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|Reputation Management and Google|
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These days having a strong presence for your company name is imperative. There is a cottage industry that has evolved out of assisting companies in removing "unwanted" content about their company from the top 100 results. Part of that process involves establishing a strong presence for "company name" searches.
[edited by: tedster at 3:21 am (utc) on July 4, 2007]
IMO reputation management should be a process built into your online marketing efforts from the start. If you take the longer view and make consistent efforts to do a good job servicing customers, fixing mistakes and investing in your brand you will be ahead of the game when it comes time to defend from a potential threat.
SEO / SEM tactics such as optimizing your site for your keywords, Adwords campaigns etc, blogging, and social networking can all lend themselves to getting the word out about your company and establish your name online. These tactics can also be used for short term fixes if someone begins to spread rumors or negative publicity about you or your business. But ultimately, the best defense is to work consistently to build a company and a name that people trust and then be on the watch for those who might wish to abuse that good name.
If you need to push some negative search results down a few pages in some cases with some effort the job can be done but the longer term solution is to take steps to address issues when they arise and build a name / presence people trust.
It always amazes me how people come up with the two arguments of "the company must be bad if they have negative press online" and "if someone says something false about your company just sue them!" If it were that simple my life would be soooo much easier.
Keep in mind that this is the internet. Anyone can say anything they wish online as often as they want, as long as they do not use their real name or own the website they are posting on. I know of one company, not a company I have ever worked for, who had posts about their owner being a child molester. The allegations were completely false and in fact the owner they were talking about had been dead for 10+ years. That company never found out who was posting the original comments as far as I know so they had to go after the website hosting the comments. A couple of years later it was finally resolved.
My favorite response is, "sue them for libel!" Sure no problem. As long as you know who is posting the false information and have ten to fifty thousand dollars to throw out the window for the next six months to a year+ with the possibility of zero return, go for it! It doesnít really matter how right you are or how much libel is going on if the person doing it has nothing to take or you canít find them. And while you spending money building up your case against them and serving them with the lawsuit, they are working double time to post as much garbage on you or your company as possible. Is it all false information? Yes! Is it financially damaging your company? Yes! Is it going to stay up until the court case is settled? Yes! Just try and get a court order for the person to stop until the case goes before the judge.
"And while you spending money building up your case against them and serving them with the lawsuit, they are working double time to post as much garbage on you or your company as possible."
Is it all false information? Yes!
Not even close to being always the case.
Is it financially damaging your company? Yes!
If you can prove that then you can get a preliminary injunction.
Is it going to stay up until the court case is settled? Yes!
Just try and get a court order for the person to stop until the case goes before the judge.
Meanwhile the effort to remove the offending content via gaming the search engines is also not cheap, nor is it always even close to being long term effective.
While it's true that the points I made are not 'always' going to happen, the times that they do happen are what is damaging. The negative postings also aren't Ďalwaysí going to be true, non-damaging and be taken down right away. I could point to several thousand instances where this is the case.
You may have read my post a little out of context to what I was trying to say. The point is, that when it does happen where the information is false, damaging and persistent, the business or individual is going to have an uphill struggle in most cases trying to get the posts taken down. In my experience it has not been as simple as filing a lawsuit or telling the posters that their information is incorrect.
As far as a preliminary injunction goes, the company I work for has tried that several times. It's only worked once and that was because we could not find the person to serve them. And yet, every time the content has been false and financially damaging and had to go through a long legal process before it was removed. Yet, each time over the last three+ years it has been removed for being libelous. It may be that you have had personal experience getting injunctions consistently and quickly but that has not been the case from my experience.
I don't agree with 'gaming' the search engines but when it comes to reputation management the search engines are most definitely not your friends. Building relevant, quality, REAL content across multiple domains is the way to go in my opinion. That could consist of corporate blogs, forums and sub domains based on the different divisions of your company or any other content you can think of. And by no means does it mean ignoring a business issue if there is one. Most of the cases Iíve dealt with have been employees who were fired and decided to Ďget evení. Other times business issues have been brought to light and dealt with appropriately.
