When it comes to search engine marketing, reputation is everything. If “content is king” then reputation is its herald. Get enough people talking about you online, discussing your brand, recommending you to their friends, linking to your content and the rest will follow.
Sounds simple enough, but what happens if all this talk turns nasty?
There’s no such thing as bad publicity
Unfortunately there is and sometimes, it may not even be your fault.
It’s always possible that your company could be suffering from a bad online reputation because:
- You have recently taken over a business with a bit of a chequered history
- Your company or brand name is also a generic term for a product or service
- You’re the victim of a competitor’s negative SEO campaign
Google’s part in your downfall
Whether the bad reviews are yours or not and whether they’re borne out of genuine grievance or not, having scores of people out there talking about how “Company X is rubbish” is a great way get yourself a bad reputation in search engines and with enough of a buzz around the subject you may even find that Google starts to helpfully suggest “Company X is rubbish” when searchers begin typing in your name. Crikey!
Making things right
If reviewers have a genuine reason for being less than complimentary about your products or services then fix the problems they highlight first! Your customers are your lifeblood. Make them happy and you’ll be happy.
Apart from anything else, if you don’t put the wrong things right, you’re just setting yourself up for a repeat review performance from newly disappointed customers a few months down the line.
It’s also a little unethical to clean up a reputation you might still deserve…
Getting unfavourable content removed
In some cases, bad reviews might be appearing on sites over which you have direct control. Do you run a blog which invites (unmoderated) comments, for example? If this is the case, then the remedy is simple.
On the websites of others though, it’s likely to be very much more difficult to get bad content removed – especially if the comments are true (even if they’re not true anymore). Unless you can prove the content is malicious and undeserved (slanderous even) most website owners will, quite rightly, be unwilling to grant your removal request. For example, TripAdvisor won’t remove bad reviews simply at the behest of the establishment concerned.
Use your right to reply
If you can’t get negative content removed, do you have the right to reply? If so, use it to set the record straight and engage with your detractors. If you’ve already addressed their concerns then it’s the perfect opportunity to invite them to “try you out again” as well.
Burying bad news by spreading something better
Proactively posting your own “good news” content can often be very effective in burying the bad, particularly if it’s optimised around the “problem” subject.
What sort of content you should post
For new content, avoid simply talking about how great your company is, an obvious puff-piece will do you no favours. Instead, it’s a good idea to discretely address the accusations leveled at your company (either directly or indirectly). This way, you’re both redressing the balance and optimising your content for the “bad news” words. You don’t need to make it the centre-piece of your content though, subtle mentions are often quite enough.
Also, if you’ve already got some general positive content out there on the web, in news articles, blog posts etc then this (with some work) can usually be optimised around the negative search phrase as well – even if it’s not directly related to the subject at hand. If the source of this content is old and authoritative too, all the better.
Where you should post (and who should do it)
Use social media, blogs, forums, news feeds etc for your content (not your own site). Get happy customers and authoritative sources involved if you can.
Why you should post
The ultimate goal here is to get your positive pages (both new and old) outranking the negative ones, thus reducing the latter’s visibility in search engines. This way, even if “Company X is rubbish” remains a popular search on the Google suggestion list for a time, you’ll at least have the chance of your positive content being seen first.
Internet content doesn’t die, it just smells that way
Finally, remember that online content can stay around forever. Don’t be fooled into thinking that ignoring a bad reputation will make it go away.
If things are wrong, put them right then work to remove or replace out-of-date negative content. Who knows? You might even end up with a better reputation than you’ve ever had.