It’s important to act quickly – the moment an online reputation issue is first detected. The longer you leave an undesirable search result to sit in the open, unchallenged, the more likely it will get “cemented” into place. When an interesting result stays on the first page or two of the search engine results, people (and automated content scraping sites) have a tendency to link to it and reinforce it.
Here are 13 types of pages that can contain negative buzz:
1. Authoritative Government Pages
The reputation management kiss of death is an entire negative page on an powerful government website. If the US Embassy, Federal Post Office, or the Securities and Exchange Commission dedicate a web page to warning about you, it’s almost impossible to compete with.
2. Feature Articles on Top-Tier News Sites
Top-tier news sites (CNN, BBC) pack a lot of domain strength – and they stick to search result pages pretty hard.
3. Popular Wikipeida Entries
The general populace has adopted the site it as the quickie research tool of choice – and their countless citations have strengthened it. Many Wikipedia entries on companies or public figures contain a “criticism” section, but the contents are supposed to contain verifiable facts (lawsuits, convictions, news incidents). You generally don’t have to worry about people saying you “suck,” but widely-held opinions and factual incidents can get worked into Wikipedia.
4. Articles On Authority Blogs
Removing negative blogs can be difficult. A post with dozens or hundreds of comments denotes significant buzz and interest, and it also creates copious amounts of keyword-rich content. Best try to remove negative blog posts quickly – by contacting the author, responding in the comments and taking SEO action – as appropriate.
5. “…Sucks.com” sites.
Dot com sites that contain the keyword plus a pejorative term in the URL are a challenge, but they aren’t impossible. They have a sticky tendency to linger around, because search engines (particularly Google) like to display a wide, balanced range of opinions and content so users can pick their own flavor. Sometimes “…sucks.com” or “…scam.com” sites are propped up by just a handful of links from the owner and they can be worked around. But if they enjoy widespread support and link popularity, it can be a real uphill battle.
6. Rip-Off Report Listings
The Rip-Off Report is a notorious “consumer complaint” site that encourages people to vent their accusations and frustrations, and it allegedly profits from blackmailing business owners. Because the content is so “interesting” it enjoys a lot of domain authority in Google, but I’ve found its listings can often be outranked with a little bit of elbow grease.
7. Active Social Media Profiles
Social networking sites are link rich and user-generated content pages on them can rank well. An active social media account with your brand in the username could theoretically outrank your company’s official site.
8. Press Releases
Syndicated press releases can show up strongly in the search results, but they are often temporary and fade out with time (especially if they don’t get picked up).
9. Personal Blogs
Personal blogs and others with limited readership and anemic link strength are easy enough to outrank with any of the kinds of pages listed above.
10. Forum Posts
These days, search engines seems to be show more respect for blogs than forum posts and some forum software creates posts with poor on-page optimization and dynamic URLs. But watch out: over time, an interesting forum post can develop into a comprehensive, linked-to authority document on a brand or topic.
11. Made for AdSense (MFA) or Weak Affiliate Pages
As domain trust and on-page analysis (looking for affiliate code, link networks, ‘quality score’) becomes more advanced, pages that are highly commercialized – without a quality backlink profile to support them – tend to be rather wimpy.
12. Off-topic Pages
Pages that are completely focused on a subject (mentioning it in the title tag, headlines, and numerous times in the text) are typically much stronger than pages that just “randomly” mention a person or brand once down in the bottom. You can sometimes identify an off-topic page because the description will be pulled from the text and truncated with an ellipses (“…”). Creating your own page just about anywhere and optimizing it can often outrank off-topic page mentions.
13. Spam pages
There are thousands of automated bots scour the web, looking for fresh content to turn into a word salad of web spam for a quick buck. Sometimes they will “scrape” negative news items or headlines from the search results and re-display it. Random spam pages are typically the weakest of all web pages, and they can be overtaken by just about any other kind of web page.
What Do You Think?
These ratings are very rough estimates based on my own experience with reputation management campaigns. However, every single situation and search result page is different!
What kinds of search results have you found to be the most difficult to outrank?