It is no longer good enough to be truthful just in the eyes of God.
You now have to be acceptable in the eye of Google.
Online defamation is helped along by the arbitrary and often inaccurate nature of search engine results pages, biased aggregator websites, shady complaint sites, and our own viral rants. Efforts at ‘social forgetting’ and name-changing will always be defeated by technology and the human will to remember the worst about people. The results can be falsehood – polluting credibility, distorting achievements, and perhaps inciting hatred based on unsubstantiated accusations and rumors.
Humans have always be known to value reputation. It is what we are programmed to nurture, improve and protect. This has given rise to a new industry still in it’s infancy. The oldest Online Reputation firms are no older than a decade, which essentially means that this industry is still evolving and remains undecided on a set protocol and standard. There is no quality check, regulating authority or watchdog, and this situation has given rise to dozens of fly-by-night reputation firms offering/promising to-good-to-be-true packages and magic solutions.
Considering that someone who is being defamed online is normally in a state of panic, anger and desperation, they fall prey to these ‘offshore’ services, only to further worsen their case.
Some of the unethical practices, as listed and analyzed below, are not only unethical and violate many guidelines, but cause a long-term and in many case irreversible damage to your standing with Google. The solution you signed up for ends up presenting a more serious problem than the original issue itself.
1- Blackhat SEO – In this case, a very lame attempt at blackhat SEO. In pursuit of creating new stream of positive content, and quickly push it up the ranks at Google and other search engines, these ORM firms employ ‘naughty’ methods and tricks.
It’s a huge gamble. If it works, it’s all good. Even if it works, it is usually short-lived.
However, if it backfires, Google might just call your bluff and penalize not only the newer web properties, but might also hit you with manual penalization of your existing web properties. The result – Most of your legit web properties lose ranks rapidly, which leaves an open field to the negative content to creep up on Google and camp on top result pages indefinitely. It will eventually take you months and months to undo the damage, if at all.
2- Spam – Not only these fly-by-night Rep Firms use SEO techniques that might put your online reputation management in jeopardy, they do not seem to value actual human effort and rather rely on bots and automated software. So instead of publishing a few dozen quality content, they find it is easier to gamble on your reputation by automated bulk posting thousands of spammy posts crammed up with keywords stuffed nonchalantly.
While working with clients who came to us after using such services, we were asked to not only fix their original negative content, but to fixes hundreds of spammy articles scattered all over the internet, associating them with embarrassing keywords like viagra and pornographic material. This is classic Google Bombing -which can surround your name, brand, business or product on search engine with sheer ugliness. In trying to save some money, you end up spending multiple times to achieve status quo.
3- Being Obvious – One of the key point in professional Reputation Management, is to be effective, yet not seem obvious. In Reputation management, the objective is to shield any sort of negative content from being viewed by general public. In doing so, it must not be obvious that an attempt is being made to hide something, negative.
In trying to hide the negative content, some reputation firms botch it up and go overboard. For anyone who was not aware of the negative content at first, he/she is more likely to become curious now and actually search for those links now.
4- Perjury – It has been revealed that many such Reputation Services try to send fake DMCA notices to service providers, hosting companies and webmasters, in order to have a client’s negative content removed. Some even have the audacity to send it to Google, hoping they get lucky.
In case you missed the point – this is Perjury. It’s impersonation, and illegal, and since you are the benefactor here, you are automatically implicated in a crime you have not consented to. Many offshore reputation services feel safe trying the fake DMCA method because of their location and jurisdiction issue. However, you might not be that lucky. Beware of such offers.
5- Bad Negotiations – Some of the reputation firms are front for complaint and personal dirt sites. Since they are not able to officially extort money for removal of content from their website, they run these shady reputation firms.
If you use any of these firms to remove content, you offer yourself as a victim, a target who will always be inclined to pay to have negative content removed. Once you fall into this trap, you’ll find ‘anonymous content’ cropping up on these sites at regular intervals.
6- Bending the legal system – If and when a lawyer offers an ‘out-of-the-box’ solution, stop and think for a minute. Law is not subjective on these matters, and if a lawyer is playing with words, it usually means he is trying to bend the system.
It creates a mess. A mess bigger than the one which made you reach out to a lawyer in the first place. Companies lose thousands of dollars in a botched up legal attempt, trying to bend the system, when the law simply does not allow that. Brand.com used these special tricks, and it didn’t work. The company filed for bankruptcy in early 2015, leaving tons of clients losing a lot of money paid upfront.
7- Hackers – Frankly, if we even need to explain this point, you need a reality check.