Managing Individual And Business Online Reputation Is Becoming A Major Challenge

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In a free world where it seems anybody can say anything online, protecting business and an individual's reputation has become a major issue. Online Marketing Consultants pty Ltd recently managed a case that may well unfortunately become quite common.

It is impossible to know how long the offending entry had been there but it must have cost the client a lot of money.

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Building a professional reputation can take a long time but it can be destroyed in the blink of an eye. Social Media has opened the door to defining who we are online as Pew's study found in 2010, but it isn't just Facebook that can expose something that would rather be kept secret.

In the end one of the most important assets brands and business people own is reputation as BP found during their Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Forbes ran a very interesting piece dissecting BP's online counter to the onslaught to their reputation here Yet the internet has allowed the term “cheap shot” to be reinvented. The vast range of online forums, blogs and web 2.0 sites means that unsubstantiated anonymous comments and opinions can be broadcast around the world in an instant. That alone is not healthy as unfiltered, uncensored spurious claims or personal attacks are far too easily generated. Beyond that though is the real worry......when someone has directly attacked a reputation through a forum or a blog and this gets ranked highly in search engines when people search for that person's name or trading name. So for example a newly appointed government minister can suffer major embarasment if googling their name shows a blog post insinuating they committed an illegal act.

Online Marketing Consultants based in Brisbane, Australia, recently took on such a client. “A Commercial dispute with an ex business partner had led to a personal attack against our client" says David Twigg of OMC. "Googling our client's trading name raised a result that ranked number three which implied the client was running a scam. Now Bernie Madoff, the client certainly was not, it was clear that this was a simple vengeance attack against the business reputation. It is impossible to know how long the offending entry had been there but it must have cost the client a lot of money. We put into action our Reputation management service to demote the offending entry."

There are sometimes legal levers that can be pulled, if for example the entry is in a forum that under threat of legal action want an easy life and take the post down, however many forums are run on an amateur basis and are not easy to deal with. It is very unlikely Google will remove such an entry from their search results as they take the view that user experience is enhanced by there being a zero edit policy with their algorithm.

A more common issue in recent times has been denegrating reviews against competitors, for example in 2011 a popular restaurant in Sydney was subjected to a consistent run of low grade reviews. Restaurants that vie for the same business in a local area have plenty at stake to encourage prospects to avoid their competitor. "As long as reviews are pushed by the major search engines and directory services this problem will never go away" says David Twigg, “Negative review campaigns are very common,Google themselves are getting a lot better at weeding them out but the campaigns get more and more sophisticated. It will always be a battle for the search engines to minimize this stuff. When you consider a number 1 ranking in Google for a restaurant in a major city can bring in thousands of new customers over a short period, the stakes are high. Imagine the same situation amongst lawyers,accountants and builders where the stakes are a lot higher.”

So as we all plough through Google, researching our next move/purchase/service, we are likely to have to make our minds up about scurrilous entries.

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