Old-fashioned PR professionals will tell you that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Well, this no longer holds true, at least not in the age and realm of the Internet. Thanks to Google, it has become so much easier to search and find customers, clients, employees, employers, readers, fans, and business partners online. It’s become so much easier to “Google” a name or a brand and find out everything there is to know about it.
The downside? It’s also pretty easy to get misrepresented online. Just ask the boss who has to deal with an undiplomatically-mouthed ex-employee. Or the brand owner who’s facing an angry, dissatisfied ex-fan. Or the business owner whose troubles from many years ago have come back to haunt him.
Negative search results on Google – or on any other search engine – can potentially cost companies and business organizations thousands, even millions, of dollars. A number of online reputation management companies promise to remove and delete negative Google listings, search results, links, and reviews – but since the Internet is public space, it would be tough for anyone – even black-hat practitioners – to make a negative search engine result completely disappear, or even just push it back to the second, third, or fourth page.
Tough but not impossible: there are plenty of ways to get that negative Google result off the first page. If you think about the tips you’ll find below, you’ll notice that online reputation management doesn’t always require the hiring of an agency; all you need is creative savvy, diplomacy, and the energy to bless your company or brand name with positive vibes!
Make sure your website reflects your name. Official websites rank high in search – unless site owners somehow forgot their company or brand name in baptizing their sites. If your official URL isn’t yourcompanyname.com or yourbrandname.com, then it’s an absolute must to change it to just that. It doesn’t have to be word for word; just make sure you incorporate your identity somehow.
Do the same for your blog. Do you keep a company weblog? If you do, target it to your name. Put your name in as the author, mention your brand or company consistently enough in posts, add tags whenever you’re about to publish something, and add links here and there with your name on it.
Submit your site or blog to directories and listings. This is a great way to show Google that your official site and blog deserve to be on top of the search results. It also builds authority and establishes your place in areas and industries where your business is most relevant. In the same manner, submitting your articles to high-ranking sites, aggregators, and social bookmarking sites also helps you manage your online reputation.
Create a profile for social networks. Signing up on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, among other social networks, can boost your visibility and reputation online. That’s because these sites rank high in search, and will continue to do so as the Internet grows even more social. Of course, social networking profiles also help you prevent brand identity theft.
Create sub-domains. Take advantage of the opportunity to grow your website – and add “branches” to its “tree”. While sub-domains are relatively dependent and fall under the root domain, they’re still traced separately by Google – and thus produce separate search results.
Build links to sites that rank immediately below the negative search results. The more links you can generate for those sites, the higher the chance they have of overtaking the one in which your company or brand name is being talked about negatively.
Write your own Wiki. And you don’t have to do it in Wikipedia. Try something like Wetpaint or Wikispaces, sites that basically let you collaborate with the people you want in building your own Wiki entry on the Web.
Tackle negative links diplomatically. Before asking Google to audit the site and agree to its removal, it might be smarter and more convenient to just contact the webmaster of the site himself. That’s because whether or not the content appears in search engine results pages, people are still going to be able to access it on the original site, through other search engines, social networking sites, forums, and boards, etc. So tackle this at the source and you get a better chance of cleaning it up.