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Posts tagged ‘negative search results’

25
Sep

ReputationAdvocate.com Discusses Online Sites that Offer Ability to Post Negative Content

In the past several years, online review sites have become increasingly widespread and easily available, allowing consumers to query information about individuals, services and products. Seldom is the origin of the content questioned. At ReputationAdvocate.com we see firsthand that the lack of transparency by a reviewer/commentator – coupled with no attempt to independently validate claims – has created challenges that few imagined could happen.  When reviews are offered anonymously and statements, claims and criticism fill a review, it should raise questions of credibility – however many times it does not.

The team at ReputationAdvocate.com spends a lot of time listening to potential clients as they vent their frustration. ReputationAdvocate.com observes daily the inability to confront an accuser, attempt to rectify a misunderstanding or discuss an online opinion posted. The nature of these online sites is to allow free speech with anonymity. ReputationAdvocate.com empathizes yet delivers a straightforward message; the Internet does not play fair.

The challenge with many online review sites is that generally the posted comments, ratings and reviews face no review or approval process. The team at ReputationAdvocate.com knows that all too often these reviews are posted maliciously, with no recourse available when false and misleading statements are posted. As those of us at ReputationAdvocate.com have frequently pointed out, individuals seeking information online may not stop to consider the truthfulness of content found or the identity of the one providing the content. When people take online information at face value they set aside a natural filter that is used when engaging other forms of media observes reputationadvocate.com.

When taking calls at ReputationAdvocate.com, we often hear prospective clients make the assumption that a negative review is coming from an unhappy customer. In fact, these reviews could be coming from a related third party seeking an advantage by damaging the online reputation of the person or business named. As another post from ReputationAdvocate.com pointed out, “Jason M.” from Wisconsin could actually be an employee at one of that company’s competitors. The team at ReputationAdvocate.com has often noted that reviews can and do come from disgruntled former employees and dissatisfied current employers. “Consider the source” is difficult to apply in a world where anyone can pretend to be someone else at any time. There’s no way to prove Jason M. is in fact Jason M. at all.

So what can companies and individuals do when they find defamatory information on the Web? At ReputationAdvocate.com, the first question asked may be whether or not a customer or potential customers will see it. The prominence of negative reviews in basic web search determines how much it can impact a business’s bottom line. ReputationAdvocate.com regularly informs clients that many web searches rarely go past the first page or two of search results. If a rating site or opinion site has low authority with the search engines, such negative content may have little impact on the bottom line. Conversely, most rating sites that have high page rank can be very detrimental to a business. Many businesses are able to directly tie declining revenue to false online content. Thus, ReputationAdvocate.com discusses the economic evaluation process when a potential client is considering retaining the company to assist with derogatory content. ReputationAdvocate.com believes that any project considered to be tied to a return is clearly an investment.

2.3 billion searches are initiated on Google every single day. In many cases, the first source customers are using to find out information about your business is an online search. ReputationAdvocate.com will discuss this with you and is able to help evaluate whether or not such online queries are hurting your business.

If customers are presented with a hefty dose of criticism when they search for you or your business, ReputationAdvocate.com can help. With veteran specialists on hand to evaluate the specific origin, structure and authority of any given complaint, ReputationAdvocate.com recommends appropriate action to correct online presence and visibility and restore your ability to attract new business. The goal of our work at ReputationAdvocate.com is to deliver cost effective results that can be traced back to restored profitability.

ReputationAdvocate.com provides a free evaluation to all potential customers. During this evaluation, the experts at ReputationAdvocate.com will research your online presence and determine what ReputationAdvocate.com can do to help you re-establish your reputation online.  You are under no obligation by having this evaluation conducted. However, should you need the services of an online reputation company, ReputationAdvocate.com can customize an online clean-up plan to help you.

