How to Manage Your Online Reputation and Prevent Negative Content

It takes a lifetime to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.

— Warren Buffet

Recently I had a couple of clients who had online reputation issues.online reputation, SEO, online business reputation,

It was a coincidence that both happened around the same time, to two different clients, but their situations were similar.

In both cases, it started the same way — on my end at least.

The phone rang. The tone was urgent.

Both clients had Googled their own name and there, high in the search results, was a blistering critique.

The content was different, but the sentiment the same – words which would make your mother blush.

It was false, it was vulgar, and if it remained up for any length of time, it would have a major impact on both of their businesses.

I have received a couple of these types of phone calls now and every time, it’s like the client just came home and found the front of their house had been spray-painted with nasty, mean things written about them.

I don’t ever want to know what that feels like; but I imagine it feels like a sock in the gut – especially when the things said are untrue.

How to Take Down Negative Content

Most business owners won’t bother calling a lawyer for a simple negative review from an unhappy customer. People are entitled to their opinions after all.

But when the review or comment is blatantly false and may do real and lasting economic damage to their business, then it’s time to spring into action.

Here are the basic steps to follow when you discover negative reviews:

1. Contact the Person Who Created the Negative Content and Demand They Remove It

The first step is to contact the person who created the negative review or comment and ask and/or demand that they take it down immediately. Sometimes this is easier said than done, especially if you can’t find who wrote it.

Assuming you can find that person, sometimes a letter on law firm letter head threatening legal action is just enough to scare the bejesus out of the person and get them to take down what they put up in the first place.

They may think twice when they find out they could be sued for defamation, and decide it’s just much easier to take down the comment in the first place.

2. Contact the Website and/or Hosting Provider

The second step is to contact the website, if the negative content appeared on a third party website such as RipoffReport or Yelp. If the negative content contained statements which were blatantly false or untrue, then you may have luck getting the site to take it down.

If the person created their own website, then I’ve had success contacting the website hosting provider. First you have to find out who is the host, which you may be able to find out from the WHOIS domain registration information.

Once you get that, you can review the hosting provider’s Terms of Service. Chances are any defamatory conduct or illegal statement violates the host’s own Terms of Service, and you can use that to demand they take down the site entirely.

3. Send Google a DMCA Takedown Notice

If you can’t cut off the head, then you can try starving the body. For many websites, the majority of daily traffic comes straight from Google. Without Google traffic, many fewer people will actually see the negative content, even if it is not taken down.

It’s kind of like saying if a tree falls in the woods, does anyone hear it? If a negative comment exists but you can’t find it through Google, does anyone see it?

Google makes it pretty easy to submit a DMCA Takedown Notice, which is the legal procedure for demanding that content be removed.

Here’s a link describing how to take down content from Google.

4. Hire a Reputation Privacy Firm

The final step is to hire a internet reputation privacy firm.

There are many internet reputation privacy companies to choose from. You may have heard their ads on the radio or TV.

A few of the more common ones include Reputation.com and RemoveYourName.com. These companies help make businesses look their best online by controlling online search results that contain inaccurate, misleading or outdated material which can adversely influence how web searchers view them.

Another one is ReviewTrackers.com, an online subscription service that aggregates and alerts business owners of any reviews and online comments written about their business. More and more small business owners are using these types of services to monitor reviews on Yelp, Urbanspoon, and other forums.

There is big money to be made in this type of niche work, which might as well be black magic to many of us who don’t fully understand the bewitching ways of the internet. Those who do understand it are in small company so they can charge big money.

Not surprisingly, more people are getting in on the act. So you can also try finding an individual close to home who can help fix negative online content if you don’t want to hire a big company.

The bottom line is your online reputation can change in an instant – if it does happen, take a deep breath,  step back, and get ready. It’s not impossible to recover from a negative review online, but you will have to roll up your sleeves and go to work.

Photo credit: Microsoft office online