Reputation Management - Tactics that still work

What is reputation management? Specific to SEO and in laymen’s terms it’s about removing negative listings from search results for specific keywords.

All of what’s been detailed here has been tested within the last 3 months (the age of Panda) and has worked for me.

Use the navigation links below to fly through this post:

Example scenarios where you need reputation management

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Continued from top: To further clarify my definition, let’s use practical scenarios.

Scenario 1 - Oops, I made a mistake

You’re drunk, it’s late and you decide to leave a stupid comment on a blog post. Unfortunately, that post on a very strong site and now shows up for your name. Turns out that you’re looking for a new job and you’re sure that a quick Google enquiry will bring up a moment of idiocy that is sure to diminish your chances of getting hired.

Scenario 2 - That annoying “scam” word

You’re a new start up, and despite all of your kindness, great customer service and big smiles...you now have the word scam associated with your brand. Get mad. Now take deep breaths and stay with me :)

Scenario 3 - The disgruntled customer (aka Trolls)

Seems like your customers genuinely have some complaints, and they decide to vent their frustration on blogs, forums and even make a Youtube video detailing how much they dislike you.

Scenario 4 - The enemy

Someone genuinely dislikes you, knows a bit about SEO and spends 3 hours a day trying to ruin your reputation whilst eating Quavers (Cheetos for North Americans) in their basement yelling at their mom to bring down their laundry because they ran out of fresh pants (NA - underwear) last week due to a Star Trek TV marathon.

There are plenty of other reasons why you’ll need to manage your reputation online, but these are some of the reasons why you’ll need to fight back.

*Keep in mind that I am only dealing with Google in this post, as I haven’t tested any methods for other search engines or social media platforms.

Influencing search suggest

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Search suggest: As you type in your query into the Google search bar, you’ll notice that Google will suggest words based on your query.

How do those words get there? / How can I change it?

There are a couple of theories - based on search volume and sheer volume of listings. There are three guys that I absolutely respect and trust 100% on this, and I encourage you to read up on how this works...because I can’t/won’t tell you ;)

  1. Brent Payne
  2. Rishi Lakhani
  3. Martin MacDonald

*Please note that this activity isn’t exactly legal, so proceed with caution and at your own risk.*

Making “scam” happen - Typical culprits

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So explain why my brand has scam associated with it?

There are people and companies out there who purposely optimize pages for your {brand} + {scam} for a variety of reasons. Usually the mention of your brand + scam in autocomplete (Google suggest) tends to have search volume, but it can also happen because there is indexed content optimized for those keywords. I wish I could explain how this works in depth, but this is a very touchy subject and it’s best left for those who know the law inside out.

This is the best post I’ve ever read on Ripoffreport.com by Seomoz:
The anatomy of a rip off report

How easy is it to create fake “scam” reports?

Very easy. Within 15 minutes a friend of mine had created an article on scaminformer.com which was automatically approved, indexed and ranking on page 3 for a fake company name IN 15 MINUTES!!

Tactics that work - Even after the Panda crashed the party

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The biggest mistake that companies make is to put all of their energy into taking down negative listings. You’ve got to think differently, you need to put up more listings to push down the negative listing. Unless the negative listing is worthy of a DMCA takedown. Please note that this isn’t a short process or universally applicable - you’ll need patience and persistence to make this happen.

In many cases you can push up other listings to knock down the negative listing, otherwise you need to get as many listings on that search result page that YOU CONTROL.

How do I know that this works? I’ve done it recently, and struggled with so many different white hat tactics that just didn’t work. Once I found some white hat seo tactics that did work, I felt I needed to share my experiences here.

In discussion order, so you can skip to wherever you like:

Exact Match Domains - Individual Reputation Management

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The best thing you can do to combat negative listings is buy the exact match domain name for your personal name. Make sure you buy the appropriate tld .

Example: In the UK, buy .co.uk or .org.uk

Does someone own your brand+scam.com/co.uk/net? If not, go buy it and hold on to it so no one else can get it.

Get some good content on that domain and make sure you’re perfectly optimized for it. I’m going to repeat this, you need GOOD content - you need to make sure your pages are perfectly optimized, then you need to get some links. Start off with directory links and see how you get on - if directory links don’t bring you to page 1, you’ll need to either get better links or better content.

The only time saver is to get Wordpress and install Yoast’s SEO plugin for your SEO needs.

Actions:

  1. Buy exact match keyword domain
  2. Populate with good content
  3. Optimize for search
  4. Implement schema.org markup - see schema section below
  5. Build directory links first - slow and steady (No more than 300 links per month)

Press releases

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This is perfect if you’ve got something newsworthy. If you don’t, find an interesting angle and get it out there. I recommend using MarketWire.