From what people are saying, I think many have not ever looked into the process of suing someone for libel. Just for starters, consider that you have to find the right jurisdiction. You have to find out who the individuals are in real life, where they live, and so on, and then either have a lawyer there or be willing to send your lawyer there. You have to be able to prove that the libel is false, so if someone posts on the Widget Forum that "Acme Widgets are contaminated with melamine," you're going to have to come up with lab tests going back to that period to prove that your widgets are melamine free. The person you are taking to court can say it was just an opinion--"I think Acme Widgets are contaminated with melamine"--then you lose. You have to be able to prove that your business was damaged by that specific libel, and how it was damaged exactly. But let's just say you win, and you ask for damages to your business, and the other party has nothing for you to take, or they live in a state that allows a huge homestead exemption. And then where are you? Broke and wasted your time. Even big corporations who sue for libel often find they picked up a tar baby.
The vast majority of the businesses in the US are small. They don't have lawyers on retainer and deep pockets. To advise businesses here "Oh, you can just sue them" is not helpful beause it is not a possibility in fact. Howevwer, the salting around of the kind of counter-information that is being discussed here is a real possibility.
Yes, there are bona fide negative reviews posted online. There are also many reviews posted by cranks, kooks, people with an axe to grind, folks who got out of the wrong side of bed, people living in a consumer's dreamland, and of course, unscrupulous competitors. Most of us are not able to counter this sort of thing in the courts.
So are you saying it is fine to do the gaming routine and impact others that aren't involved in demeaning a product or site or whatever at the same time you are attempting to deep six the offending content, which when you get down to it may also cost you big bucks. However, it is too much of an expense to do it the other way?
I can provide a list of things that seem to work in varying degrees to help with the load of wash. You can find a number of them stuck to the top of this forum.
I don't exactly see it that way but once again I'm a woodland critter and at some point I or one of my relatives must have scared Jim. But then maybe Jim was poking me when I was napping ;-).
theBear now lumbers into to his bunker.
[edited by: theBear at 5:34 pm (utc) on July 5, 2007]
Who else is it that you think reputation management is affecting theBear? If you own theBearís Lawn Service and I start posting to forums falsely detailing how you use unethical means to produce your fertilizer, how would it affect anyone else to push those posts back in the search engines?
The way I understand what you are saying is that it is not ok for a company to game the search engines and push back the false information but it is ok for randomPerson01 to game the search engines and push up false information for a search on the company.
Iím curious to know what you would do in the situation where false information is being posted online and damaging your business and you donít know who it is. Iím all ears if you have something that will work in this situation.
"Who else is it that you think reputation management is affecting theBear? "
Lets think on that one a minute shall we, you are trying to out a page that ranks on page one, let us say that the owner of the name that is being dragged through the unethically produced fertilizer, is in slot number one, and the targeted alleged big mean old Bear's page doing the dragging is in slot number two. Tell me can you warrant your method to remove me will only affect me and not the other 28 pages that would account for close to all clicks in the serps?
One company provides "insulation" services sure sounds to me like they put as much space between the "bad pr" page and the "good pr" page. Sure sounds like there is the likely potential for a bit of damage to other parties along the way.
Of course I use unethical means to produce my lawn fertilizer. I compost the left over food from political events. But that is far more ethical than those that produce the left overs.
I'd probably tell them straight up what I thought of their page and then laugh at them.
[edited by: theBear at 1:21 am (utc) on July 6, 2007]
|The vast majority of the businesses in the US are small. They don't have lawyers on retainer and deep pockets. To advise businesses here "Oh, you can just sue them" is not helpful beause it is not a possibility in fact. Howevwer, the salting around of the kind of counter-information that is being discussed here is a real possibility. |
If one's company is so small as to not be able to afford competent legal counsel, then what the heck are they doing worrying about "reputation management" for?
They don't even have the funds to enforce any of their basic trademark, licensing, branding issues, etc.
And they think tons of people are looking for their site by name?
Spend some of that "rep management" money on "google bowling"...err pushing their way into common SERPs that people actually search for.
(or REAL advertising, branding, market penetration, ensuring loyal repeat customers, etc)
Or simply stop the act of "protecting one's business" (read: letting one's personal ego get in the way of really doing business and realizing ALL big companies get bad publicity) and really dominate the SERPs thru every available means.
Did a search for "<Reputable Japanese Automaker> Sucks"
Do you think that company spends ANY amount of time worrying about that page?
Gimme a break. They do so well on providing an exceptional customer experience to millions of buyers, whenever I hear somebody say "<Reputable Japanese Automaker> Sucks",
I just roll my eyes and think, "i've bought their cars for years and me, all my friends, and associates recommend them to anyone who will listen".
Again, I say, if you're worrying (a great deal) about whether somebody right or wrong has posted a page saying "Your company sucks", then you need to rethink SOME aspect of your business.