While it is said that people are innocent until proven guilty, Steven Wyer experienced first hand that the Internet has interrupted such long held notions of justice. As managing director of Reputation Advocate, an online reputation management company, Steven Wyer now helps others who have been slandered online as he was. Adding the title of published author to his string of professional accomplishments, Steven Wyer has written Violated Online. In the book he offers more than 50 specific tips on how the reader can better prepare for an unexpected online attack. For more information about how Reputation Advocate can help you repair your online reputation, call 888-229-0746 or go online to http://reputationadvocate.com 

24
Jul

“Hacktivists” | A New Term but the Same Old Game

Given the damage that anonymous hacktivists and minority shareholders have done to the values of small cap stocks while standing on the Constitution’s First Amendment, companies are becoming more proactive in their online reputation defense strategies. While many small public companies are unaware of what can happen in a twenty-four hour period on the Internet, Reputation Advocate hears new horror stories every week.

Take, for instance, the following scenario. An adverse decision upsets a shareholder. Historically, that shareholder (let’s call him Bob) would attend the annual shareholder meeting and voice concerns while evaluating management’s recommendations. No longer. Investor Relations professionals are only as successful as the shareholders are willing to communicate. A question arises – what happens when Bob grows impatient and is not satisfied with a company’s response? The answer for many is found on the Internet.

It is currently estimated that there are more than 300,000,000 blogs created and maintained on the Internet. Wikipedia says that, “Blogs are usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material.” Further, Wikipedia offers that, “Most blogs are interactive, allowing visitors to leave comments and even message each other via widgets on the blogs and it is this interactivity that distinguishes them from other static websites.” Interactive messages, regular entries of commentary (remember the First Amendment?) and anonymity; it sounds like a potentially explosive combination!

In another scenario, Bob is holding a small number of Founder shares of a company. He purchased his shares initially through a PPM, the company went public and since then Bob looks at the stock value weekly. He is impatient, has talked to the IR firm and a couple of senior management people and he sees no decisive movement.

Several times, and without even thinking about it, Bob decides to let the world know about his discontent. In the good old days people would work to get a stockholder list and call or mail them a letter. Investor Relations could counteract and try and get in front of them, so to speak.  The First Amendment to the Constitution provides solid footing for all those desiring free speech. Governing laws, however, look much different for the Internet than for other forms of communication. Bob can broadcast any derogatory message Loud and Proud! Short of specific personal information such as a social security or tax ID, specific banking information, child pornography or a threat against the government, anonymous bloggers, forums, complaint sites and various customer-rating sites can be used against a company, its officers, directors and employees.

Bob suggests on a complaint site that the current CEO would serve the company better if he focused on the shareholders’ interests more, and golf a little less. Next, a blog is found bringing into question the compensation of management and the justification for such pay given the poor performance currently experienced by the shareholders. Finally, someone posts a picture from the annual company Christmas party; not naughty, but not nice. You can see where all of this leads. A relatively small shareholder base – fear and mild panic when Investor Relations doesn’t return a call quickly – possible shorting. And finally, as everyone knows, aggressive downward pressure on a small cap stock is always of interest to regulators.

This scenario is a competitor’s dream. Interest from a regulator, doubt about the viability of the company on a blog or two and a company that is not prepared for any of this, for after all they are busy running the company! If you are an officer or director of a public company what you are reading may sound like a doomsday scenario that could never happen. Really? Let’s add the dynamic of time; say three days.

In dealing with private and public companies, Reputation Advocate has seen many things happen that the proud and the powerful didn’t see coming and that hit with such force that the viability of the business faltered. These are often attacks that can actually be tracked back to ROI. Real cash flow constriction, real share value, real debt to income ratios impacted and real legal action. This is not a fantasy marketing pitch; it is real business in today’s climate of change.

An old saying asserts that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and so it is. All companies must keep a keen eye on digital threats. Proactive action and planning can provide a baseline of online reputation management that enables companies to defend themselves. I had a client recently refer to online reputation management services as the equivalent of digital liability insurance. There is a critical difference in this perspective, however. When damages are demonstrated, insurance provides payments that address the damage. Absent a company accepting the need and costs of online reputation defense, when damage occurs there is no compensation to offset damages. Only the damages remain.