Why a press release?

They are powerful, and tend to get picked up by loads of sites that are connected to Press syndication software such as MarketWire. They also allow for anchor text, and can flood a search result if done properly. Sometimes, websites will take the information from your release and not attribute links back to you - if this occurs you should pick up the phone and make sure you get credit.

Actions:

  1. Get a newsworthy angle, find data to support it
  2. Write a professional press release
  3. Submit through service like MarketWire
  4. Get on the phone / send emails to bloggers, journalists etc...

Schema Microdata

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If you have no idea what Schema.org is, you need to read up on this now. This is the future of webpage markup that allows you to specifically declare what your page is about beyond html.

Before I get lynched by professional SEOs, I conducted preliminary tests on a few non competitive queries (<1000 local search volume) and I believe that the schema markup was the sole reason for their jump in the ranks.

In one case specifically, I implemented the schema /Person markup for an individual and I jumped 4 positions. No jokes here, get out there and do it on every domain you control - not only because of what I’ve seen, but because it’s just good practice.

If you want me to investigate further and blog about schema microdata influencing rankings, click here to vote ;)

Editorial content from your site optimized for negative keyword

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Get creative here, and use the negative word + your brand as a title for a blog post/article etc..

Example: www.example.com/scam-in-the-xyz-industry.html

Don’t want to use your own site? No problem, start a new blog - either way, just get it done.

Exact match anchor text

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Yes, that’s right, build some links with exact match anchor text to the listings already present for the search query you’re trying to clean up. Don’t overdo it, but you definitely do need to build specific anchor text.

I hate to say this, but directories and press releases can do this easily for you. Just try your very best to submit these to decent directory sites.

Now that we’re in the Panda phase, I have tried article marketing and it just doesn’t work anymore. It was crap before, but now seems to be almost completely devalued. 1 out of every 10 directory links seems to work (try to choose a less populated category), and steer clear from automated submission programs like SEnuke, articledemon.com and xrumer.. A quick work for those who are new into SEO, these products might seem like a godsend promising high rankings blah blah blah....do you really think that Google doesn’t know about this stuff? Using these types of programs will reverse your hard work, you’ve been warned.

Social Media Profiles

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Regardless if you’re a business or individual, strong social media profiles can be interlinked and fed low quality links without risk of being penalized (unless you absolutely abuse it - please don’t do that).

Start here:

I could explain, but why re-invent the wheel. Here’s an excerpt from Rand Fiskin on the SEOmoz blog:

“#6: Leverage Lower Quality Links for Social Profiles, Higher Quality for Self-Managed Domains

I’d never suggest buying crappy links, but if you must or if you have other links you control that are of questionable quality or you think search engines might consider low value or even manipulative, don’t point these to your newly registered domains or the sites you own. Instead, point them at the powerful, high authority social profile pages you’ve created and let the engines decide what/whether to count them.

This works particularly well for nofollow links from comments, wikis and other social participation forms on the web. I’m not sure whether the nofollows directly get counted or if the pages get scraped and re-published in some followed format, but time after time I’ve seen examples of nofollows seemingly doing the heavy lifting to get social profile pages ranking.

If you own some old, neglected sites that are questionable in quality and rankings from the engines’ point of view, you could try testing these by pointing them to other social profile pages (and observing/testing the impact on those URLs’ rankings) before pointing them at your own profiles. Better to be safe than sorry, and there have been plenty of cases where aggressive SEOs have gone too far with linking to social profiles and had either the search engines penalize the pages or even the site administrators pull down the profile, wasting hours or days of work.”

Blog / forum activity

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Yes, you should comment on blogs and forums and leave a link in your signature. It works, just please don’t be spammy about it. There are genuine blogs and forums out there that you need to interact with - because they are part of your industry. This way, you can read their content, engage in the community and add backlinks to the listings you need to push up.

Please don’t discriminate against nofollow, as they are necessary as well.

Wikipedia

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If you notice that Wikipedia ranks withing the first 3 pages of your negative listing, you’ll need to leverage it’s power. If the article is a stub (incomplete), do some research and fill it out (images, resources, links, text). If the article is well written and complete - build links to it until you see movement.

This principle of building links to strong results (strong domains) to push them up the ladder applies to every SERP. News, Government and University sites are prime candidates for this type of activity....

Tactics in the grey area

Super huge disclaimer

I do not recommend any of the following
Distilled does not recommend any of the following.

