One of the underlying reasons that reputation management is so important today is that a select few companies have worked their way to the front of the pack and are the gatekeepers who control how the world’s information is processed and organized. Search results are immediately discoverable on the internet for better or worse. The internet is relatively brand new and as information technology companies learn and optimize how to populate the most relevant results with associated searches, people will always be working to keep up with the best way to get their side of the story out there.
The internet is truly a great upheaval. It has affected all aspects of our lives and perhaps most interestingly, how we consume information and make real-life decisions based on online search results. Trust is shifting from government to brands and from brands to personalities and purchasers.
If you need to bury negative Google search results, in some cases, you can, get the negative search result taken down directly. Remember, this won’t work in every case, but in some it is step one to building an effective personal brand online.
There can be serious downsides to removal requests, so ask yourself these questions first:
Did you post the content? Does this negative search result stem from a blog post, tweet, status update, etc that you posted? Or does it come from an account that you control or have access to? If so, DELETE IT! You don’t need to bury Google results if you control them. Remove everything associated with this content that you possibly can. While there is still a chance that content could appear elsewhere (screenshots/cached searches, uploaded on other sites or profiles, etc), start by removing anything you can.
Did your friend post this content? Did your friend post something about you that could hurt your professional, academic or personal opportunities? If so, just ask them to take it down. As mentioned above, this could still resurface elsewhere, but this is a great first step. And try to push for full removal. For example, if your friend just de-tags you from something, your image is still associated with whatever is potentially damaging.
Did an acquaintance or someone you’re on good terms with post this? Feel free to reach out to this person as you would a friend. Just be polite and explain the situation logically. If someone isn’t focused on their own personal brand, (or has different boundaries than you do) they may be oblivious to how this content can negatively affect your personal reputation.
Would The “Right to be Forgotten” apply to this scenario? If you live in the E.U.or Argentina, check if this content falls within the standards of removal based on Google’s Right to be Forgotten.
Does this content fit Google’s standards for Takedown Requests? If you’re based in the US, look up Google’s legal causes for removal, and follow the steps necessary for submission.
News is almost immediate. Everyone with a cell phone has in a sense the same lens as a journalist. Consumer and product reviews can either cripple or make a business and most importantly, people are judged and evaluated with various life impacting decisions based on how the information about them is organized in search results.
Personal and Company Reputation Audit: By perusing the first few pages of Google you should be able to get a pretty good sense of where you stand with your reputation but there may be things that you miss that can positively or negatively affect your business. For most online reputation management companies this is a free service and is used to open the dialogue between what you want to accomplish and how a reputation management company can help you both identify pain points and achieve goals.
For instance, what content would be positive, negative, and neutral in relation to your keywords? What additional long-tail keywords may be relevant and are receiving significant traffic? Which geolocations are providing which results and where in SERPs?
Content Creation: In most reputation management campaigns there is typically some form of content creation that will be part of the strategy. Remember that negative content needs to be pushed down by positive content that you control. Whether it be blog posts from relevant sites to help build your brand or well-informed content to populate social media profiles or all of the above, usually the cornerstone to a successful reputation management campaign will be creating new positive content to counterbalance negative search results.
SEO: Where most potential clients begin to feel the most intimidated in a reputation management proposal is by the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) portion of a campaign.
After relevant and positive content is created it needs to speak the language of the search crawlers that will decide whether the content is meaningful and relevant enough to appear on the first page of search results. This includes optimizing for keywords within the content and populating the correct metatags to be sure that when the information is crawled that it is easily discoverable and formatted in a way that is search result friendly.
Review Management: If your reputation management goals stem from negative reviews that are impacting your business, then a good review management plan will include a strategy to mitigate negative reviews by generating more positive reviews. In addition, responding to dissatisfied customers in an understanding and professional way can go a long way to shift the perception of a business. Also, it’s a great idea to outsource and monitor brand mentions and reviews as they come in, so sentiment can be gauged and you are able to respond quickly to any negative reviews or issues that may pop-up.
Website Audit: One of the more powerful reputation management tools is a person’s personal or business website. These websites generally rank very well in search results and can be extremely useful in both constructing a positive narrative surrounding your keywords as well as occupying valuable first-page real estate in search results. A common pain point for clients is the SEO and technical aspects of reputation management. A full website audit will identify areas of improvement that will optimize your search results.
Public Relations: Another piece of the content creation component can come through earned media and thought leadership pieces that are relevant to your industry. Having skilled PR professionals in your corner to help garner interest, and tell your story can help shape new, and positive news cycles about you which can be very useful. This is particularly helpful if the content you are trying to suppress comes from a large news publication. If you can get the same, or an equally prominent news publication to host positive news about you then it will have a good chance of outranking the negative information in your results.