There’s an old saying: “The internet never forgets.”
Just one online negative review about you or your business (no matter if true or false) can have severe economic and financial repercussions for years to come.
Furthermore, it’s downright impossible to petition such search engines as Google to remove reviews or unfavorable sites from the search results without a court order.
Getting one of those is equally as challenging as many people have tried (and failed) to sue Google to get them to remove unfavorable search results.
While you can’t get negative websites and reviews removed from the internet, you can “push them down” from page 1 of the search results to page 3 or below. This is where online reputation management comes into play.
We’re going to look at a few DIY rep management tricks that you should be doing if you haven’t done so already. They can help push down a negative that’s on page 1 of a Google search for you or your business.
While there are a wide variety of online reputation management problems, this article is going to focus on a fictitious website that a fictitious person set up to slander someone’s good name as an example. The tips and tricks contained within this blog post can be used to help push down negative reviews, websites, or anything else that includes unflattering information about a person or business regardless of the circumstances.
Step 1 – Perform a Triage
Before you get started cleaning up your online reputation, take a few minutes to Google yourself or your business. Use different spellings and variations of proper names. Find what exact keyword queries are causing the negative website to show up. Once you know what keyword searches are showing the negative website, you can begin securing your online reputation.
Step 2 – Grab All Social Media Accounts
If you haven’t done so already, start creating social media accounts with your name. Take the time to correctly fill them out with pictures, text, and even video if you have it. Here is a small list of just some of the many social media sites that you can create accounts on:
- Google +
- MySpace (yes, it still exists!)
- Stumble Upon
Creating and updating social media accounts is one of the most time-consuming aspects of online reputation management, but it’s critical that you do it. Once you’ve created 20 or so social media profiles and added unique content to them, Google will start to take notice.
It may take a few weeks to a few months, but you’ll slowly start to notice the social media sites climbing in the organic search results, and you may even see your negative website get pushed down a spot or two (or more!).
Step 3 – Start a Blog
The next thing you’ll want to do is start a blog on one of the many free blogging websites out there. No technical expertise is needed, as most of the sites will do all the heavy lifting for you.
Once you have a blog set up, add at least 500 words of unique content to each one and put your name (or the keyword you want the blog to rank for) in the title of the blog.
Putting keywords in blog titles is an old SEO trick that helps rank websites high.
Here are a few “web 2.0” blog sites you can create accounts on:
Step 4 – Content
By now you should have at least 20 or more social media accounts and blogs set up. Unless you have help, it could take you a few weeks to get to this point, depending on how much time you can spare.
Once you have all your social media accounts and blogs created, be sure to keep a spreadsheet of the URL of the site along with your chosen username and password.
This will help keep things organized.
Now comes the hard part. Google loves unique, fresh, and regularly updated web content. If you don’t have access to the same link building techniques that online reputation management firms use, you’re going to have to rely on content alone to rank these new “good” websites on the 1st page of Google.
As the good websites start to take hold, they can push the negative webpage or review off the 1st and even 2nd page of Google.
Content by itself can rank websites, especially for low traffic keywords such as someone’s first and last name. Either hire someone to do it or spend another few weeks adding at least 500 words of unique content to each of the social media and blog websites that you created. Over time you should see some progress.
Online Reputation Management Professionals
If you’d like more tips on things you can do to help protect and fix your online reputation, or you’re stuck and need help, give us a call at (512) 993-9993. At Adapting Online, we specialize in helping our clients fix their online reputation.
Social media are interactive computer-mediated technologies that facilitate the creation and sharing of information, ideas, career interests and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks. The variety of stand-alone and built-in social media services currently available introduces challenges of definition; however, there are some common features:
- Social media are interactive Web 2.0 Internet-based applications.
- User-generated content, such as text posts or comments, digital photos or videos, and data generated through all online interactions, is the lifeblood of social media.
- Users create service-specific profiles for the website or app that are designed and maintained by the social media organization.
Social media facilitate the development of online social networks by connecting a user’s profile with those of other individuals or groups.