While it is said that people are innocent until proven guilty, Steven Wyer experienced first hand that the Internet has interrupted such long held notions of justice. As managing director of Reputation Advocate, an online reputation management company, Steven Wyer now helps others who have been slandered online as he was. Adding the title of published author to his string of professional accomplishments, Steven Wyer has written Violated Online. In the book he offers more than 50 specific tips on how the reader can better prepare for an unexpected online attack. For more information about how Reputation Advocate can help you repair your online reputation, call 888-229-0746 or go online to http://reputationadvocate.com 

29
Dec

2010 in Review: Twitter, Facebook, Wiki-leaks, Online Reputation Management and Jillian Michaels

In an effort to summarize the past year as it comes to a close, here is the Steven C. Wyer Top Ten List for 2010. Because our company, Reputation Advocate, provides search engine reputation management and online reputation services, our perspective is a little different. We offer this brief summary in the hope that provoking you to thought will compel your awareness and action to manage your online reputation.

  • Facebook passed 500,000,000 subscribers and the movie Social Network became a box office hit. Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, beat out Nancy Pelosi, Labron James, Lady Gaga and the Chilean miners to become Time Magazine’s Person of the Year.  Foreign leaders are clamoring for a private meeting with the twenty four year old multi-billionaire. You have to admit that this is pretty impressive considering no one had heard of Facebook five years ago. Oh, and did I mention that the company’s market value is forty billion dollars? Reputation Advocate believes that social media is here to say. From an online reputation management perspective you are more exposed than ever.
  • Online privacy issues came to the forefront on several levels but none as concerning as Google.  The company was forced to admit that they gathered a bit more information than previously disclosed as they captured images of every building found in cities, towns and villages around the world. In 2010 Google was sued for privacy violations by Germany, Spain and Switzerland…but not by the United States. Our government’s perspective is that Google didn’t mean to violate our right to privacy; it was an accident. No harm–no foul. NOT! If I was cynical I might believe that Google and the current administration were doing more than business as usual.  Oh, I forgot to mention that Google and Microsoft are bidding to provide cloud computing for our federal government! We believe that 2010 has been the year when the information found about you on search engines crossed the tipping point and there is no going back. Not being “on the Internet” is no longer an option so you had better take pro-active measures to insure that you know and influence what is found. Your online reputation depends on it!
  • Net neutrality is another 2010 buzzword that most people had never heard a year ago. This benign term will impact your life and your reputation both off- and online more than almost any other federal government action initiated in 2010. The concept of everything being “fair and equal” for Internet use sounds good. However, I am not in favor of putting the FCC in charge of something that is evolving into the control of access to the Internet when it influences almost every aspect of our daily lives. The operation of the Internet is too important to be left to the FCC, whose record of consistent failure in regulation starts with its control over radio back in 1912. The rise of an alternative technology is the best way to break the further intervention by the federal government into our lives. Give me free enterprise over government propaganda any day.
  • The power of social media struck in 2010 where it was least expected. Over the last twelve months social media sites have assisted the FBI in apprehending fugitives, provided virtual weddings and funerals that can be attended globally and broadcast births and suicides. People have gotten jobs, been fired, arrested and sued because of conduct exhibited online.  We have learned that pictures and video matter, that your personal information can be hacked and that no one really takes responsibility for the violations when they occur. Law officers now study the legal implications surrounding social networking.  Legal advisors confront law enforcement from First and Fourth Amendment considerations to liability and litigation issues.  Law enforcement is creating policies to govern law enforcement officers’ off-duty use of social media tools. Social media provides all users with an identity and a social footprint that follows them across the web.  It’s moving very fast and we had better acknowledge the speed at which this train is moving.
