LEEDS: British companies lose an average of nearly £47,000 a year because of negative online content, which has become the top commercial concern for three-quarters of UK firms questioned in a new survey.

According to the Reputation Report, a study of 500 business owners and high decision-makers by Igniyte, the reputation management agency, the cost of damaging online content can be quantified.

It found negative online reviews and comments cost UK companies £46,815 a year on average while almost one-in-ten (9%) lose between £50,000 and £100,000, and a quarter (24%) lose £10,000.

Although the vast majority (88%) of respondents believe that having a positive online presence is important to the people who use their services, almost half (45%) say they fail to remove damaging posts and only a third feel they had the necessary skills to maintain their online reputation.

As a result, one-in-ten outsource the management of their digital profile while the same proportion "don't know how to keep on top of it".

The report also found a third (31%) believe the issue will become a major concern in the future with one-in-five reporting that dealing with negative content has become the main focus of their online strategy, surpassing even raising brand awareness or generating new sales and followers.

One-in-five of companies are unhappy with the way they are portrayed on their primary Google page, the report said, while negative media coverage is also an issue for 17% of them.

Negative comment posted by competitors is considered to be the most damaging (43%), closely followed by malicious postings from disgruntled former employees (42%) and poor reviews (41%), but nearly a third (30%) also feel their online reputation has been damaged by current staff.

Simon Wadsworth, managing director of Igniyte, said negative media coverage is an issue for a relatively large percentage of UK businesses, but acknowledged it's a difficult issue to manage.

"Companies are realising that online reputation is an important asset worth protecting, but dealing with negative content is still a tricky issue," he said.

Data sourced from Igniyte; additional content by Warc staff