About a year ago I began talking with a new client about reputation management. This person, who I will refer to as Jane M Doe, a baker, through no fault of her own, had become embroiled in a legal situation that created some negative press. Her name was featured in online news stories on six to eight news and industry websites.
She was eventually found innocent and was never charged, but the original news articles had damaged her reputation.
Now, years later, these old stories still show up in search results when someone searches for Jane online. She was curious to know if there was anything that could be done to make these old articles go away.
The short answer to that question is, “No.” You can’t make old stories or web pages on other websites go away. However, there is a strategy you can employ and it involves online marketing.
First, let’s review how Google’s search algorithm ranks sites in its search results. There are a number of website factors that Google considers. One is the number of other sites that link to it and another is the regular addition of new, current content.
By their very nature, news sites have a large number of both of these factors, so they tend to rank very high in search results. If there is a negative story from years ago that is search optimized to a name, it will rank high whenever that name is searched. The reason it owns the high position is because it is a news site that constantly has new content and because there has not been any current content or news story recently to take its place. Newer content that was also search optimized for that name would push the older content down.
In the case of Jane, the only online stories about her were the ones that were negative. The solution, then, was to create new content that would push the old articles down into the lower search results. We created a strategy that would involve using search optimization strategies to get new content to rank higher when someone searched for Jane.
We created a website that used her name as the domain. Then we identified four keyword variations of her name and profession.
We used those keyword variations with newly written blog content. The topics of these blogs were all things with which Jane had a level of professional expertise. The keyword variations were:
We also promoted these blogs on LinkedIn and Google+, two social sites that are indexed by Google’s search algorithm. In addition, we created a Google My Business page and linked it to her website. We also took advantage of the review and posting capabilities.
What we were doing was a form of organic SEO and it takes time to develop. We began to see one or two articles appear at the bottom of the first page of the search results after a few months. But after we had built up six month’s worth of blog content and social media posts, we began to see multiple entries on page one. These were a combination of Jane’s website, LinkedIn profile, Google+ posts and blog posts.
In the tenth month, though, we began to gain ground. We had captured three of the top ten search results. The following month, we had four. The program was beginning to work. After twelve months, Jane had entries throughout the first page of results. For her four keyword variations, here is ow the results broke down:
After just a year, Jane owned between 40 and 50% of the first page of the search results, depending on the keyword variation. The first page has the Top 10 of all search results being supplied! While the top positions were never completely dislodged, with more time and search optimized content, that goal will be achieved.
Reputation management programs can be effective, especially if a number of years have passed since the publishing of the negative news articles. Such a program is built on the principles of search engine optimization and like any online marketing program that uses them, will take time to develop. Having the patience to see it through to the end is the key to success.
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Bob Turner is a Small Business Online Marketing Consultant with Social Flair Marketing in Cincinnati, Ohio.