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Using SEO vs. Singularity to Clear Your Google Reputation

By Craig Agranoff | Submitted on January 13th, 2011 1 Comment

After writing our book Do It Yourself Online Reputation Management, Herb Tabin and I received dozens of emails and phone calls from people claiming to be in the online reputation management business. Most of them were offering the same basic services: using spam-like SEO strategies to push bad online posts deeper into Google or other search engine results. This makes the first two or three pages of search results look good for the person.

There are some drawbacks to this approach, of course. First, if your in business online in any way, this will make it obvious to those who might search you that you’re gaming the system. Especially reporters. When they see two pages of Google search results that all say the same basic thing, they get suspicious and start delving deeper into those results, getting to page four or five where your dirt lies.

On the other hand, for the average Joe whose reputation online is mostly so he (or she) can land a better job, this SEO spamming is not likely to cause problems and may actually help. There are better (cheaper) methods, of course, but this one is the easiest for reputation fixers to employ as a one-size-fits-all repair for their clients.

Handling Bad Google Results with Singularity

The better way to handle this, however, is with a more one-on-one approach. A friend who I’ll call Bob had a problem. He owns an online storefront which features his name as part of its marketing. The trouble for Bob was that several years ago, well before he’d begun business online, he ran for public office in his little town. The political rhetoric got pretty intense, since he and his rival were vying for the same voter base amid a hotly contested regional and national election period. Needless to say, words were flung and skeletons were found and exposed.

Now, almost a decade later, those regrettable remarks and unsubstantiated skeletons were still on the first couple of pages of Google results for his name. He asked me about it and we came to the conclusion that while a few months of SEO might push that information down off the first page or two, it wouldn’t necessarily help his online reputation beyond the surface. So we decided to use what I call the Singularity approach.

We took each individual result on the first three pages of Google results for his name and went through them one-by-one. Many were just fine or weren’t that damaging (remember: the headline is what matters, not the full page when you click). We ended up with a list of eight things we wanted to get fixed.

The first four or five were relatively easy. We went to the pages where the headline and post were listed and found that they were all blogs or old websites, mostly political in nature. We sent emails to their listed owners asking that the information or article be removed, since Bob was no longer in politics. No veiled threats of lawsuits or any other repercussions for non-compliance were given. That would be counter-productive. In all cases, the information was removed within a week. About a month later, they were no longer appearing on Google.

Next, we took the remainder, which were all cached results from now-defunct websites, and worked on those. They all were towards the end of the results, so they’re easier to push off. These were removed over time with a handful of positive articles written using Bob’s name as the primary keyword. This smaller-scale SEO approach worked well and fairly quickly and didn’t fill search results with a lot of obvious spam that a reporter would consider a coverup.

This Singularity approach to Bob’s problem took about six months to accomplish, but cleared his reputation on Google.

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