- Third Coast Interactive, Inc.CEO, 2013 - present
So here is my take. I am part an industry of online advocates sprouting up to defend clients against damaging information on the Web. It seems that everyone is heading online to research products and services. We have all seen the bad reviews and complaints that turn up in a search. Heck, we may even be the ones writing them! Companies like mine, ReputationAdvocate, are now providing reputation management services. With a managed timeline expectation, we can actually highlight positive pages and move offending sites deep within search results.
This is the reality. People strive to “clean up” their search results but the truth is that you can never really make the bad stuff go away. It’s not enough to just stop doing whatever you are doing. You have to accept that whatever you have done is now part of the semi-permanent record of the global Internet. Hostile entities may go away but the comments they made in years past probably will not. There is nothing that acts as a silver bullet. Where are Tonto and the Lone Ranger when you need them?
We work by tracking what's written about you on the Web, then doing some very manual and labor intensive work, we start promoting positive pages, and creating other sites that will push damaging references off the first pages of your search results. 80% of all searches never go beyond the first page of the results. The more work we put into it the more effective the results.
Most often our clients just want negative posts to go away. They're not necessarily interested in trying to fix the problem. They just want to make sure that other people can't find it. If you want to fight to defend your good name against an unseen foe you had better have a lot of time and a big legal budget. Then there is the issue of how much business you will lose while you battle on.
Our whole industry has evolved in the past two or three years in response to the onslaught of social media like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Plaxo, LinkedIn, eHarmony and thousands of forums and blogs that give voices to any and all Internet users. We don’t even have reliable data on how big the market is. It's a fast growing service that keeps us busy as more companies become aware of the need to have some sort of game plan and protection in place. Individuals that get “hit” have to get that information off the Internet before it affects their personal, social or professional lives.
Typical small-business clients might be a securities broker targeted by a client that lost part of their retirement (like the rest of us didn’t??!) or a professional linked to decades-old litigation. It's almost impossible to get such pages totally removed, but placing enough positive references online to push them off the first page or two of Google results is where we come in. It’s hard work, it’s labor intensive and it works!
Altering search results isn't cheap. Individuals assaulted by something on the Internet will pay around $1000 and up. The typical cost for a small business client starts at $1500. More extensive services marketed to larger corporations can cost tens of thousands of dollars. We mainly service individuals and local/regional companies that cannot afford a search issue to impact their reputation. This economy is presenting enough challenges for people already. No one can afford to lose a customer, miss a job opportunity or be rejected for a scholarship.
We won’t lie for a client and we won’t work with anyone who is a criminal. I’m not moralizing. but issues that have to do with violence, criminal activities, children and homeland securities issues are way off limits for us. There may be a company on the other side of the world that will do that type of work but we don’t want anything to do with it.
We all know that bad things happen to good people. It is also easy to recognize the some people are just mean spirited. I don’t think a single indiscretion should destroy your life or follow you around for a decade. I like helping people. This new age of instant information brings all of us great benefits; we just have to make sure we can protect ourselves as everyone now looks at everything.
Steven C. Wyer is the Managing Director for Reputation Advocates, LLC an online reputation management company representing both individuals and corporate clients. Visit www.reputationadvocate.com
- The Kings College, NY