Who Really Controls Your SEO?

  |  April 20, 2010   |  Comments

What approach should you take when you see user-generated comments showing up in your company's search results?

If you go to Google and type "SageRock," the result in roughly spot six is: "Akron SEO Sage Lewis of Sagerock WTF?"

This listing has been ranking for my company's name ever since this blogger put it up.

He writes, "Ohh I see...Sage Lewis is one of these dirtbag SEO's who has never achieved anything...Even his company site despite using this amazing technique is not even listed in the top 100 for any of these spammy keywords."

This was a really surreal experience for me when it happened. The blogger in question appears to look down on the SEO (define) industry, all the while intentionally using standard SEO techniques to rank on very specific phrases to attack me.

"What do you do about these kinds of things, Sage?"

I've recently been asked this more and more as we increasingly see user-generated comments get injected into the search results.

I've seen companies take many different actions:

  • Threaten legal action.
  • Inject fake comments into the discussion, pretending to be disinterested third parties.
  • Try to scoop up the domain if the angry person lets it expire.
  • Spamming the engines with new domains and made-up content to try to overtake the negative comments.

My experience has been that if you fight fire with fire you just get more fire.

Most bloggers are confident in their position online. Every lawsuit I've ever seen threatened on a blogger typically just makes them dig in more. Then, if you are a large company, you often just come off as a big meanie trying to push around the little guy.

Pretending to be a happy customer or making up user-generated content runs the risk of exposing you as a charlatan. You might end up looking worse than when you started.

Fabricating anything runs the risk of just more fuel for the angry person to use against you, if you get found out.

In my experience, you have two ways to go.

First, if the person who is attacking you is causing you significant brand damage, and you want to get it corrected, love is the only way to go. It may not work, but it's your only hope of getting them to change their mind.

I don't recommend bribing them. But I do recommend giving them as much attention as you possibly can.

  • Give them free service.
  • Give them free products.
  • Have your CEO contact them.
  • Fly them into your organization as a VIP.
  • Offer them the ability to do an interview with a high level executive in your organization.
  • Treat them like they deserve: a person who is powerful.

If Fox Business or CNBC went after your company in a negative way, you would be all over it. It would be priority number one for PR, brand, and marketing to deal with that head on. Your CEO would be on that station immediately. Bloggers, often because of Google's ordaining, are now just as important...if not more so.

"United Breaks Guitars," with 8.3 million views on YouTube, continually dominates the top search listings in Google for the phrase "United Airlines." I would give that guy the world for him to either take that video down or do another one that recaps his "amazing experience" with the customer service American Airlines wants to be known for.

Bloggers want respect. They want to be treated the way other media channels are treated. I believe that's the way it should be.

The second thing I suggest doing is filling as much of the front page of Google with your own content as possible.

These are the top 10 results for the phrase "SageRock":

  1. Our home page
  2. Our blog
  3. SageRock.org - a "giving back to the community" site that I've set up on Google Sites
  4. Some YouTube videos I've done
  5. My SageRock Twitter account
  6. The negative blog post (mentioned above)
  7. My SageRock YouTube channel
  8. This isn't me. It's a Wikipedia listing for some rodent, "Sage's Rock Rat"
  9. My SageRock videos on Revver
  10. SageRock Institute - an education site
  11. My profile on SearchEngineStrategies.com

The negative blog listing has gone down some over time. It was in position three. So six is better.

I've never dealt directly with the blogger in question on this. I don't know what the outcome of that would be. But if I really wanted to take it down, I would take that whole "love" approach.

I am not too uncomfortable with it being there because I stand by the video I made and I feel like I was given my chance to be heard on his blog in the comments.

It's also useful to me to use as an example when I talk about online reputation issues. Much of what I do on my own site is experimental, so I can report my findings in this column. No pain is too great for you, my dear readers.


Sage Lewis

Sage Lewis is the president of SageRock Digital Marketing. SageRock has been a leader in Web marketing since 1999, offering search engine optimization, paid search marketing, social media marketing, and analytics.

Sage speaks nationally with SES and other prominent Web marketing organizations. He is one of the most sought after speakers and coaches in the field of Web marketing. From coast to coast, Sage has trained, coached, and consulted with some of the largest brands and conferences in the country.

Sage is also "The Web Marketing Video Guy" with nearly 500 Web marketing videos published. Sage writes as an expert for ClickZ in the "Search Engine Marketing" section. He lives in Akron, Ohio with his wife, Rocky, and son, Indiana.

His columns can be found in the Search Engine Watch archive.

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