With the Internet being so readily accessible for everyone, whenever a company makes a mistake, news of that mistake gets reported across the Internet in seconds. No news spreads faster than bad news, which means that reputations that have been built up over years can be ruined online within days.
To help safeguard reputations online, many SEO companies offer reputation management as a service. Reputation management is an advanced form of SEO that involves controlling the SERPs (search engine results pages) when your company name, or searches relating to your company, are made. Reputation management is advanced for two reasons; firstly it’s very difficult to do and requires a great deal of knowledge and experience to handle correctly, and secondly it’s very easy to get horribly wrong. If you attempt reputation management and don’t know what you are doing, you can easily and very quickly make matters much worse for your brand image.
So if you’re thinking of performing some reputation management, here are some ways that you can get it wrong and destroy your online reputation. Many of these ideas could be filed under the ‘seemed like a good idea at the time’ heading.
Disaster #1 – Create fake accounts on reviews websites to promote your business
Websites such as blagger.com, reviewcentre.com and ciao.co.uk allow users to create accounts and post reviews of products and companies online. You can be guaranteed that if your company is featured on one of these sites, it will have received a negative review. This could be from a dissatisfied customer or from a competitor. All three of these websites are very powerful, and any review page for your company will inevitably rank for a search on your company name.
This leads some people, SEO experts included, to create ‘fake’ accounts on the website and post ‘glowing’ reviews of your company. The idea being that if your listing has more positive reviews that negative ones, you’ll appear to be a decent company.
However, this is a guaranteed way to destroy your image on the website for the following reasons:
- New profiles that have posted reviews the day of signing up, or within days, are obviously fake.
- The more reviews you post under fake accounts, the more links that are created to the reviews page from each profile page, the higher it will rank in the SERPs. This also applies to the fact that you’re constantly updating the reviews page with comments. The more you update it, the stronger it becomes, the harder it is to rank above it in Google.
- The more reviews you add, the more you’re going to attract the attention of the poster of the negative reviews, which will naturally spark retaliatory posts and reviews.
Disaster #2 – Create your own reviews website
One popular option for reputation management is to create your own reviews website for your industry that seems impartial, but always gives your products and services great reviews, while giving negative reviews to your competitors. This may seem like a great idea, but remember that the Internet is filled with information and people adept at using it. If you try to be clever in this way it will get traced back to you, and your efforts will do more damage than good.
How could a separate website be traced back to you? When you bought the domain name, did you use a different registrant name and address to your own company website? Is it hosted on the same server, with the same IP address? Are there any tell tale signs in the code, such as images being referenced from your company website or the web designer being the same?
Unless you’re ultra careful, it will get found out.
Disaster #3 – Use social networking and bookmarking websites to promote your own site
Everyone in SEO talks about using social networking and bookmarking websites to promote your own site, but how many of them actually know how to do it properly? Simply adding your own articles and pages to Digg and StumbleUpon isn’t going to further your brand image and reputation online, it’s going to mark your account out as being a spam account. This will do your image no good at all.
The same username cropping up on various bookmarking sites, social networking sites and forums, all preaching the same message, will serve one purpose and one purpose only – and that’s not to protect your reputation online. The Internet community isn’t stupid, and trying to fool it in this way reflects very badly on you.
Social networking websites are good for SEO and for reputation management, but they need to be used properly for it to work.
Reputation management is a powerful tool online, but it requires a lot of subtlety and experience to use it effectively. Used incorrectly, attempts at reputation management could have the opposite effect to the one desired, and then the damage done could be irreparable.