Do you know someone who has negative news article about them published online? When someone performs a search on Google or Bing, is it these articles that show up in the search results first? Unfortunately, this can happen.
Whether it was a mistake made a long time ago, or a n accusation that led to charges, once these events get to news sites, they can dominate search results. Then these negative articles can prevent people from being hired for jobs, or landing contracts for their businesses.
Can Articles Be Removed?
When working with these types of clients, I often get the question, “Can you make these articles go away? Can we get them removed from these sites?” The answer to that question is, “No.” You can’t remove old stories on other websites. That is their content and they control its publication.
There is a legal route you can take if there is libelous content involved. In that case, you should consult an attorney.
But for legitimate news stories, you cannot have those articles deleted. However, the good news is that there is a solution and it involves online marketing practices.
SEO Principles Play a Role in Reputation Management
The answer to this dilemma lies in the principles of search engine optimization (SEO). To better understand what I mean, let’s first review how Google’s search algorithm ranks websites.
Amongst the many factors considered, one involves the regular addition of new, current content. If a website is updated regularly, it will rank higher. This is one of the reasons why news websites perform so well. They update daily with new stories, or new content.
But why would a negative story from a few years ago about a certain person rank high? The first reason is that the story is most likely search optimized to that person’s name. Second, there is probably very little competition for that name on the internet. Or, in other words, no other website has optimized a page for that name. The third factor is that it was posted on a news site that updates daily, as we mentioned above.
The solution, then is to create new content that is search optimized for that person’s name. Those new articles will, over time, begin to push the older news stories down in the search results.
The Case of James Kirk
To illustrate the effectiveness of one reputation management program we conducted, we’ll use the name of fictional character, James T. Kirk from Star Trek, as an alias for a real client with whom we worked. For our example, let’s say he is the captain of a ship…that sounds familiar. Through no fault of his own, Captain Kirk was charged with a crime. This was several years ago, and the news stories that covered his arrest and trial still show up when someone searches his name.
To help Captain Kirk we developed a strategy that involved SEO and content marketing practices to get new articles to rank higher than the older, negative ones.
The first step was to create a website that used his name as the domain. We picked http://www.JamesKirk.com. The next step involved identifying four keyword variations of his name and profession that would be used to optimize web pages. Here are the keyword variations we used:
- James Kirk
- James T Kirk
- Captain James Kirk
- Captain James T Kirk
Then we began to write blog articles based on knowledge that Captain Kirk provided to us. This was information that was relevant to his profession. We posted once one blog per week and optimized each using one of the keyword variations.
We also promoted these blogs on social media, strategically choosing LinkedIn and Google+. These are two social sites that Google’s search algorithm indexes. Thus, being active on these networks helped to increase the search ranking for JamesKirk.com.
We also created a Google My Business page for Captain Kirk and linked it to the website. Google My Business provides an opportunity for reviews and posting capabilities that we took advantage of. When you do so, a box appears to the right of the search results with the reviews and post information. This is another way to show up favorably in the search results.
The total strategy we employed is a form of organic SEO. These practices take time to develop but within a few months, we began to see our new articles appear at the bottom of the first page of search results.
After six months, with a considerable number of blog and social posts, we noticed multiple entries on the first page. These were a mix of Captain Kirk’s website, blog posts, Google+ and LinkedIn posts.
By month 10, we had taken three of the top ten search results and had four the following month. At this point, we knew the program was working. At 12 months, Captain Kirk’s entries could be seen throughout the first page of search results.
Here are the results for his four keyword variations in month 12:
- James Kirk– Entries in positions 4, 6, 7 and 9
- James Kirk– Entries in positions 4, 6, 7 and 9
- Captain James Kirk – Entries in positions 4, 7, 8 and 9
- Captain James T Kirk – Entries in positions 5, 6, 7, 8 and 10.
After one year, Captain Kirk owned between 40 and 50% of the first page of the search results, depending on the keyword variation. It’s important to remember that the first page of results for any search contain the Top 10 of all search results being supplied from across the internet!
In addition, the search results page also included the all-important business box on the right side of the page that showed Kirk’s positive reviews and his most recent blog posts. The box is a great way to show an entity in a positive light.
So while the top three positions were never completely dislodged by this program, a positive impression was made on the first page that would have balanced out the negative stories. These negative articles will eventually be pushed out of the Top 10 results all together.
For Captain Kirk, the bottom line of this program was its ability to push the negative articles down. It was an enterprise that led him to his next job.
Reputation management programs can be highly effective, especially if a number of years have passed since the publishing of the negative news articles. When such a program is built on the principles of SEO and content marketing, it will take time to see results. But having the patience to see the program through will yield impressive results.
Bob Turner is a Digital Marketing Consultant with in Cincinnati, Ohio.