Matt Cutts of Google receives a lot of requests to remove pages from the search engine’s index. This is his standard response. In short, Google don’t remove pages from their index unless there are extremely good reasons.
What he didn’t mention this time (although he obviously does know it) is that it’s vital to maintain your own web presence to overcome any negative or defamatory treatment you might be getting online.
This means monitoring and responding to people’s grievances in a timely fashion on various networks and platforms. Twitter is just one (read the Motrin story from last year for just one example).
It also means having your own site or blog which you regularly update. There are many benefits to this – idea development, more “content” to pull people in, maybe a dash of promotion and a nice, recent “last posted” date to reassure new visitors you’re still on the case. Plus you will probably get a better search ranking from a frequently updated site.
But the benefits for reputation are what I’ll focus on here. With your own blog, you can respond instantly to any trend of opinion that might be emerging – highlighting the good stuff and rebutting the bad stuff.
It’s possible to nip something at an early stage and make your stance clear. Ideally each blog post would have its own permalink so people can use it to respond in turn and – if you deserve it – support you. Here’s the permalink to this post.
Depending on the situation you might need to take it on the chin and admit a mistake, the earlier the better. Most organisations can expect a sensitive and potentially reputation-damaging event at some point. You can’t “bury bad news” in this space, sorry!
Here’s this week’s good example – Spotify’s honest admission of a security breach. Spotify are a tech company and they seem to know about this stuff. But it’s just as applicable in other industries. And will become more so.
Building an online reputation is a slow process.
Having it destroyed is a much quicker process.
Make sure you’re prepared.
If you want another angle, I’m also reminded of a seminal blog post from Anil Dash of Six Apart – about privacy and identity control, an oldie but a goodie.