The only reason I’m adding this section is to inform you of tactics that others can use against you - you need to understand what the possibilities are in order to fight them. Without further ado:

1) www.CC.CC

This is a free domain service that creates your own custom cc.cc domain name and automatically 301 redirects to the following profile pages:

Blogger, Gmail, Google sites, Tumblr, Bandcamp, Hotmail, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace

2) Social Media mentions through fiverr.com

3) PPC for uncompetitive verticals

Got some money to burn? Adding 3 PPC ads might just be enough to drop that negative listing below the fold...

4) Pushing an EMD to become a “brand” now that Google is using large sitelinks

5) Flooding

This involves pushing out tons of content - and I mean tons (advertorials, blog posts, guest blog posts, articles, etc...) until those negative articles are lost.

6) Youtube videos - Youtube SEO

Specifically for search results that contain video results on pages 1 to 3.

7) Image search

If image results appear, it’s probably because the query is known to generate click throughs on image search. Take a wild guess...

8 ) Mechanical Turk

Dave Sottimano

Dave Sottimano

David Sottimano comes from a varied background in Corporate Marketing and Professional Sales. His love affair between the internet and marketing has finally found the perfect balance at Distilled, and continues to flourish each day. He graduated...   read more

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12 Comments

  1. Wow that scam reports part is worrying, especially how quickly it ranked. Great post. I'm constantly surprised by how little work some brands put in to optimising the results people see for their brand terms and variants like reviews. Here's a few other searches and my tips:

    'Brand Name' Reviews: Add a page on your website with customer reviews / testimonials
    'Brand Name' Vouchers: List vouchers on your website, or any sales / special offers you have on (even free P+P).
    'Brand Name Scam': Write a blog post called "Is 'brand name' a scam. Then put it on article websites.

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  2. Great post Tom.

    It happens now and again that clients request SEOs to get rid of negative marketing pages rather than optimise for their own site.

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  3. What do you mean by "pushing an EMD to become a brand"? Google has been very tight-lipped about how they determine who gets sitelinks. I've been reading everything I can about it, but I think we've done everything we can from a site structure standpoint and still aren't getting sitelinks.

    Do you have any suggested reading or tips, beyond basic site structure stuff (navigation, consistent anchor text, XML site map, etc.)?

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  4. You'll really have to hack someone off for them to do this to you, but it does happen, and I appreciate the time you've taken to explain how to deal with it.

    Pretty much every negative has a positive, and admittedly you have to work really hard to get that positivity back.

    But thanks again for your time and effort on this article. It's the bees knees of advice!

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  5. My old company took a shot at reputation management and didn't work out too well for them. Wish this article was posted while I still worked there. Thanks for the information!

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  6. David Sottimano

    Thanks for the feedback guys - I'm still getting better at this and once I find solid new tactics that work, I'll definitely re-post.

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  7. Great piece David - I already sent it out to a company who called me w/ ORM issues the other day and I'm working on my comment links as... we... speak... (just kidding) (or am i)

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  8. David Sottimano

    @ Laura - That's awesome, and also a huge compliment coming from you! Umm, so it sounds like you might have some tricks up your sleeve that I didn't mention. Feel free to let people know, or don't ;)

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  9. Nice Post! Someome has to read over and over again in order to consolidate all the data included.

    From my experience and some tests (after Panda fix) i have end up that when you have to clean up the serps for medium volume keywords you can easily change the subject entirely for that anchor text (keyword) that you are interested in.

    First you create as much possible profiles (like twitter, linkedin, slideshare and so on) using the anchor text as a user name in order to put it in the title and then create common content for each one of them( To speak on the same subject).

    The next step is link building (with the specific anchor text).

    Finally after some weeks and hard work you are going to see that the bad/not yours search results have gone away, and some that are more likely to yours that rank better.

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  10. All the SEO in the world will not help if you sue Google over Rip Off Report and then publish a blog about it. Google just relegates it to Cyberia. How do I know? My blog showed on pp.1-2 in the SERPS for my name until I started getting quite a few visits from an IP address in Mountain View. suddenly it was relegated to Cyberia although it still shows as the 3rd result on page 1 of a search for my name on Bing/Yahoo.

    I am in Australia and not only do we not recognise the CDA but our defamation laws approrption liability to any organisation or person who communicates defamation. The full story (of how ror allegedly sold of my details-I was a consumer) to those about whom I posted and the update on the case is on my blog: drjaniceduffy.com

    We are currently going though pre-trial and wit5h a bit of luck by December Google will have to submit a defence.

    I was a consumer on ror-(not even a business) and I will not let some grubby little website bully me out of my right to work. Clearly, I am prohibited by law from filing against ror but not against Google.

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  11. Great post about reputation management.Whole article is very impresive. Thanks for sharing.

    reply >

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