  • Google’s estimated 1,000,000 servers house an untold amount of information – about you. They have pictures of your house, have illegally obtained the IP address of your specific computers (unless your network is secure, and most aren’t) and Uncle Sam isn’t compelled to protect us. The government did, however, announce in April that every public tweet since Twitter’s inception in March 2006 would be archived digitally at the Library of Congress. That’s a LOT of tweets! Twitter processes more than 50 million tweets every day, with the total numbering in the billions. There now, don’t you feel safer? (Note to self: What happens in social media matters to you whether you like it or not.)
  • Internet complaint and online slander sites have grown from the hundreds to thousands. There is no legal recourse available to the millions of individuals and small businesses whose online reputations are attacked every day and the federal government continues to enforce federal laws that protect Internet service providers while leaving taxpayers totally exposed to anonymous attacks that can destroy lives, businesses and futures. Hundreds of unknown “online reputation management” companies located in Eastern Europe, Pakistan, India and other countries are either attempting to provide search engine reputation management services or promote online slander sites for profit…or both! Online reputation management has moved from throwing rocks at a complaint to client focused content creation, quality back links and broader online defensive strategies. Aside from strides made by online reputation repair service providers such as Reputation Advocate, there is no positive change foreseen in 2011 so you had better batten down the hatches because the online reputation storm is getting stronger.
  • So now that I have convinced you that the Internet isn’t as safe as you had hoped, let’s talk about local and location based marketing to cellular devices. Marketers have dreamed of this for years and 2010 was the year that it turned the corner. Estimates are that total revenue for 2010 will approach $1 billion. Much of this is driven by your street address or the GPS functions on your cell phone. It is a convenient set of services that cloaks the additional ability to track people. Everyone is so enthralled with location based social networks like Foursquare (currently adding 100,000+ new users a week) that little has been written in 2010 about the shadow side of services like this. But again, because of the online reputation management services that Reputation Advocate provides, we always see things a bit differently. The thought of being notified about sales and coupons based on your GPS location or the ability to download apps that identify who you are, where you are and what you are doing may have long term ramifications that are not yet foreseen. Did I mention that our government is archiving every single public tweet?
  • 2010 saw website failures and crashes from the likes of Skype, Wikipedia, WordPress, Gmail worldwide and PayPal. The Internet is not quite as stable and solid as most of us would like to believe. It’s a complex system, like a living organism, and things do break. With an estimated 2 billion users, 5 billion photos, 75 million websites registered in the U.S. alone and 160 million blogs active daily, you have to figure something is going to break. 2010 showed us that when it does, life as we have come to expect it stops.
  • 2010 brought us another term previously unknown to most individuals. WikiLeaks brought nations of the world to their knees. The new face of war emerged, and even the Pentagon couldn’t attack it. When you stop to consider that every piece of digital communication can be retained and harvested for incriminating information against an individual, company or government you may be saying like us, “Holy crap, Batman!” Again, the immediate impact from online slander may be embarrassment, the loss of a job or a client leaving, but the long-term potential implications are sobering – if nothing else. The thing that amazes me is that as most people read this information, they are not even aware that it is taking place all around them. Anarchy by the masses has always been discussed but anarchy created by the few who have access to unfiltered information … that is a game changer for the world. The response, to have New York publishing firm Alfred A. Knopf sign Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks to a million dollar book deal…what can I say?
  • And finally, GoDaddy has a new spokesperson, fitness guru Jillian Michaels from Biggest Loser. How is that for leveraging a cross promotion! No big deal, you say?  Well, GoDaddy has almost 500,000 new website registrations monthly. That means that Jillian picks up a potential 6,000,000 new fans annually. Perhaps my most compelling argument for the positive that is brought into all of our lives through the worldwide web.

As we enter 2011, consider this: Pandora’s box is open, it will never be closed again and our options are condensed down to two. You can engage with social media and participate and influence how you are seen on the Internet – or you can pretend that nothing is happening.  If 2010 has taught us anything, it is that the Web, social media and poor public policy have left us naked and unprotected. The only question that remains is, what will you do about it?

