While many businesses may find their Google rankings frustrating or disappointing, they can also be distressing, if their search results turn negative.
While maintaining an online presence can yield excellent results for a wide range of enterprises, the downside is that it can also leave them open to reputational damage, as SEO expert Jonathan Guy, of Aqueous Digital, explains.
“The very accessibility of social media and the internet means that it doesn’t take that much to damage your reputation online. It could be a critical blog post or review, something a disgruntled ex-colleague or employee posts, or even your own misstep in putting poor content out.”
Should this happen, what strategy should you adopt to combat negative Google search results and rescue your reputation?
Can You Remove Negative Content Completely?
“Start by considering anything you can remove yourself. So, if it’s a status update, tweet or blog post of your own, delete it. Where you can control Google results, do so. The same applies if the negative materials comes from an account you have access to or control.”
When it comes to removing links, this can be painstaking work.
Removing content from pages you do not control is trickier, and may not be successful.
“You can contact a site directly and ask them to remove a blog post that refers negatively to you, giving your reasons why, and also contact Google if you think a site violates their policies, for example, anything used to commit fraud”
In this latter situation, anything Google removes will still exist online, but will not appear in Google’s search results.
“If you think the content is unlawful, you can take legal action to have it removed. This applies to content that’s defamatory or discriminatory, or infringes copyright, for example.”
The risk here is that by taking this action, where the results are not guaranteed to go your way, you end up drawing more attention to the original negative content that is out there.
“Legal action is a big step, so you must consider the risks and the significance of what you’re doing before you act.”
With the risks and complexities that come with trying to remove negative content, is there a better alternative?
Online Reputation Management and SEO
You can combat negative Google search results by building and optimising positive content, and therefore help to suppress and bury the bad content.”
This is as much an online content marketing strategy as it is reputation management.
“Create consistently high-quality content that will work with search engines as it is a form of reverse SEO, where you want the positive content you generate to drive down the rankings of the negative content and suppress reputational damage”
As with any online campaign, the key is to engage in multi-channel activity.
“Engage with your audience on social media. Build a reputation with good content. Connect with online communities appropriate to your brand and your objectives.”
Content can take different forms, such as videos and podcasts as well as written blogs.
“Consider posting content on third party sites where you can link back to your content to help build your authority and credibility.”
The emphasis is on long-term results. This is not a quick fix, but it works the same way as content marketing works in any other context.
“Approach it strategically and rationally. Online reputational damage and negative Google search results are disturbing and disheartening, but you can act and proactively combat them.”