And pushing that page out of the SERPs is probably the last thing you need to focus on.
[edited by: whitenight at 1:39 am (utc) on July 6, 2007]
|Gimme a break. They do so well on providing an exceptional customer experience to millions of buyers, whenever I hear somebody say "<Reputable Japanese Automaker> Sucks", I just roll my eyes and think, "i've bought their cars for years and me, all my friends, and associates recommend them to anyone who will listen". |
Again, I say, if you're worrying (a great deal) about whether somebody right or wrong has posted a page saying "Your company sucks", then you need to rethink SOME aspect of your business. And pushing that page out of the SERPs is probably the last thing you need to focus on.
your taking an extreme example where a brand is so established, not really anything could tarnish it next to a freak disaster.
the majority of sites who need to partake in rep. management don't have that luxury.
A small business is affected much more by this kind of negative thing than a big business is precisely because tons of people are NOT looking for them. A limited number of people are looking, so negative reviews have much more impact. As I cited above in the thread, in a niche, someone with a big mouth and a lot of time on their hands can do a lot of damage to many small legitimate businesses.
People don't have to hire out reputation management. They can learn to do it themselves, just like they have learned to design their website, set up their shopping cart, keep their books, handle their inventory, optimize their search engine rankings, etc., etc., etc.
|the majority of sites who need to partake in rep. management don't have that luxury. |
|People don't have to hire out reputation management. They can learn to do it themselves |
The majority of sites who "need" to partake in rep. managment.
A.) Have lawyers on retainer
B.) Need to eliminate the cause of genuine complaints causing people to spend time creating that page
C.) Would get a much better ROI on their "rep mgmt" funds by instead using that money for:
- copywriters for gaining new customers
- copywriters for selling repeat customers
- dominating new SERPs that provide 10x, 100x, 1000x more exposure than the small amount people specifically searching for their company name
- branding their company in offline ads.
Do I need to go on?
Almost every company that would gain any beneficial ROI from rep management falls under A.) and B.)
The rest of them aren't big enough to justify the ROI.
Run the numbers and find out for yourself.
We practice SERM as if we are part of the business logic and marketing team of client. SERM must align its goals with the client's strategic planning as we also make sure we are not violating any SE rules -- which I believe the toughest challenge.
Yes, web 2.0 is great for this and each move is pre-approved by client. The key part, we deal with decision makers. We introduced client education after my last pubcon visit in November and we found this to be very helpful. So for our practical experience, client education, and keeping client in authority throughout are keys.
It seems, whitenight, that you have determined to simply restate your position and not engage with anything that contradicts your version of things. In particular, you don't want to address the issue of small businesses in this situation. That is okay for you, because for you, this is just some phony non-issue that does not affect you, as your business always produces completely satisfied customers, never attracts any cranks, and you do nothing all day but hire people to accomplish the work that us little people do ourselves. That's great. But others might actually be interested in how this reputation management is accomplished. I know I am, and I would like to hear more about it as opposed to arguments about how it is a) morally wrong, b) not necessary because we are all huge multinational corporations.
This is an interesting discussion and although I do not know much about it, I did do some checking re: a brand of dog food that caused pets to die.
Just putting in the name of the dog food gave a combination of results and the top result was still the companies own website, below that were what I would call major authority sites e.g. .gov with warning pages etc so what I would consider a fair and justified listing of first 10 results
The real interest was when I input the name of the company with review at the end of the search query, and not one of the results were positive so I suspect they will suffer in long term financialy from the problem.
I would have expected them to have made sure a page targeting those keywords would at least have made it into top 10 for the review search query.
Is this a good example where the company has not used Reputation Management to help with brand issues
While I was at it I looked quickly at another health scare issue that occured and it is fairly obvious they did do work on Reputation Management and on their review search they have 4 of the results with details on what they have done to resolve the issue
Interesting topic even though not in my area
|and not one of the results were positive so I suspect they will suffer in long term financialy from the problem. |
That is another aspect that is not addressed here. Long term damage.
So let's say a company screwed up. Let's use the dog food reference. Bad dog food. Dogs dieing b/c of it. Then the company cleans up its act. It removes everything that could possibly ever hurt a dog again from its processes. It spends millions to do so.
10 years later, those pages talking about how their dog food was bad could still come up. Heck, with the way the web and SEs work, they are most likly to come up. How long does a company have to suffer for a mistake, especially one that they have rectified?
Rep Mang is not some straight forward case. It is PR, the same as any other PR.
