Consumer advocacy websites pose a big problem for business owners, no matter how big or how small your business is. Sites like The Ripoff Report assume that a business is always in the wrong and make it all but impossible to remove any wild story that anyone puts up about them. These sites then try to extort thousands of dollars from business owners to handle the offending review.
Even after businesses pay up they often get the short end of the stick. Often, the offending site will simply pose some sort of amendment to the original review. They never actually remove the review.
These websites can cost people their businesses and their livelihoods if they are not handled correctly. What are your options if your business has been targeted by a consumer advocacy website?
Option #1: Respond to the Complaint
Some of these websites offer you the ability to respond to complaints about you and your business. This may seem like a good idea at first. After all, doesn’t it show that you’re willing to open the lines of communication and correct your mistakes?
Unfortunately, this strategy often backfires. It simply feeds the website more of what it needs to continue destroying you: fresh content! Adding to the site’s content only pushes the issue higher in Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). There, the negative review will continue to do damage no matter what you say.
Option #2: Attempt a Lawsuit
A defamation lawsuit against the person who posted the review is certainly an option. But it may not be a good one.
Note that you’ll be going after the person who posted the content, not the website itself. These sites are protected by laws which state that they are not liable for the content that a third party posts on them. That means you have to do the hard work of finding the person who posted the content.
Then, you have to go through the lawsuit itself. That is an expensive, time consuming gamble. You may not win.
If you do win, the court order only accomplishes one thing. You can present it to search engines and ask them to de-index the content. This won’t get it removed from the offending site, but it might get the page dropped from the search engines.
Option #3: Manage Your SERPs
The real solution is to create a flood of positive content online. This will help you bury these damaging stories.
People rarely click beyond the first or second pages of the SERPs, so if you can get the offending report to page 20 then it will largely cease to become a factor in how your business is perceived.
Managing your SERPs requires you to create thousands of pages of positive content. If you try to do it all yourself you can quickly become overwhelmed. The hours that you’d spend working on your content on your own are hours that can take you away from running your business. And if you don’t know what you’re doing some of your efforts might just be wasted.
A company like InternetReputation.com can help. Reputation management companies can create thousands of pages of the right kind of content, content that will get indexed and pushed to the top of the SERPs quickly. That helps you push the malicious material to the bottom of the pile, right where it belongs!