Reputation Management: How To Handle Saboteurs

The [failure] GoogleBomb had become well-known enough to have seen Marrissa Mayer post a response on the Google company blog last September. I first heard the phrase “Reputation Management” as applied to search from Heather Lloyd-Martin during a private conversation a long time before this. It was obvious Heather was on to something because we’ve all seen search results that produce unexpected listings. David Dalka recently posted his frustration that Googling his name could confuse searchers into thinking he is a millionaire. This may be a personal example, but what if you have a bona-fide saboteur?

Heather recently related to me her experience with a client where a saboteur took the client company name, mixed it with adult content, and auto-generated unsavory posts published across the Web in numerous blogs and forums. Needless to say, search results for that company started looking really bad, and at times, the whole set of results was flooded with what looked like adult listings.

Heather now regularly points out examples of big brands that could use reputation management as regards their search listings. She presents screen shots at conferences showing Google queries for uhaul and victorias secret having results at number 3 and number 2 respectively that read: “UHaul made my move a miserable and stressful experience” and “Victoria’s Dirty Secret.”

The dirty secret site has an image with an “angel” holding a chain saw. The site makes it sound as if whole forests are regularly depleted because the cataloger lacks environmental awareness. What can you do when this happens?

You certainly have little control over the natural rankings of saboteurs unless they spam. You can easily choose to hand spammers that polute your rankings over to search engine quality assurance teams when they use tactics that would have them removed. In the case of the dirty secret site, it appears the other extreme is occurring. The campaign for environmental change at Victorias Secret may be working. Perhaps Victorias Secret will establish more earth friendly contracts with their suppliers.

Other things you can do is publish pages telling your side of the story in the hopes to get natural rankings that counteract the negative spin. You needn’t wait for natural rankings to appear either, you can purchase sponsored listings to drive users to the new pages straight away. At least in the meantime your presence can be felt on those most troubling queries should they begin to affect your image in search results.

Postscript: David’s personal example caused him some grief. Consider the amount of grief an “eBay Avenger” causes the young fellow who it looks like fell victim to an angry buyer that decided to make an example of him. Even if the allegations later prove to be false, and although the eBay avenger has publicly offered to take down the site, SERPs for his name will likely be damaged for a long time to come, (Google, Microsoft and Ask too).

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