The Grayling Online Reputation Report 2018 found 80 of the 100 biggest listed companies in the UK have negative content on page one of Google.
Poor financial performance, or lack of business confidence, account for the greatest proportion of negative stories (41 per cent), followed by poor products or services (22 per cent) and unethical behaviour (17 per cent). Gender and diversity issues account for two per cent of negative content.
The research estimates that each FTSE 100 company is losing an average of 16 per cent of website visitors due to the negative content online, equating to up to 15 million potential customers, investors and employees.
Grayling also found 39 per cent of the negative content is more than six months old and 22 per cent is over a year old.
The report also found companies in the financial services, media and consumer goods sector are most impacted from negative Google search results.
In addition, just 15 of the 100 FTSE 100 companies had 'claimed' their company on Google My Business to make sure accurate information appears on their 'Knowledge Panel'. This means 85 of the FTSE 100 companies are at the mercy of whatever Google sources about them from around the Web.
Tom Nutt, head of corporate communication at Grayling UK, said: "We wanted to know what customers, journalists, investors and others find when they searched for the UK’s leading companies, and what that means for their business. Our findings demonstrate that negative results on the first page of Google impacts FTSE 100 companies’ ability to attract talent, deter would-be investors, and also has the potential to cause long-term reputational damage."
He added: "Many of the FTSE 100’s reputational challenges cannot be solved by communications alone, and must involve cultural change across the board.
"Our research highlights why it is essential that communications directors sit at the highest level of business and influence strategy. Search-focused communications and content marketing can reduce the volume and impact of negative content on page one of Google, and enable brands to take control of their presence, message and reputation on Google."