they’re strict about removing content. You can ask them to remove some reviews if they’re illegitimate or spam. If you’re listed on any of these sites, check their guidelines and take note of what kinds of things can be removed. They’ll usually take down a review if it has profanity, hate speech, threats, and so on. Each site has a different process for doing this, but they usually don’t let you erase negative reviews simply because they’re negative. However, they will usually let you respond to these reviews, which is something you should definitely do.

If someone posts something negative on another website, you can contact the website owner and make your case. It’s completely up to them whether they will remove the content or not. If you can make a case that the posting is incorrect or abusive, this will help. If not, you’ll need to make the case that the listing is hurting your business.

As a last resort, if the person won’t take down the content, you can try to get Google to remove it. However, this is nearly impossible unless the information is clearly incorrect, abusive, or private. Take a look at Google’s policies for an idea of what type of content it will takedown.