While it is said that people are innocent until proven guilty, Steven Wyer experienced first hand that the Internet has interrupted such long held notions of justice. As managing director of Reputation Advocate, an online reputation management company, Steven Wyer now helps others who have been slandered online as he was. Adding the title of published author to his string of professional accomplishments, Steven Wyer has written Violated Online. In the book he offers more than 50 specific tips on how the reader can better prepare for an unexpected online attack. For more information about how Reputation Advocate can help you repair your online reputation, call 888-229-0746 or go online to http://reputationadvocate.com 

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27
Nov

The Alphabet Soup of Your Online Reputation, Part 3: Choosing the Right Online Reputation Management Company

What if the checklist for your day looked like this?

1.  Develop 15 websites

2.  100 unique articles need writing

3.  Place content on 250 social and profile sites

4.  5 press releases to be widely syndicated

5.  25 blogs developed

6.  2500 backlinks – minimum

7.  Eat lunch

That would be a busy day, would it not?  Well that is a typical Reputation Advocate checklist as we work to improve the Internet reputation for just one client.  Now clearly this is not just for one day – all before lunch.  Yet this would be a minimal “to-do” list for restoring or building Internet reputation using five keywords for one client. That alone separates Reputation Advocate from other organizations that promise lower cost, cookie-cutter approaches to restoring a client’s name, repairing Internet reputation and providing online reputation management services.

Yes, there would probably be some trickle down from items 1 through 5 on our checklist.  Nonetheless, Reputation Advocate typically flips into “overdrive mode” with every client when it comes to restoring Internet reputation.  (This is going to sound like an unabashed plug for Reputation Advocate.  However, I can only write of that which I know!)

Can online reputation management or repair be done with a quicker, shorter process?  Maybe.  Can Internet reputation management be done cheaper?  Definitely. Yet these answers beg something more. Reputation Advocate has seen the unfortunate results of “quicker, cheaper” methods.  Yet why would any company or small business go the less expensive, quicker route, when it comes to something as critical as their Internet reputation?  Have we not all heard the phrase, You get what you pay for?

Does that seem cynical?  Perhaps.  However, the truth of the matter is that many of our clients have come to us after paying for a generic, cookie cutter process that cost little – and delivered even less.  When it comes to online reputation management there is no cookie-cutter “one size fits all” solution.  Since the inception of Reputation Advocate, our online reputation management business model has been simple but labor intensive.  While acknowledging that the costs are not insignificant our clients see results through disciplined, measured and practical methods.  Is it more difficult and more work for Reputation Advocate?  Yes.  Do we impact lives by salvaging, restoring, and/or building Internet reputations for our clients?  Absolutely!

Take backlinks for an example.  Our clients have heard me say more than once: A backlink is not a backlink is not a backlink. They most emphatically do not want backlinks from adult entertainment, religious, political, or foreign sites.  Content that appears to be spam is of little help and it is of no interest to our client list.  In addition, when it comes to their Internet reputations, our clients are extremely concerned about the content of the websites that are found to rank high for them at the conclusion of a project.

I have spent three blog entries laying out the process of rebuilding an Internet reputation.  Do I want companies or businesses to call on Reputation Advocate for their online reputation management needs?  Of course!  Yet I write this final entry in our three-part series as a caution – a warning to choose very, very carefully the company with whom you will partner to manage your online reputation.

While it is said that people are innocent until proven guilty, Steven Wyer experienced first hand that the Internet has interrupted such long held notions of justice. As managing director of Reputation Advocate, an online reputation management company, Steven Wyer now helps others who have been slandered online as he was. Adding the title of published author to his string of professional accomplishments, Steven Wyer has written Violated Online. In the book he offers more than 50 specific tips on how the reader can better prepare for an unexpected online attack. For more information about how Reputation Advocate can help you repair your online reputation, call 888-229-0746 or go online to http://reputationadvocate.com 

2
May

VIOLATED BY COMPLAINTS | Reputation Advocate Discusses Online Reputation

Historically, when a consumer had a complaint about a product or services the dispute was presented to a creditable third party such as the Better Business Bureau or Consumer Affairs and a resolution was reached. These days, Reputation Advocate has seen Internet “complaint” web sites become the weapon of choice for frustrated customers, disgruntled employees, competitors, political activists and anyone with an ax to grind to air their complaints cheaply, globally and sometimes effectively.  Hiding under the cloak of anonymity and empowered by a worldwide audience, complainers have carried old-fashioned written complaints and tirades into cyberspace, and Reputation Advocate takes calls from their victims everyday.

