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How would you push bad news down?

If Google indexes a story with bad news about your client, what do you do?

     
5:03 pm on Jun 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Over the past several months I've had three separate new business pitches go bad because when they asked "What can I do to get bad news about my company out of Google" I've said that there really isn't anything that can be done. Perhaps these folks are finding less-reputable and desperate folks who will say anything to get the sale - but I'm wondering, am I missing something?

One client had a bad relationship with an "investment service" (read junk bond salesman) that they weren't aware of. When the invenstment service got busted, our potential client was listed as a client of the investment service. This story went out on the wire and appeared everywhere. After some time, it went away in most places, but Google has it archived and it shows up as the number 3 listing when the client's name is typed in. I said we could try to get more pages indexed above the story, but the story would not exit the index unless the owner of the publication did something to make that happen. Apparently that wasn't good enough and the client went elsewhere.

So I'm asking you guys - what would you do to get rid of bad news?

5:12 pm on June 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I don't think there is anything you can do to *get rid* of it. The nature of the internet allows freedom of speech in this regard. Unless the article violates copyright law, it has a right to be there.

I have a client with a similar situation. We have decided to do nothing. I had thought of uploading a page explaining the situation...but decided against it simply because it brings it to the attention of visitors who may not have found it in the first place.

It has caused some problems, and perhaps has queered some deals - when it comes up, the client addresses it the best he can, and directs the person asking to another site which gives the full resolution of the situation.

We really have no way of knowing how much damage it has done with potential buyers who get turned off and never ask what the story is. But sales have not decreased appreciably since the news 'broke'

5:23 pm on June 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Inspire people to put up search-engine friendly pages featuring your client's name or company, whatever it is that will get the SE queries. If you can get several of those, then you will have pushed that offensive page onto the second (or deeper) page. Tell your client it's time to call in the favors that other people with websites owe him. :-)
5:27 pm on June 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

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What about setting up a optimized page and a additional adword campaign about "the truth behind the story" - positive things, testimonials etc. about your client? There's allways something positive to tell about something negative. ;)
5:27 pm on June 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Put up more pages on differnt hosts and sites about your client to move down the bad news. However when people want to search for badnews its easy to find. How bad is your client ;) is it news that others should be advised about or is it opinions? That steps into ethics then, but to get back to moving bad news of the engine just drown it out with good news such as press releases and such.
5:36 pm on June 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

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One of the epoch-changing triumphs of the internet is that scamsters of every kind can now be identified and exposed. Those who complain about "bad news" are, I expect, running scared because no longer does misconduct vanish into newspaper cuttings files.

To those whose want to make money helping people to bury bad news, I say: tough.

5:44 pm on June 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Bear in mind that the Internet also allows chronic malcontents and troublemakers a forum. That criticism appears on some web page hardly means it should be taken as serious and truthful. The advent of the Net means people need to judge not only what the company says but also what its critics say. Don't believe everything you read, even by the critics.
5:52 pm on June 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Although I'm reluctant to suggest the L-word, if your client has deep pockets he could attempt to bully the protestor into removing the site using attorneys. This could backfire, of course, but it often works. A friend of mine put up a protest site after a bad automotive experience, but decided to take it down after getting threatened by their lawyers... I think he figured the world's largest automaker probably had a slightly larger legal budget than he did. :) I'd try to gauge the level of commitment and resources of the protestor before attempting this.
6:06 pm on June 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

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One of the epoch-changing triumphs of the internet is that scamsters of every kind can now be identified and exposed. Those who complain about "bad news" are, I expect, running scared because no longer does misconduct vanish into newspaper cuttings files.

Well said Brian. ;) Exactly my thoughts. In past I had dealings with a corrupt group of people, and now my new "sucks" site is ahead of their official site on MSN and AV, and right behind theirs on other search engines.

6:16 pm on June 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

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These are all good, common sense answers. I guess the answer to my question is, no, short of hacking into another's Web site (which we would never do)the only way to counteract bad news on a search engine is through traditional means that you would us in a crisis communications campaign.

I'll keep reading, but great responses thus far.

6:31 pm on June 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

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One other point on this topic. Those who make accusations often make potentially costly mistakes. In the heat of their passion to accuse, frequently they make assumptions that are untrue. By doing so, they incur legal liability. Several examples of that come to mind.

Those who are subject to web-published accusations ought to carefully examine each statement in detail. That gives the one being accused leverage to say the accusations are untrue (to some extent). That leverage can be exploited with the offending web page's hosting company, and handed off to a lawyer for further action if need be.

6:50 pm on June 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

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>>the only way to counteract bad news on a search engine is through traditional means that you would us in a crisis communications campaign.

Think you've got it right, twright. And in cases like this the client needs a PR firm to write a good one-page blurb for the 'about us' or 'press' section with a link on the home page for folks following up what they read elsewhere. And who knows, maybe this page will be picked up by the original sites as 'another side of the story.'

Always best to face it square on, though not much an SEM can do for them.

7:03 pm on June 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I would simply stop working with clients whom have bad news put out about them.

;-)

8:11 pm on June 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

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IITian: I trust you have at least a page of their rebuttals of your allegations, suitably anchored on the keywords. Another very useful thing to do is engage them in an exchange of emails, which you can then post as well, to Google's great satisfaction. Drives them nutz.

On a legal point: you are broadly protected if (a) you genuinely believe what you say (even if you're wrong); (b) there is some plausible public interest in posting the information (ie it's not an attack for its own sake);(c) you've done your very best to check any facts; (d) you give at least the sense of what those you criticise say in reply. Do that and a judge in any English Common Law jurisdiction will most likely strike out a claim for defamation, with costs against the other side.

