Posted March 6, 2009 9:18 am by with 3 comments

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Here at Marketing Pilgrim ORM (online reputation management and / or monitoring) is a subject near and dear to certain people’s heart. Who cautionthat is, well, we’ll let you figure that one out ;-).

The reason that it is so important is well stated in a post over at SEOmoz by Rand Fishkin. His post was inspired by some information that Google passed along via a blog post by Matt Cutts that warrants a closer look. Since the question of “How do I get this page that is not speaking of well me or my company removed from the Google results?” is asked so often Matt posits his pat answer as follows:

Unfortunately there’s not much I can do. The page you pointed out is not spam, and pretty much the only removals (at least in the U.S., which is what I know about) that we do for legal reasons are if a court orders us. We typically say that if person A doesn’t like a webpage B, only removing page B out of Google’s search results doesn’t do any good because webpage B is still there (e.g. it can be found by going to it directly or through other search engines). In that sense, the presence of that page in Google’s index is just reflecting the fact that the page exists on the wider web.

The best actions for you from our perspective can be one of a couple options. Either contact whoever put up webpage B and convince them to modify or to take the page down. Or if the page is doing something against the law, get a court to agree with you and force webpage B to be removed or changed. We really don’t want to be taking sides in a he-said/she-said dispute, so that’s why we typically say “Get the page fixed, changed, or removed on the web and then Google will update our index with those changes the next time that we crawl that page.” Our policies outside the U.S. might be different; I’m not as familiar with how legal stuff works outside the U.S.

Having said that, Rand approaches this problem from another angle that many here would agree with: using SEO to get the job done. I’ll hit the high spots for you because this type of subject could require a chapter in a book to cover completely.

The threes areas that are basic to any SEO effort to get the negative result out of the top results of the SERP’s are 1) Identify the keywords causing the trouble 2) Create content to help replace those results and 3) Optimize that content.

Straight forward and to the point, right? The point is that while this sounds straightforward to do, it is not straight forward or cheap to accomplish. Rand discusses the QDD theory (Query Deserves Diversity) element of Google’s algorithm which talks about the concept that Google looks for results that are diverse in nature like both positive and negative and they are ranked less on traditional elements like link juice, anchor text etc and more on sentiment analysis. A theory that is interesting and makes sense.

So what do you do if you are trying to make this happen for a client or yourself. Well, be prepared to spend some money. It’s generally not cheap to accomplish these things. Rand talks about leveraging your existing assets like a domain name match for the troublesome keyword, leveraging social media opportunities and existing pages that are ranking well. From there more ideas are explored including press release, pay per post blogging, linkbait, video and more.

So we can all agree that the need for ORM is very real. Google has their side of the story and they are sticking to it even if the trouble for you in the SERP’s is not merited in your humble opinion. Based on that, if you decide that you will leave your online reputation to the search engines to decide for you, you better be able to deal with the consequences because they can be severe. In other words, if you could control this type of problem more proactively why in the heck wouldn’t you?

  • I’ve not seen any evidence that would make me believe that Google is anything other than sentiment agnostic. There are plenty of companies that have very bad reputations, but have no negative results in the top 10 in Google. If Google really wanted a mix of positive and negative, then us reputation management guys may as well pack up and go home!

    With that said, the advice is sound. Leverage your existing content and, most importantly, your “super-brand.” If you’re #1 on Google for your company name, then no other web site has more authority for your brand than you do. The pages you create, sub-domains you build, and external pages you link to, all benefit from being associated with the super-brand. Unless you’re recklessly linking to your detractor, they can never get this kind of boost!

  • Andy, you are the king of online reputation management, the 1st time I came across the phrase and concept was here on your blog, so your perspective is highly valued. Firstly one has to be aware of any negative information concerning ones particular brand / project / whatever and then pretty much bury this with positive stuff. That’s the theory anyways….

  • Andy, In terms of “recklessly linking” what is your take on linking to sites with low page rank? We like to get involved in online discussions as much as possible and tend to leave our website in the comments section (when optional), do you see this as detracting from link strength or being neutral?