Commuters arriving in San Francisco using the Bay Bridge were confronted with placard signs reading: “Had any problems at Starbucks Coffee? You’re not alone.  http://www.starbucked.com.”  The customer had taken his anti-Starbucks campaign to the world and the web using a not so subtle domain name that bore a striking resemblance to the stores name.

According to Reputation Advocate, companies face a challenging battle when attempting to take down this type of content. When the “complaint” site is engaged in commercial activity, Federal trademark infringement, dilution and trade libel laws may protect a company against disparaging use of corporate names and trademarks and confusing domain names.  However, when the purpose of the disparagement is solely customer complaints and parody, these laws provide far less protection, says Reputation Advocate.

Many companies are adopting other strategies as well.  Complaint sites that appear on third party servers, such as Google, Bing and Yahoo are generally subject to a web hosting agreement that specifically prohibits trademark infringements and offensive materials.  Upon receiving complaints of possible infringement and libel, Reputation Advocate has observed that Web hosting companies will generally remove such pages.  Recognizing the low cost of registering anti-domain names, Reputation Advocate recommends that companies register as many variations as possible for their Internet domain names in order to reduce the opportunities for disgruntled customers and employees to establish complaint sites with similar or confusing domain names.

Web sites bashing a company, its products, or its employees most often simply talk about bad customer service or a faulty product.  Reputation Advocate notes that there are so many that Yahoo! created a separate directory for “complaint” sites, posting everything from hard core consumer activism and anti-corporate back lashing to personal revenge and fictitious claims. As the Internet expands, companies need to publish and execute policies for effectively dealing with this type of slander.

Complaint Web Sites:  As Reputation Advocate has pointed out, the vast majority of complaint sites fall into the category of consumer complaint sites.  These sites typically collect stories of bad customer service or a faulty product.  The list of these sites is growing and Reputation Advocate lists a few specific examples below:

  • Chasebanksucks.com:  “The Right Relationship Means Nothing”
  • The Worst Bank in the Universe!” Reputation Advocate notes that this popular site features an animated picture of a man repeatedly relieving himself on the slogan “Chase Manhattan Bank Sucks.” It targets mortgages, credit cards and customer service. A bulletin board allows customers and ex-employees to gripe about every service Chase provides. The site also provides links to news stories about how “Chase’s ‘right relationship’ started with the Nazis during W.W.II” and how “corruption is alive and well at Chase.”
  • Starbucked.com:  The Starbucked web site tells the saga of a Starbucks customer and his fight against Starbucks’ corporate greed, all stemming from a defective espresso machine purchased.  Reputation Advocate says that the site offers consumer resources, a discussion board and a “case study” of the specific details of the customer’s complaint.
  • Untied.com: A mistype of united.com (for those looking for United Airlines) leads to untied.com, a self-defined whistleblower and complaint site created by anti-fans of United Airlines.  While Reputation Advocate says that this site was last edited in March of 2008, it is still available to the world and attempts to be a clearinghouse for passenger complaints directed at the customer service department at United.

While large corporations frequently retain firms like Reputation Advocate to provide proactive Domain Name Management, Domain Name Recovery and Online Brand Protection; small companies can be dealt a blow from which it may be impossible to recover. The real challenge comes from the fact that, in addition to specific URL targeted complaints, there are hundreds of general complaint sites. A customer, former employee or competitor can log dozens of complaints from a Blackberry or iphone while eating lunch.

For more information about this and other topics related to your personal or business online reputation management, contact Reputation Advocate at 888-229-0746 or visit them online at http://www.reputationadvocate.com.