If you get a legal warning, post it.

Google, Google, Google (so I'm not off-topic!)

8:37 pm on June 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I had that happen to me once. Here's what I did:

1. Identified the keywords
2. Built pages with those same keywords, but presenting a different point of view.
3. Added those pages on different URL's
4. Built the link pop of the sites that have those pages.

The result was that I flooded those SERP's with my point of view. It worked wonders.

12:47 pm on June 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

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>> result was that I flooded those SERP's with my point of view

2_much said what i wanted to say ... it may not be that difficult to rank for that keywords ... so develop a separate domain ( if possible 2-3) optimised for those KW's , link from your high PR site with proper anchor text and you are done . Use adwords in the mean time to cover those Keywords .

The following suggestion is spammy , use it only if you are comfortable and i dont personally use it now :)

Create many many guestbook links to that offensive page with unrelated anchor text :) , hopefully this will dillute its anchor text theme and bring that page down in the SERPS .

A very Longtime ago my friend did a practical joke putting a offensive message on an adult board with my full name . So when someone type my name in google it will show up #4. An removal request to the board operator was not helpfull .

I didnt had much choice than to use the above technique to bring that page down :) .

The funny thing is that friend is a non-SEO and he was amazed when that page went down after a month :)

1:45 pm on June 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

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This is real basic Public Relations stuff.
Here's a brief:
In a nutshell, people act on their own perception of the facts before them, which leads to predictable behaviors about which something can be done. When we create, change or reinforce that opinion, by persauding those people whose behaviors affect the organization, the PR mission is accomplished.

I agree with some of the posts on this thread. Your client really needs 2 things: a good PR guy to help write the spin, and a webmaster to get the pages ranking higher. You really could bury this bad news to page 3 on the search engines, but it will take some work.

Good luck, WFN

2:04 pm on June 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Actually, and I hope this bit of self disclosure is ok- we are the largest PR firm in the World and I have an extensive background is in online crisis PR. That means I totally agree with the notion that "you need a good PR guy"

All of the suggestions thus far have been great, and I've learned some really interesting techniques - but I still think the best way to respond to this in a new business pitch is to say "We can't take the bad news out of the search engines, but we can make sure your side of the story gets out."

It's definitely an interesting exercise though. How do you get someone else OUT of the serps without being the Webmaster. An unscrupulous person could probably make a lot of money if they could figure out a way to do this to the competition.

2:12 pm on June 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

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>the largest PR firm in the World

Then your PR must be a firm 10.

2:17 pm on June 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I wish -

Public Relations - largest in the world

PageRank - 7/10

2:22 pm on June 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

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In the past, dodgy techniques have been used to sabotage competitors, mainly by making the competitor appear to be a spammer. That's tougher these days, as the SEs have wised up and tend to be a little slower to jump to conclusions. I doubt if a major PR firm would find that kind of approach attractive anyway.

I do think adding "good news" to the SERPs would be valid and ethical if done properly. This would be no different than issuing a lot of information to the media in the hope that your side of the story obtains more coverage.

I scoped out a project a while back for exactly this kind of problem - a major company that was getting hammered by a bunch of special interest attack sites. It's a problem that needs to be dealt with using good SEO techniques. The big company typically has some advantages - resources for a campaign, a high PR main site, etc. The protestors, though, often perform well in search engines because their sites are narrowly targeted compared to that of a global firm. Good luck, twright!

2:25 pm on June 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

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"To those whose want to make money helping people to bury bad news, I say: tough."

Reading this thread, I almost, for a split second, saw a conversation between lawyers questioning the morals so to speak of those who defend the guilty. ;)

I agree with the earlier poster who said the only way to fight bad news is with good news.

2:44 pm on June 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I agree with the earlier poster who said the only way to fight bad news is with good news.

- ditto

I'm just wondering that as the bad news will be just that - literally 'news' - then many of the more 'spammy' suggestions above will not be relevant for a Google News search? What might work for the main Google SERPs may be much more difficult for the Google News results - which is where most wire and news agency reports will be archived. Unless you are going to start building fake news sites and updating them regularly simply for the purpose of promoting your own good news stories...

3:41 pm on June 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

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A good hacker would be more than happy to remove the offending bad news and replace it with something more interesting!

They would most likely do this from a small Indonesian cafe just off the beach they were tanning on.

;O)

3:51 pm on June 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

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There are several world leaders who want quality answers to this one!
4:04 pm on June 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Gopi,

That is a very cool idea. Great post!

5:11 pm on June 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Just ask the webmaster of the offending site to remove the page in question, often a polite question is enough. If it doesn't work out call in the dogs of war. The best of luck.
5:15 pm on June 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

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>owner of the publication did something to make that happen

Years ago a boyfriend and I were thrown out of a redneck bar for fighting. We spread a rumor to the right people that the bar refused to serve minorities and gays. As the militant minorities and gays went to the bar to see if the rumor was true, the rednecks found themselves in many, many more fights. A number of rednecks found the new patron mix not to their liking and went elsewhere. There wasn't a night the police weren't called in.

The redneck bar is now a pizza parlor.

Any adaption of the above to your problem?

5:19 pm on June 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

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>. We spread a rumor to the right people that the bar >refused to serve minorities and gays.
>The redneck bar is now a pizza parlor.

Is this etical?

6:04 pm on June 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I don't know if anyone has mentioned this but:

[google.com...]

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