4/12/2008

Ways to Remove Negative Search Engine Listings

Just as there are countless "credit repair" companies who claim they can erase past debts, there are now a multitude of reputation management firms claiming they can "remove negative search engine listings."
negative results can sometimes be permanently changed or removed with persistence, tact and savvy. Here's how:

8 Ways to Remove Negative Results from the Google

1. Ask Nicely
I've gotten nasty information removed by calling the blogger and having a nice long "blogger to blogger" talk with them. Appeal to their conscience. Explain why it's good for them to change the information, and explain why hosting negative or defamatory info might reflect poorly on their own website. Don't accuse them of bad journalism or insult them - respect the effort they took to make the content but urge them to consider an alternate headline, tone, etc. Ask if there's anything you could do to help them out in exchange (write a review, give a link, do SEO for their site, send them a "thank you" gift, etc.).

2. Ask the moderator to remove the offending thread or post
Sometimes the author of the information won't budge, but a forum or social site moderator will want to avoid conflict and will be more receptive to removing defamatory or misleading information. It usually doesn't hurt to ask.

3. Audit the site for Google Webmaster Guidelines violation, and report them
Check to see if the site is buying or selling any paid links, keyword stuffing, hiding text, cloaking content, or doing anything else in direct violation of Google's Webmaster Guidelines. If you find anything spammy, report the site to Google or report paid links inside of Google Webmaster Tools console.

4. File a DMCA Takedown Notice
If the site is infringing on your trademarks or copying your content, and they are located or hosted in the USA, you can file a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice with the OSP (online service provider) and if that fails, you can file it with the search engines. Check out this excellent guide to enforcing copyrights.

5. Offer a Cash Payment / Settlement
Some people have successfully offered a cash settlement to have negative information down. A lot of online bloggers are in it for the money, and so are most of the reputation extortionists (Web publishers, like the RipoffReport, who encourage and directly profit from anonymous complaint content). It could be cheaper and easier to "pay to make it go away" than to pay for months of reputation management, content and link building efforts. Beware, though, of opening yourself up to ongoing extortion. And be careful of what you put in writing. You might want to contact the webmaster anonymously, by telephone, to test their response to such an offer, rather than send them a written letter or e-mail that they could reprint on their website.

6. Threaten a Lawsuit
You can send an official-looking letter threatening to sue people for defamation, and that could be enough to scare people into taking down content. Beware: if you threaten to sue someone, make sure you have a case and actually plan on following through with it, if necessary. Many times, I've seen legal threats backfire and make the situation flare up much worse. Threats of litigation bring out a harsh and unforgiving side in people, and it can prompt your defamer to want to "stick it to you" even worse.

For more detailed legal information on some of these suggestions, ChillingEffects.org or any of the excellent posts of SEOmoz's legal expert Sarah Bird are great places to start.

Blackhat Reputation Management Tactics:
It's important to be aware of some of the more heavy-handed tactics, even if you don't practice them yourself:

7. Negative SEO
For a long time, people believed that "nothing another Webmaster can do will be able to harm your websites' rankings." According to some black hat SEO experts, that is not true anymore. Negative SEO techniques, such as link spamming or buying penalized sites in a similar niche and 301 redirecting them to to your competitor's pages, are "enough to have a relatively dramatic impact on rankings." This Forbes article on negative SEO is pretty well-done and interesting.

8. Counter-Attack the Reputation of Your Critic
Some people have successfully counter-attacked their defamer, by anonymously exposing "fabricated" details of their past, making a YourDefamerSucks.com site, or filing a ripoff report about their business. This would theoretically give you a stronger bargaining position to suggest that you mutually withdraw the negative information - by kicking some empathy into your defamer. I haven't done this, as I am not really a "digital hitman" for hire - but I've heard others have done it successfully.

The Importance of Making Good Web Karma

In the social media era, we all live in very transparent, digital "glass houses." And throwing stones is as easy as a few clicks on the keyboard.

Remember that defaming others on the Web can have a profoundly destructive impact on their business, career and life.

Interact with kindness, humanity and positivity and start creating positive content now to build a spotless reputation on the Web. Monitor your reputation, and quickly and tactfully respond to grievances and to make sure they don't escalate or get cemented into the search results.
idea of Brett Borders

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