What do you do if your client has come under attack on the internet? Maybe they sold exploding laptop batteries, got involved in an online battle with a former employee or invested in the latest Kevin Federline album (well ok that last one maybe a losing battle). Here are some strategies to clear out some of that bad press that can drive away customers during a web search.
1. The easy way first
It’s always worth trying the direct approach and asking for the site owner to remove the material. If the content is user generated, for example in forums then the site owner may be inclined to help. If you need to compromise then ask that your company name and identifying information be removed or blanked out.
2. Neutralize the accusations
If you can’t remove the content then it’s a good move to deal with the issue publicly. Even if these results move down the listings potential customers may stumble upon these comments. A company that addresses issues responsibly can often come out with a positive spin. Take a while to compose your replies, write professionally and read up on the Cluetrain Manifesto. You’re looking to put a line under the incident not fan the fires.
3. Take up the black arts
According to Google’s guidelines there is nothing a competitor can do to hurt your rankings. Well a few people would disagree with that. Research the wrong kind of links, long discredited linking schemes, bad neighbourhoods and google bowling. However this strategy is negative, time is more valuably spent in areas which build up your profile and business.
4. Threaten them
This is a very risky strategy. There’s a real possibility this will fan the flames, creating even more content you need to deal with. I would recommend you think twice before sending legal threats to popular bloggers. However in some cases the site owner may decide it’s not worth the trouble and remove the material. Success in this strategy will depend on a lot on the target and how professionally you approach this.
5. Piggyback trusted sites
The idea behind this strategy is to place content onto other well ranked sites. If you pick wisely your content can be listed fast and placed high up the listings. For example business forums let you register as a company and place your profile there. You can register on social sites. You can even look at creating Wikipedia, Google Knol, HubPages or Squidoo pages. Although Wikipedia is the ultimate prize here, the company will need to be noteworthy enough.
Consider placing your company job listing sites online or make some up for this purpose. Some vacancy sites are quite powerful within the SERPs.
6. Release a freebie
Find a suitable application for your business. For example a paintball company might want a mobile phone application which lets users calculate the pressure settings on their guns, i.e. a paintball calculator they can use on site. To get extra mileage out of this plan think up something useful for your users that will increase your brand.
7. Create new sites
This is a good strategy but you must wait for the new sites to rank. However the major advantage of this strategy is that you end up with direct control over the content. To speed things up it maybe wise to look at buying old domains through auction or using sub-domains.
Buy domains containing the keywords you are protecting, for example, your name or that of your company. Google will see these as more relevant for that term and with relatively little effort, you can rank these high in the SERPs above other comments.
Subdomains are also useful for this but be aware that Google will rarely show more than 3 results from your site for any one query (main site plus 2 subdomains).
8. Link building
Paid links or unpaid but if the former then make sure you’re doing it under the radar. Remember to make the links related to your industry as the last thing you want to do here is damage your own ranking.
This isn’t only about building links to your own site(s), you can build links to other material that mentions your company and push that up the rankings (see #5).
Do vary the linking text though if you are directing most of the links yourself. As Todd suggests, not more than 80% identical anchor text.
9. Press releases and articles
Try and create some noteworthy press releases and pay well for the maximum distribution. Sites such as PRWeb and PRLeap can help here. Sites such as EzineArticles or GoArticles will let you syndicate articles that reference your company.
Don’t risk duplicate content penalties by publishing the same material on your site. To flash back to point 8, you can also build links to this content.
Although I’ve touched on some linkbaiting techniques, this strategy deserves a category of its own. Successful linkbait ideas can generate a huge number of inbound links and references on other sites. If you can’t think up your own ideas then maybe it’s time to hire Andy, Rand or Aaron.
The main goal here is to clear the first three pages of search engine results. As you may have noticed reading this list many of these techniques go beyond reputation management and help your business. Reputation management techniques often compliment your long term link building strategy. If these approaches are well thought out you will come out of the other side of an attack stronger than before.
The final points to consider are that this work is better done preemptively. If you have the sites and rankings in place before an attack they may not even appear. Check the results on your company name and make sure you have strong coverage there.
Take out automatic email alerts on search engine results on your company name and any other important keywords. This can be done for free at Google or GoogleAlerts. Early responses to complaints can stop the issue before it becomes a problem.
Thanks for reading. If you have any other reputation management techniques then please share.