Which Reputation Concepts Are Relevant Today?
Reputations in general, are vulnerable to digital attacks and many types of attacks are possible. An attack is, by its very nature indicative of malicious intent, wherein the attacker actively seeks to cause damage to a person, business, or entity by creating any form of negative or unfavorable content that becomes visible to the public.
Attackers can be journalists, bloggers, consumers, competitor businesses, or anyone seeking to damage another entity by way of digital content. An attacker may also be considered to be anyone publishing content that is damaging, with or without malicious intent. This can involve many basic or highly sophisticated forms of attack, from publishing one article or review to the mass creation of pseudonymous entities to gain a disproportionately large influence.
Press releases, news stories, and media editorials have powerful influence on public opinion and perception. Press can serve as an originating source of a reputation problem, and it can serve as part of a solution. Without monitoring and management, a business and in some cases individuals, can be negatively impacted by online press content. With proactive strategies in public media relations, press and journalism can prove to be a fortifying channel for positive online reputations.
The most skilled reputation experts leverage the power of the press by tapping into the publishing power journalists have on trusted news platforms, along with utilizing SPIN tactics and self-publishing options to submit press releases to authoritative websites in order to promote a positive brand presence and suppress negative content. However, throughout this book it will become clear that simply publishing a press release to the Internet is rarely enough to produce the ultimate desired outcome.
Very few businesses with an online presence are without some form of publicly visible consumer reviews, which often encourages the need for review strategies that aim to organically or artificially generate positive user reviews about their business, services or products. Organic strategies may consist of proactive customer relations and outreach programs to existing customers, soliciting feedback and comments on the business’ public review profile.
Artificial solutions often involve the singular or bulk purchasing of reviews wherein the business can customize what is said in the review, along with any other criteria such as star ratings or the platform on which the review should be posted. While review strategies can sometimes shift consumer impressions and increase overall star ratings, it is important to note that focusing only on reviews management usually results in only a partially fixed reputation situation.
Properly managing audience communications and sentiment on social platforms is often a vital component to ensuring an entity’s positive online presence. Without monitoring and management, a social profile can become a serious reputation liability. Internet users frequent the social media profiles of businesses they transact with, and the presence of user generated negative comments, unwanted posts, and unsupportive reviews on a business’ profile can turn what was once a community asset into a rampant, sometimes viral environment that decreases brand loyalty and impedes business growth.
If having a social media presence is a choice or an important component for a business’ success, then having a proactive social media management strategy is crucial – however positive social media is rarely enough to completely control a business’ or individual’s online reputation.
Search optimization is the process of influencing top positions in the search engines by optimizing and promoting websites, content, and other forms of media. In reputation management, the SEO component is designed to infiltrate search results with chosen media content, for the purpose of suppressing negative material that the person or business wants to eliminate.
SEO is, or at least should be the central focus of an online reputation management strategy. A reputation repair campaign that does not heavily focus on search optimization is going to fall drastically short of creating the desired result. The assumption is that the individual or business is convinced that the content displaying on the first (and maybe the second) page of the search engine is importance for public impression.
Understanding all the factors involved in controlling an entire first page of search results, and having the resources and means to execute on that knowledge is vital. However, even most of the SEO and reputation management service companies today have a limited knowledge of the science, and are lacking the resources to be effective, or are not willing to invest in the time, energy, and technology required to achieve the results for their clients.
For any given search query there are hundreds of ranking factors and variables being calculated simultaneously in order to sort and deliver the set of results a user sees. The tactical strategies in this book cover search engine ranking factors in great depth and provide realistic perspectives and instructional resources for achieving the necessary outcomes.
In some cases, it is possible to get negative content removed from a website. Usually, this requires a legal letter from an attorney representing the compromised party, or communication with the owner or webmaster of the site in question.
Successfully removing negative editorial, reviews, or blog posts are a rare accomplishment in the reputation industry, but it can be done depending on the circumstances. Although these special occasions do exist, one should not expect a successful outcome and base their entire reputation strategy around the hope that content can be successfully removed. The unlikely probability that content will be removed or deleted speaks to the importance of other strategies, such as suppression campaigns through search engine optimization.
