Why Google’s Post on Reputation Management Sucks

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Susan over at the official Google Webmaster’s Blog recently (last Thursday) posted about how to deal with bad reputation issues that arise in Google Search results. Clearly it’s become enough of an issue and they get enough inquiries about it that they decided to post something so people would stop bothering them. Nonetheless, this is the first time Google has ever really said anything publicly about what’s becoming a growing issue, so I read the post.  Clearly I think the advice is so off target that I feel compelled to quote Susan and pick apart what she says.

The first step in reputation management is preemptive: Think twice before putting your personal information online.

This is like telling the guy who got his prom date pregnant to wear a condom next time around. *YAWN*

If the content in question is on a site you own, easy — just remove it. It will naturally drop out of search results after we recrawl the page and discover the change. It’s also often easy to remove content from sites you don’t own if you put it there, such as photos you’ve uploaded, or content on your profile page.

Clearly all that libelous content written about You is on websites you own and your facebook profile. No one else is saying bad things about you online.

Then finally, Susan gets into the meat and potatoes of the issue: Bad content published about you on sites like RipOffReport, ComplaintsBoard, Yelp, and perhaps less then friendly articles in major publications like the New York Times, USA Today, and  all sorts of blogs, forums, and twitter accounts. The thing is, her advice here is so vague and off target that if you have any major reputation issues online (specifically bad press, legal cases, bad retailer reputation, RipOffReport type issues etc) you’re going to cause yourself more harm then good.

If a customer writes a negative review of your business, you could ask some of your other customers who are happy with your company to give a fuller picture of your business.

If you add new comments to most of the major review sites, the page you get commented on tends to get listed as one of the more active pages, which will often result in a sitewide link to the offending page. So instead of letting the result lose a little bit of link equity and make it easier to push down, you give more link equity to the offending page, and probably bump it up in the rankings and not down.

If a blogger is publishing unflattering photos of you, take some pictures you prefer and publish them in a blog post or two.

If Perez Hilton or Boing Boing starts posting about you, it’s going to take a lot more then publishing a blog post or two to get their results out of the SERPs for your name.  I highly doubt that most people have blogs/sites with the link equity, age, and domain strength to overcome bad blog results from A, B and C class bloggers. Beyond that, getting into a real blogging contest with someone who can cause you problems is probably not a good idea.

If a newspaper wrote an article about a court case that put you in a negative light, but which was subsequently ruled in your favor, you can ask them to update the article or publish a follow-up article about your exoneration. (This last one may seem far-fetched, but believe it or not, we’ve gotten multiple requests from people in this situation.)

Good Luck on this one – that archived article in the New York Times from 3 years ago isn’t going to be touched with a ten foot pole. All of the bad press you got for that embezzlement case that was settled out of court 6 years ago? It’s still going to show up on the first page of Google for your name unless there is significant domain authority elsewhere associated with your name.

Hopefully some time this week I will get around to posting about effectively managing your online reputation vis a vis Google.

How Not to Do Online Reputation Management

Our story begins as it does most days, with me checking out potential link targets. Today, it took a little turn, when I came across a whole bunch of sites selling links, and along with the usual link ads for payday loans, debt consolidation and various casinos of ill-repute, I discovered some bizarre ads, with just names of people. But there aren’t just any, ordinary people. We’re talking about (I have the names):

  • A Middle Eastern Sheikh/Prince or what-have-you
  • A Vice President at a Major Upscale Retailer
  • Former Managing Director of a Major Financial Firm

Now these were obviously reputation management links – trying to push good results up for some people who erred in their past, and get rid of their bad press in Google. In my opinion, as long as it meets whatever moral code you hold yourself to, then it shouldn’t be a problem.

My issue is with how the link building and management is done.  If you’ve been charged with making a client look better in the results, then why are you making it so incredibly obvious that you’re pushing links? Don’t you think it looks bizarre to see something like this:

Debt Consolidation – Online Debt Consolidation – Penis Enlargement – Bic Pens – John Smith – Pay Day Loans

Don’t you think it might just be a bad idea to put your clients in such bad company? Don’t they have enough trouble as it is? There are easier, safer ways to obtain low quality anchor text to push up third party results.  Pushing links in bad company via Text Link Ads is probably not the way to go.