That long term situation could also be thought of as the consequences of doing something for short term gain at the expense of the long term.
A very common trade off done every single day and over time the real world prunes out those who make the wrong calls.
BTW, some of this information can frequently be found in your newspaper's archive. It is just easier to locate using a search engine.
"A.) Have lawyers on retainer
B.) Need to eliminate the cause of genuine complaints causing people to spend time creating that page"
Wow. No offense intended but talk about putting blinders on. Even if you have lawyers on retainer it does not mean that damage will not be done to your business while those lawyers take legal action. Every business needs to eliminate the cause of genuine complaints. I doubt anyone would argue that. But reputation management does not deal with only genuine complaints. The case I mentioned earlier where the dead business owner was accused of being a child molester was an actual case. It went on for over two years. Business was lost because some people did their due diligence and found out that the guy was a child molester. Except the guy was not a child molester and in fact had been dead when the accusations were made. Yet for two years the company lost potential clients because of a falsehood spread online.
If you donít think that there are crazy people out there who will try and ruin your business because of absurd or false reasons, look up the $54 million dollar dry cleaner lawsuit over a pair of pants.
Personally, I do not go after the "xyz company sucks" search results. It would be a waste of time in my opinion to try and clean up every negative search possibility. But to blatantly ignore a search on your direct company name?...You are just asking people, such as your competitors, to abuse you.
"If you donít think that there are crazy people out there who will try and ruin your business because of absurd or false reasons, look up the $54 million dollar dry cleaner lawsuit over a pair of pants."
Yep, crazy just like a lawyer and judge.
BTW, way the plaintiff lost.
Yep. That was part of why I brought that particular case up. The plantiff lost but it still cost the defendant tens of thousands in legal bills if I remember the figure correctly. I couldn't believe that a judge would bring such a frivolous suit against someone.
Well, the cleaner did in fact loose his honors pants.
I also suspect that the cleaner has plenty of business as the result of it.
I'm not sure about the legal fees however.
But if you want a case to point to I'd suggest the ongoing dustups in SCOX v IBM (Utah) , SCOX v Novell (Utah), RHAT v SCOX (Delaware), SCOX v Dalmer Chrysler (Michigan), and SCOX v AutoZone (Arizona).
<edit>To correct the order of, who sued who ;-) <edit>
[edited by: theBear at 4:17 pm (utc) on July 6, 2007]
Ok, here's a possible WebMasterWorld sad story:
A couple of guys launch their own startup shoe string search engine and crawler, how many of you webmasters will give them a chance and allow their polite well behaved rules abiding well documented bot to index your pages?
Vs. How many will claim to know it's a scraper and volunteer information they do not have
How many will just block them because they don't have time to investigate them fully and post on forums that they have crawler XYZ blocked leaving out the reasons.
Googling the bot name other webmasters see only mixed results but mostly negative and prefer to play it safe.
End result, one potential good idea killed early.
The more I know, the less I understand.
Now that case is a ball of yarn attacked by a basket of kittens! LOL!
That case Jhet is is a pure example of a company doing what it perceives as reputation management against just about the entire world plus dog.
They even stoop so low as to call others thieves, including people whose work they stole.
Go figure, they are however destined to the scrap heap of shortsighted companies. It is sad because at one time they were on the right path.
Are you referring to that distributed crawler that folks could download, etc ... etc ...?
I am talking about how we all possibly could participate in misinformation online, specially by negative participation, how we unwittingly can prevent the rise of new brilliant ideas. The heavy responsibility of Reputation Management should not fall fully on the small guy specially when every nut case and his dog can have a say and cause damage.
I disagree with that being reputation management, theBear. That appears to me as copyright, patent and/or trademark protection.
The type of reputation management that I am talking about is coming from these areas:
Imagine that you have an employee who does not show up for work for three days without calling or giving any notice. Now imagine that this is not the first time that they have done this. You've bent over backwards to help this person and allowed them to keep their job up until this point. Finally you have to fire them. What's the first thing they do...head to the internet and posts on consumer complaint site about what a dirtbag you are and how your company is a complete fraud and does nothing but rip people off. This post creeps up the search engines until it sits directly below your homepage when searching for your company name. The post is well written and appears to have complete credibility despite being 100% false. Potential employees are seeing this and deciding not to work for your company based on what is written. Potential clients are reading this post, believing it and canceling your services before you have a chance to rebut this information. What exactly do you plan to do about this? Nothing? Decide to fix the fictitious problem that the former employee created out of thin air? Take them to court and hope that it doesn't cost more than your small business can afford to pay in legal fees?
