Most people focus upon the impression that’s made about them when their name is searched-for through search engines. The impression that’s made has a much bigger impact than a mere emotional abstraction — it can directly impact a business or individual’s income. It’s often hard to quantify these effects, but if a change happens to your online reputation — positive or negative — you can sometimes see exactly what the impact is.
We don’t often publicize this, but Argent Media provides Online Reputation Management (“ORM”) services — particularly online reputation repair or clean-up — for a number of individuals and companies. We’re often asked how fast we can “cleanse” the search results of negative content.
The truth is, this depends upon each situation. If someone posted something nasty about you recently, and if there’s relatively few people searching for your name or brandname, and if there’s not a lot of links or clicks to the bad page, it could be fairly easy and quick to push it down and out-of-site and out-of-mind.
But, if there’s a substantial amount of bad content that is relevant for your name, and if it’s pretty well-established, with significant numbers of links pointing to it… it can require more time, more content, and more effort to improve the situation.
One of our reputation repair clients recently shared some of their internal metrics with us, demonstrating precisely how effective this type of work can be. Here’s some of the actual metrics.
A little background, first. The company in question is a subsidiary of one of the largest companies in the world. This division has been around for many years and has multiple lines of business under a handful of brandnames. They operate in an older, traditional industry, and they essentially did very little in terms of online promotion or engagement up until last January when they approached us. As with any large business with many thousands of customers, they inevitably had some dissatisfied ones, and some numbers of those posted negative reviews and critical comments about them on the internet. Some of the worst pages about them are published on RipOffReport.com, a site that’s infamous in marketing circles because of its strong ranking ability in Google, its policies favoring the writing of complaints with almost total disregard of truth or legality, its immediate negative impact due to its damaging name, and because of purportedly near-extortionary policies. While they had complaints and misinformation about themselves appearing on a great many other sites as well (Complaintsboard, PissedConsumer, etc), they literally have hundreds of pages featuring them in a very damaging way on Ripoff Report.
So, that was the situation: virtually no webpages created by them about all of their brandnames, while hundreds of pages vilified them, claiming their business was a scam. This had been going on for some years before some of their more optimistic and visionary personnel decided that the de facto policy of non-engagement was ultimately not working, and that it might be worthwhile to make the effort to turn the tide.
The theory that if you “ignore them and they’ll go away” rarely works in the Business 2.0 world!
Another unique factor made this company particularly vulnerable to online attacks. One of their main lines of buisiness is a sort of B2B service — they provide financial management and fulfillment of sales on behalf of other companies, so while they don’t handle the customers end-to-end in the sales process, their brandname IDs appear on the customers’ credit card bills eventually. When those customers don’t recall what the charges are associated with, they would search for the brandnames online, and they would then encounter the RipOffReport pages, and this would result in far larger numbers of chargebacks on the credit card accounts than would have otherwise happened.
When we began work for this company, they provided us with unique phone numbers for the brandnames so that they could track referrals to their customer care phonelines through the online assets we created versus the phone numbers mentioned in RipOff reports.
One year and eight months into this project, the total monthly calls on these phone numbers shows the results of our work:
As you can see, success didn”t happen overnight. To accomplish this, we created literally hundreds upon hundreds of webpages, social media accounts, blog posts, videos, and other online assets — all sculpted to target the search results for this company’s brandnames and service marks. As we coaxed each new piece of media up in the search results, we offset the other pieces of negative content. As each piece of negative content moved off of the first page of search results, consumers got a slightly better impression of the company. This chart doesn’t even include the numbers of people our work has intercepted and sent to their online account management websites!
As the online impression of the company improves, the content we created is intercepting consumers more than negative content — when those customers desire to cancel their accounts, they now have clear, positive or neutral contact information they can easily find and they can go directly to the company. This is directly reducing hundreds of potential chargebacks per month, giving the company opportunities to resell to these customers or upsell to them, and it’s also likely reducing chances of lawsuits.
This didn’t happen in a vacuum, either. When the company hired us, they also had already been on a course of changing and improving their customer policies, generously allowing dissatisfied customers out of their contracts, reducing wait time on their phone lines and generally working to be as accommodating as utterly possible when customers called in.
Whereas before customers had to hunt to find any information about this company online and then would only encounter about 99% negative information and misinformation, now positive information and contact information options is much more readily available.
In fact, some simply crazy things began to happen! People actually began thanking the company via the social media accounts we managed for them, and in one case even recommended to American Airlines that they try to improve their customer service phone lines to be equally as responsive!
This is sort of key. The offline strategies need to also be in sync to help with customer interactions in addition to the online reputation repair activities. Without that, we would be attempting to dig them out as fast as they’re sinking under yet more RipOffReports. As it stands, it appears that the rate of new RipOffReport filings has slowed down considerably. There are months and months now where no new reports are being created — yet another metric indicating that our work is panning out.
Now, it’s not all sun and roses — with thousands of customers you will run into people that you simply cannot satisfy, and every company can make mistakes in handling accounts, and, yes, there are even customers who are specifically working to cheat companies. So, our work can’t stop all complaints and all unhappy customers. However, by presenting the customers with very clear paths for contacting the company, communicating willingness to try to address all issues, and having fantastic customer care representatives, the tide has turned quite a bit.
Previously, curious customers could easily encounter nasty information referring to the company online, resulting in a snowball effect — reading the info could falsely persuade generally neutral customers that they’d been scammed in some way, and they’d join in or refuse the charges for real services with their credit card companies. Now the negative online atmosphere has been diluted considerably by the materials we’ve created, and there’s not the equivalent of an online lynch mob forming anymore.
If you have an online reputation issue, chances are good that the scale of your problem is not nearly as serious as the company I’m using here as an example. But, your problem could be equally as damaging to your bottom line, if not to your morale. The benefits of online reputation repair are very real, and can rapidly translate into actual money. Your identity and reputation are your most core assets, and they need to be defended and built-up wherever possible. If you’re considering getting some help in improving your situation, give us a call and we’ll assess your situation and let you know what may be done about it.