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Don't Get FleasJust a quick story to serve as a warning to those of you considering hiring a reputation management firm…or any other business for that matter. One of our clients is in a business that sells live products. Sometimes these items do not make it across the country still alive (don’t worry – we’re talking about plants here, not any kind of animal). It’s nothing against his company – it’s just sort-of expected in his industry, and his competitors all have the same problem. But some people don’t see it that way. As a result, over the years, this business has accumulated a fair amount of negative reviews online.

There is a concept for managing the above problem called “reputation management.” In the Internet marketing world, the basic idea is to mask or hide as much negative stuff as you can by creating your own positive material, optimized for the search terms that show the negative information, which can then push the negative Web pages to the second page of search results or beyond. For example, let’s say I sell red doodads through a company called the Red Doodad Company, but a search in Google for “Red Doodad Company” shows Web pages that contain negative reviews of my products or company. What I can do is create lots of Web pages, social media pages, etc. that are optimized to also have a good chance at ranking for “Red Doodad Company.” If I am successful, over time, my pages will out-rank the negative pages, thus pushing them down and decreasing their odds of being seen and read by my potential customers.

That is the basic idea behind reputation management. So back to our story. Our client got a call one day from a company claiming to do just that. So our client hired them to perform reputation management. After a few weeks, the company claimed to have done a great job and wanted to be paid. But nothing had actually happened in the search results. After much prodding, the company finally delivered a report to our client showing what they had done. And they had basically built a bunch of low quality, crap Web pages, none of which were ranking (and still don’t rank) above the negative pages. Our client agreed to pay half of their agreed upon fee, but no more, given the lack of substantive work.

The owner of the reputation management firm then showed his true colors. He put up a static copy of our client’s site, under a different but similar domain, which had really big words at the top accusing our client of ripping people off. That site is nowhere to be found, but it is still disturbing now that there is someone out there with this kind of vendetta who would go through that much trouble. Our investigation into who these guys are showed some very suspicious signs, including fake names and phone numbers used in their own domain registrations. The whole thing appeared very fishy, and very corrupt.

The lesson? Watch out who you do business with. When it comes to your website and your reputation, make sure you are working with honest people who will consider your relationship a partnership. Work with people who genuinely want you to be successful. If anything strikes you suspicious, walk away.

If you have a problem with negative reviews showing up for search queries related to your company, then you might benefit from a legitimate reputation management campaign. But avoid working with a company like the one described here. Work Media has been in business for years and has many satisfied clients. We would welcome the opportunity to talk with you about cleaning up your online reputation!