Today’s online reputation management is its own type of cyber warfare, with reviews and comments replacing guns and heavy artillery. It’s only befitting, then, that this article on radically efficient means of turning around your online reputation also take on the “skunkworks” mantle. Without further ado, let’s launch into what you can do to fight back against a negative online reputation:
Times have changed. Not 10 years ago, people had no way to express their dissatisfaction with a company’s product in any meaningful way or to any broad audience. If you didn’t like the product or service you’d purchased, you either took it up with a (very) modest customer support department, attempted to return it at the place of purchase, or just grumbled to friends and family about how inferior the product or service was. Then along came Web 2.0, leveling the playing field, making it easy for the average Joe to make a blog post, a tweet, or a Facebook video decimating a company’s reputation in a blink of an eye.
We live in an era where snowy white corporate reputations are quickly going the way of unicorns. Sooner or later, a dissatisfied client is bound to write something about you that’s damaging to your reputation, ranging from justified anger to downright maliciousness.
How do you get rid of it?
The prime rule of online information management, what was placed by others, almost always needs to be removed by others. Keep the high ground: Editing your own Wikipedia entry in an obvious way tends to show you’ve got something to hide. Here in the office, we like to joke that “cyberspace doesn’t obey the laws of gravity” - what goes up doesn’t necessarily come down. Ever. In fact, if it’s been posted online, you can assume for all intents and purposes that this information is in the public record forever.
Rather than removing the information yourself, successful online reputation management is all about getting the information removed backstage. Start by tracking down and gauging the temperament of the original poster of this information. Does the situation seem salvageable? Can their discontentment be turned around or are they a lost cause? Is there any chance you can get them to remove this information themselves?
Many of the biggest “wins” in online reputation management history happened when companies fessed up to their public blunders and took public responsibility for their actions to diffuse public outcry. Today’s online brand management is about two things: diplomacy and transparency. Be fair. Shoot straight. You’ll be surprised at how far you can get.
Some review curators like Yelp are infamous for requesting “payments” to get negative reviews taken down. Weighing the pros and cons of such an action, can you justify paying the pied piper to get this hushed up?
If that isn’t viable, keep reading-
Usually, the first thing that comes to mind when online reputation management is mentioned in non-professional settings is this - obscuring the bad, making it harder to access by burying it beneath a mountain of more recent information that ideally shows you in a more positive light. That said, the information you post can range from well-thought-out and meaningful to downright irrelevant depending on the audience in question.
Machiavellians beware - in ORM, the ends justify the means less than 100% of the time. Burying content under fluff and filler makes you suspect to the risk of this information resurfacing at a later time and make you look worse than before. This is because search engines are always improving. A big recent change has been the RankBrain system, a sort of artificial intelligence that looks at web pages and tries to rate its quality as a person would. So if a person wouldn't like the page, RankBrain may not either, and rank it accordingly.
Another reason to hold back, a huge influx of 5-star reviews on your Amazon product with no comments, no pictures, no natural chronological succession, basically no substance, followed by a black as sin review about your product may raise more red flags than it was originally supposed to suppress.
Our advice, take the high road and do things slowly. We call it doing things "organically".
Negative reviews and indexed results need to be made to go away in a similar fashion to how they were instigated- with natural chronological spacing, thoughtful client feedback, and a healthy dose of visual content (either video or pictures) between the negative post and the positive ones succeeding it. A general rule of thumb is: if it looks fake, it's best off not being there at all.
De-indexing is another way to manage your online reputation- when neither taking the results down nor burying them beneath a mountain of more relevant results are viable, consider getting the information removed from search engines where people can search for it.
If you’re in Europe, you have the right to get information about your person or corporation taken down with little to no strife so long as you can prove ownership. You can also make a DMCA claim if the information posted online infringes on your intellectual property. Finally, you can use the Google URL removal tool to attempt to get this information removed temporarily, possibly even for good.
There are tons of ways to manage an online reputation- it’s not from naught that people are calling the first search engine result page of Google “the new Corporate Business Card.” Keeping your online reputation clean is all about upkeep.