If you have a suggestion that will work for situations like this, I'd like to know what the answer is.
Ok Hobbs, so you are positing a what if situation (I actually know of such a situation, however IMO they blew it) and like everything including Jhet's situation you can reason with the person that posted the information, or the site it is posted on, or you can ignore it as not being worthy of responding to, respond with humor, or file suit.
If you file suit you should realize that in these cases (IANAL, but have it on very good authority) truth is an absolute defense.
Your choice, your dollars, just make absolutely certain that what ever you do it doesn't foul up things for others. That could lead to others returning the favor so to speak.
Ah now we are getting somewhere. I have it on better authority that the truth isn't working, doesn't always have a legal standing, the courts have taken 6+ months per case, the webmasters of the consumer complaint site hear the same story every day and donít care (and are protected by law I might add), reasoning with the individuals has not worked and it for sure is costing more money in legal fees and opportunity cost than it is costing for reputation management. What better authority than to be dealing with it directly?
Honestly, I could not care less what happens to other companies who are competing for our company name and get pushed out. Why would I care for someone who is trying to steal my business by fooling potential clients into believing they are me? If they want to return the favor and try and push me out of the serps for my company name then by all means work at it. It may work in my favor and get rid of the negatives sitting out there and I'd much rather have competition in the serps than outright lies.
Ok, as I said in my first posts, you call it "rep management", i call it darker shades of grey hat. NOTE: I don't particularly have a problem with this, but don't justify it under the guise of "woe is me and my business with those evil crazy people who want to bring me down"
Stop the insanity already. It's the cost of doing business.
Welcome to real business problems.
And especially don't get upset when another (smarter) "company" decides to spend their money in Rep. Mgmt" for the lucrative keywords of
"widgets" "buy widgets" "how to widget" etc and knocks you out of the SERPs
I'd suggest you do the same if you're going to go down that slippery slope.
Now, let's get real.
I'm going to give two examples of why being the "authority" on something basically trumps all the bad publicity in the world.
(since my "honda" example was too "unrealistic")
Story #1 - Distant relative of mine is a Fortune 50 exec. He's a jerk and rarely do employees like him. Doing a search on him and it brings up all kinds of pages of disgruntled employees pages, etc.
Most likely factual, if angry.
Do you know why he left one Fortune 50 company to run another one.
cause he always produces profits. He's the authority on getting companies from Fortune 1000 to Fortune 500.
The board chairs knows he often rubs employees the wrong way.
Why don't they care? Why do they still hire him?
(lol, off point. - I can remember a MSNBC report saying the same thing."He's a jerk, but Wall Street loves him"
A few year ago, a few friends and I didn't like the "authority" site on "much sought keyword".
We didn't like the site, the owner, how it was run, etc.
So we started our own site and board.
We started off our site dealing with horrible rep.
"How dare we disagree with XYZ.com"
"Those people are jerks"
"They only give bad advice about..."
Now remember, this was the authority site when we left and anyone who was anyone stumbled upon their site first and the bad reviews about our site.
After about a year, because we were indeed the authority - giving better advice, better products, etc - we eventually overtook the market in terms visitors, SERPs, you name it.
But people being people, certain members got angry and left, started their own sites/boards and spent countless hours trashing our site and boards and repeated the comments seen above.
Last I checked, none of those boards are in existence or the members who left eventually migrated back to us.
Because we are the authority on the subject. Period.
All the name-calling and psychos (and we've had quite a few of them)
couldn't touch us.
In fact, I forbad any mods on our boards even addressing the disparaging comments from the other sites.
Mainly because I believe in free speech, but also because whatever legitimate issues came up, we rectified.
The rest were just noise and customers (at least the ones worth having) eventually sniff out the truth and decided to go with the authority.
And yes, the psychos and/or their hosts got Intent to Sue letters which shut them up 9 times out of 10.
(Again, if you can't hire a decent attorney for 1/2 hour to write up a believable intent to sue letter, you have a hobby, you're not running a business)
No you are not getting places Jhet, just because a site might rank for your company name doesn't mean that their position is improper or that they are trying to eat your lunch. Your company name gives you no right to push anyone out of the serps. So if in going after negative information true or not you impact others listed in the serps you have crossed the line.
Further you can expect problems from the search engines and possibly the folks you pushed out.
See, it can snowball.
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