Posted July 3, 2007 4:14 pm by with 13 comments

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An article in yesterday’s Washington Post follows the online reputation misfortunes of Sue Scheff, a consultant to parents of troubled teenagers. Scheff found that Google searches on her name produced many negative results from a disgruntled customer, and she didn’t know how to fight back. Scheff hired an online reputation management company to fix the problem.

Online reputation management has been around for some time. And with the advent of Web 2.0 technologies and social media, the opportunity for feedback itself outranking a website is greater than ever. Companies, and even individuals, are finding it more important than ever to outrank (or even push out for that matter) the negative results about them in the search rankings.

Just how close to home does this hit for folks? Well, one of my own employees is facing negative comments on search results on her own personal matter. Catherine Potts, our link strategist, has been embroiled in a battle over the past two years over property owned by her late grandfather (SR DeBoer) in Denver, Colo. Catherine has been fighting a lot of misinformation that’s receiving rankings. And whether you agree with her point of view or not, the issue of reputation management is still an urgent one in her case for both her family and their property.

This begs the moral question here too — who is right and who is wrong? What is misinformation and what is not? Is it right to force others down in search engine rankings because you do not agree with their stance or believe they are incorrect?

An article on Forbes online last week reviewed some of the ways that folks sabotage Google. While most of the techniques were old stuff we all know, it was interesting to see some of these techniques being mentioned in a more mainstream way.

What do you think? Is reputation management really just a nice way of sabotaging search engines? Has it come to the point where we have to sink to the level of Google bombers to protect a client’s or our own reputation? What do you think? I’m curious to know…

  • I wrote a nice little article on some reputation management techniques:

  • “Is reputation management really just a nice way of sabotaging search engines?”

    I think its more along the lines of a holistic Search Engine Strategy vs. using the word sabotage, especially if you have a brand/name to protect.

  • Great post. Google is no longer just a search engine, it’s a reputation engine. As such, you need to treat it the same way you would treat any other media that threatened your reputation. You can’t just ignore it, hoping it will go away, you’ve got to face it head on and conduct your own positive campaign. How far you go to try and get your desired outcome is another question.

  • rick gregory

    what I think is that people need to become a LOT more savvy about taking search engine results at face value. A lot of the discussion around this talks about the actions that someone should take to manage their reputation, but that is only half of the equation. It is foolish for anyone DOING a search to take the results at face value.

    Good information habits are something we need to develop and part of that is taking things with a grain of salt. Another part is to realize that almost everyone has done some things that would be embarrassing if made public. You know… don’t throw rocks if you live in a glass house. HR recruiters who obsessively Google recruits might want to stop and think about the partying they did and the scenes they’ve been part of before they start judging too harshly. That goes for others using search engines to screen people.

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  • Thanks for the article Jaan, ’tis in my bookmarks!

  • Great post! I recently wrote something similar to this topic. I think online reputation management is going to be on the rise and along with it will be “negative seo” services. Negative comments on the web have always been an issue, but not until lately have it become a SEO service. I think knocking down negative comments in the SERPs is just another way of PR control. Businesses and celebs do it all the time, they put a spin on bad press. What’s more is that you will see more individuals needing such a service, imagine all those college students who have insane comments and photos plastered across the web with their name or username, and now they are out of school trying to land a job in the real world. Employers are getting smarter.

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  • This is easy to solve actually, push the positive ones up and ignore the negative ones. SEO is a lot easier than google bowling.

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  • Beware: Reputation Defender doesn’t want you to know that some of their clients’ google-problems have gotten *worse*

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