Mr Key pioneered much of what’s happening in the booming area of “search engine reputation management,” if not the term itself.
Of course, the company on which Mr. Sullivan set his investigative sights appears to over promise, and may even find itself toying with Google’s vaunted terms-of-service. And no company wants to fool with mother Google. Sullivan writes:
“DONE SEO (search engine optimization) is a Manhattan Beach, Calif., company that says it can improve any company’s search engine results ranking. But on its ‘search engine reputation management’ page, it promises quite a bit more, saying it can make negative stories and comments go away.”
Google weighs in:
“‘There’s nothing wrong with this in and of itself,’ said a Google spokeswoman who asked not to be identified. ‘As far as being within our webmaster guidelines, it’s the same as any other web content. If you use spammy and manipulative techniques to get this positive content to rank highly, we may take action on it. But if you can write content or have content written about yourself and have it be interesting and compelling so that people link to it, it may indeed be relevant for searches on your name or business and may be a valid search result, above the negative content.'”
Done! SEO also may have made the tactical error of boasting on its website the ability to neutralize the bad kharma flowing from a presence on ConsumerWebWatch.org, the Internet arm of Consumers Union.
“Having a listing on ConsumerWebWatch.org that shows up on the first page of Google for a search for your company name can be devastating to your business,” it says.
Still, there’s nothing wrong with accentuating the positive…as long as it’s done within the search engine’s (or social network’s) terms of service. I don’t know how many times I’ve told my boys to pro-actively manage their presence on FaceBook!
How to elevate a company’s primary content online, at the expense of rogue and misleading information, remains a gray area. Nonetheless, we shouldn’t lose sight of this medium’s singular beauty — the ability to capture a diversity of voices and perspectives, not all sympatico — when endeavoring this activity.
The motivation to consider deoptimization strategies should be driven more by the appearance of factually flawed information, and less by unpleasantness. Even ConsumerWebWatch recognizes the conundrum:
“‘I sympathize with businesses that have to confront this issue,’ he said. ‘The state of user reviews on the Web is not pretty. There are people who give a hotel a bad review because they don’t like color of the drapes, for example. But my concern is that there are other organizations and other journalists who do legitimate research, and as a result of these algorithms the relevance of their work decreases. Itâ€™s hard enough for consumers to make decisions and find information.'”
*Rob Key’s a friend and sometimes collaborator.