Sometimes Google works against people and companies (they probably don't do it on purpose). Those results can often be changed ethically and organically.
When Google AutoComplete (Google Instant) shows popular search terms, instead of relevant ones, people suffer. You’ve probably experienced this yourself -- how many times have you began to Google something, only to find the suggestions that pop up make a person or company look terrible? These can be relatively harmless at times, perhaps providing a laugh or a distraction, but they can also lead you in the completely wrong direction.
People are negative. We're just wired that way. Not evil, just conditioned over time to be on the lookout for something bad. When we see something negative our senses ramp up. It's a survival mechanism, but it also skews Google search results as well as Google AutoComplete. When you see something negative show up in Google AutoComplete you may click on it. This tells Google it's relevant. You may not have been looking for it, but sometimes you just can't resist. That's why AutoSuggest (Instant) shows the kind of things it does (at least, that's what we think). You can read more about human negativity bias here.
A Word on Crowdsourcing
Rather than use one method to change AutoComplete, we use many. This article outlines our approach. Before we move on, let’s be clear on what crowdsourcing is.
Crowdsourcing refers to the process in which a business, individual, or website owner (the crowdsourcer) uses people (the crowd) to complete a particular task. These people may be professionals or ordinary people, paid or volunteering.
The crowdsourcer will announce a project or problem online, and invite a crowd to participate, either by getting involved, giving feedback, or offering a solution. The crowd will then be rewarded, either by payment or recognition, depending on the circumstance.
A very simple example of this would be Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream and their “Do the World a Flavor” campaign, where they asked customers to come up with all new and original flavor ideas. It ran in 17 countries and had a massive amount of entries. Today, you can stop by Ben and Jerry’s and try a scoop of “Cherry Garcia” or “Chubby Hubby," a direct result of the crowdsourcing method.
In the past, reputation agencies could alter Google AutoComplete using IP proxies and crowdsourcing. Today, changing bad search box results still use those methods, though less effectively, because the traffic used by crowdsourcing platforms is unnatural.
The best method forward today is to use small private crowdsourcing networks. Because these networks are not public, the activities of its participants leave a much smaller "footprint" for search engines to find. The use of private networks has a much higher success rate than public crowdsourcing networks or traffic bots (even human-based traffic on a popular network).
But private networks are more expensive, because the participants in the network are paid more than the off-shore labor commonly associated with crowdsourcing.
Reputation X has performed tests between public and private crowdsourcing networks. We found that even if the participants in a public crowdsourcing project are asked to use country specific IP addresses (normally via proxies), they do not. We found that 80% of the traffic came from IP addresses in the Philippines and India.
We even "shut out" participants from those countries and it still didn't work. It has become clear that the only way to use crowdsourcing to change Google AutoComplete has been to use small, private, geo-specific crowdsourcing networks.
As mentioned above, these networks are more expensive. They consist of “mommy bloggers” located throughout the target country, mainly the United States and Canada. They're North American, so they're paid more. The costs can really add up, but we've found it works better than anything else.
We've also tested the use of bots that automatically perform searches like a human would. Some even use random duration and random proxy use. But, like public crowdsourcing, these leave a heavy footprint due to their overuse by low-end SEO firms. Our theory is that these networks have been flagged. They do tend to work to some extent if the volume of searches matches "normal" search volume for a given search phrase. However, they are not the answer by themselves.
The best way to alter Google AutoComplete search results in our opinion is to use a combination of private crowdsourcing networks augmented by bots and outsourced public crowdsourcing (albeit at a very low level). The best mix we have found so far looks like this:
Of course, there is a lot more that goes into it, but we hope experienced search engine marketers find this information helpful in their endeavors to bring justice to their online reputation management clients.