A strong majority of content cannot be removed by someone who does not own the website it is on, therefore it is important for the person seeking reputation management to consider all forms of solutions for optimizing the name search vertical.
DMCA Removals – The US Digital Millennium Copyright Act criminalizes production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures (commonly know as digital rights management or DRM) that control the access to copyrighted works. In the event a copyright, trademark, or other protected intellectual property has been infringed, a “Demand” may be filed with LumenDatabase.org, which sends takedown requests to Google.
The Internet is very much like a playground for marketers and programmers with an inclination towards gray area tactics and market manipulation, and many types of automation tools exist for simulating tasks and events online. Everyone is familiar with the concept of computer viruses, wherein a software program infects the host computer or web server and performs certain actions, usually with malicious intent to access, inject, or extract information.
Spam, unsolicited marketing messages, user communications, profile creations, content posts, and website attacks are all things that can be automated through Internet software. Spam bots may be used for mass injections of comments on websites or denial-of-service (DOS) attacks on website servers in an effort to force websites to shut down. These tactics are commonly referred to as “black hat” methods, which can do harm to website owners and typically do not add value or safety to the Internet.
Search engine optimization is most appropriately considered a positive, growth-centric practice that leads to increased placement in the search engines, however the search engines employ thresholds that detect when someone is using too many optimizations on or external to the target website property. These thresholds are designed to prevent SEO specialists from gaming the search engine results and help to prevent low quality, untrustworthy content from achieving top placements.
Experienced SEO experts understand where the lines are drawn with website optimizations, and some have the ability to exploit these thresholds in ways that results in a web property moving backwards, or down in the search results. Most people have a misinterpretation of what negative SEO is and how it’s done, and as a result, most who attempt this method fail.
Canvassing third-party websites with fake and artificial reviews, comments, and content with anonymous accounts is sometimes referred to as astroturfing. Many just call this spam. The term astroturfing (rarely if ever used in the industry) is a derivation of “AstroTurf”, a brand of synthetic carpeting designed to look like natural grass, and a play on the word “grassroots”. The implication behind the term being that there are no true or natural roots, but rather fake and artificial. Some may consider this concept and practice a useful component to a strategy, but it rarely sustains any long-term or meaningful impact.
Brand marketing strategies are typically focused on communicating the value of a product, service, or brand to customers for the purpose of further promoting or selling that product, service, or brand. A strong marketing campaign executed in the right way, at the right time, can thwart the damaging effects of a negative online reputation for a brand. Many forms of digital marketing prove to be useful in preventing and repairing negative reputations, but they can also lead to damaging an online reputation.
If a company’s operational conduct or product quality falls short of promises made in marketing messages to consumers, it can lead to backlash in the form of negative reviews and editorial. A good example of this is in the nutritional space.
Frequently, we see situations where companies craft messaging to consumers with the promise of gluten-free or non-GMO consumables, resulting in the Food and Drug Administration releasing enforcement reports online that warn the public of health concerns. Like clockwork, nutritional bloggers and journalists begin blanketing the web with their disdain for the brand’s dishonest claims.
Blunders aside, well engineered marketing consistently proves to be a reinforcing asset in a digital reputation campaign and should be a core component to any business that values its online presence as a growth strategy.
Occasionally, attempts to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely. This phenomenon is referred to as the “Streisand Effect”, named after the American entertainer Barbra Streisand, whose 2003 attempt to suppress photographs of her residence inadvertently drew further public attention.
Similar actions resulting in this effect can include cease-and-desist letters, public statements, appeal procedures, and any action that draws more attention on the negative or unwanted information.
Pursuing solutions without a thorough investigation of unforeseen outcomes can result in more detrimental outcomes than existed with the original problematic source or information. Reputation repair should be thought of as a tactical mission to swiftly control or eliminate negative content online.