A blog is a discussion or informational website published on the World Wide Web consisting of discrete, often informal diary-style text posts. Posts are typically displayed in reverse chronological order, so that the most recent post appears first, at the top of the web page. Until 2009, blogs were usually the work of a single individual and often covered a single subject or topic. In the 2010s, “multi-author blogs” (MABs) have developed, with posts written by large numbers of authors and sometimes professionally edited. MABs from newspapers, other media outlets, universities, think tanks, advocacy groups, and similar institutions account for an increasing quantity of blog traffic. The rise of Twitter and other “microblogging” systems helps integrate MABs and single-author blogs into the news media.
Web content is the textual, visual, or aural content that is encountered as part of the user experience on websites. It may include—among other things—text, images, sounds, videos, and animations.
In Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, Lou Rosenfeld and Peter Morville write, “We define content broadly as ‘the stuff in your Web site.’ This may include documents, data, applications, e-services, images, audio and video files, personal Web pages, archived e-mail messages, and more. And we include future stuff as well as present stuff.”
Even though we may embed various protocols within web pages, the “web page” composed of “HTML” (or some variation) content is still the dominant way whereby we share content. And while there are many web pages with localized proprietary structure (most usually, business websites), many millions of websites abound that are structured according to a common core idea.
Blogs are a type of website that contain mainly web pages authored in HTML (although the blogger may be totally unaware that the web pages are composed using HTML due to the blogging tool that may be in use). Millions of people use blogs online; a blog is now the new “home page”, that is, a place where a persona can reveal personal information, and/or build a concept as to who this persona is. Even though a blog may be written for other purposes, such as promoting a business, the core of a blog is the fact that it is written by a “person” and that person reveals information from her/his perspective. Blogs have become a very powerful weapon used by content marketers who desire to increase their site’s traffic, as well as, rank in the search engine result pages (SERPs). In fact, new research from Technorati shows that blogs now outrank social networks for consumer influence.
Quality content is a very common phrase used to describe content which aren’t focused to increase the clickbait culture but rather to help those who get through it. Websites considered as content farms manipulate keywords to attract search engines to their website, but are considered to have content of poor quality. Quality content promises lower bounce rates as users find that content helpful and stay for a longer time. In contrast, content farms have higher bounce rates, as users tend not to stay after finding that the content is focused solely on fooling search engines. Several companies fill their web pages with a very high density of keywords and use techniques like to make the page SEO-friendly. The over-use of these techniques are flagged as black-hat SEO techniques by Google algorithms such as Google Penguin. Google penalized many websites who are doing keyword stuffing in website content.
Online Reputation management refers to the influencing and controlling of an individual’s or group’s reputation. Originally a public relations term, the growth of the internet and social media, along with reputation management companies, have made search results a core part of an individual’s or group’s reputation. Online reputation management, sometimes abbreviated as ORM, focuses on the management of product and service search website results. Ethical grey areas include mugshot removal sites, astroturfing review sites, censoring negative complaints, and using search engine optimization tactics to influence results.
Companies often attempt to manage their reputations on websites that many people visit, such as eBay, Wikipedia, and Google. Some of the tactics used by reputation management firms include:
- Improving the tagging and search engine optimization of company-published materials, such as white papers and positive customer testimonials in order to push down negative content.
- Publishing original, positive websites and social media profiles, with the aim of outperforming negative results in a search.
- Submitting online press releases to authoritative websites in order to promote brand presence and suppress negative content.
- Submitting legal take-down requests if someone believes they have been libeled.
- Getting mentions of the business or individual on third-party sites that rank highly on Google.
- Creating fake, positive reviews of the individual or business to counteract negative ones.
- Using spam bots and denial-of-service attacks to force sites with damaging content off the web entirely.
- Astroturfing third-party websites by creating anonymous accounts that create positive reviews or lash out against negative ones.
- Proactively offering free products to prominent reviewers.
- Removing online mug shots.
- Proactively responding to public criticism stemming from recent changes.
- Removing or suppressing images that are embarrassing or violate copyright.
- Contacting Wikipedia editors to remove allegedly incorrect information from the Wikipedia pages of businesses they represent.
The practice of reputation management raises many ethical questions. It’s widely disagreed upon where the line for disclosure, astroturfing, and censorship should be drawn. Firms have been known to hire staff to pose as bloggers on third party sites without disclosing they were paid, and some have been criticized for asking websites to remove negative posts. The exposure of unethical reputation management can itself be risky to the reputation of a firm that attempts it.