How to handle online reputation damage in California

Any publicity keeps a company’s brand in the public eye, but negative online comments are difficult to dismiss. SEO and legal experts say California business owners should understand when it is time to call an attorney about filing an Internet defamation lawsuit and when to roll with the “trolls.”

A legal response is usually the answer when clear-cut copyright violations, Internet defamation, cybersquatting or threats occur. What do you do when free-speech protected public comments are hurtful, but ride the fence of illegality?

Methods of dousing reputation-damaging fires vary. The first option is the easiest: let the comment go. Inaction is a legitimate response for worried business owners who see reputation negativity show up on the first Google search page.

With effort and time, SEO advisers say companies can develop strategies to minimize the online damage by forcing comments out of the public’s eye. Negative reviews don’t disappear from search results, but they do drop in rank to a results page where visitors rarely go.

Positive brand exposure increases for companies that take an early lead by owning multiple domain suffixes and websites. Businesses add reputation-pumping volume by signing up with major social media networks. Damaging comments can be overwhelmed by saturating the Internet with affirmatives and updates.

Some companies are guilty of editing negative posts from their own websites or tipping the comment scales with paid reviews. The practices are criticized for painting a false face on businesses.

There’s no delete button that can be used on a review site like Yelp. Reputation managers recommend thanking people who post good reviews and forgetting the ones who don’t.

One successful backdoor strategy some companies use is buying up domain names that place your business in a poor light. If your company owns the domain, you control it.

An intellectual property attorney can help companies weigh reputation damage and lead legal actions to stop it.

Source: computerworld.in, “How to Clean up Your Business’s Online Reputation,” Christopher Null, Jan. 28, 2013

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