Ugh!

It’s tough to deal with negative criticism, isn’t it? Regardless of how old you are or how “seasoned” you become it just plain hurts to see someone talk bad about you, especially from those that you feel “got it all wrong” – which is most of the time, right?

Drat!

I’ve been asked this question a few times before and I think it makes sense to include it as one of the last posts in the business blog series as it can relate directly to your efforts and motivation for starting (and seriously working on and building) a successful corporate blog.

Frank asked me most recently because he has two friends who are authors who are struggling with some negative press in search results and I decided that it was a good enough reminder to spend a few moments talking about how to push down those negative search returns that appear on Google and the other search engines without having to pay some “SEO Guru” or some other SEO Agency thousands of dollars that you don’t have!

And unfortunately here’s the hard truth: There is probably some negative criticism about you out there on other blogs, other websites, or even forums that you’re not going to want your potential customers to spend time reading.

Whether the criticisms or negative press is warranted is not the focus in this post but the point is that you’re going to want to push it as far down as you possibly can since there’s really no way for you to get it removed (and it’s really not worth the effort).

Although there is no strategy that will work 100% perfectly I have used some of the following strategies that have worked with great success with previous clients.

1. Social Media Profiles

The first strategy is to create as many social networking profiles that you can fully populate and use. The last part is the most important as creating social networking profiles just to create profiles isn’t nearly as important as creating ones that will actually be used.

For example, creating social networking profiles on Digg.com without actually using the service may show up for a little while but will quickly fade as a positive resource and search return. But signing up and registering for a Twitter account and then using it daily will be infinitely better.

Here are some sites that I almost always register with that consistently provide high search returns which push down negative ones:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google Profile – An incredible way to create a personal branding page too, which would be very strategic! Read the Personal Branding series for even more goodness.
  • Quora – This one apparently has incredible SEO. But you have to contribute well!
  • LinkedIn – I personally am not a fan of LinkedIn but it does work.
  • YouTube – This can be tough but creating video content will push nearly everything down a bit. You have to do this well, wisely, and consistently.

Those are five that I typically suggest and that aren’t too hard to maintain. You can increase this list as you (or your client) has need and time available.

2. Start a Blog, Write Often

This is a big “duh” but you have to have a blog and then write in it consistently. Work through my WordPress Launch Kit, my Blogging SEO series, as well as my Killer Content series for starters. Write daily and blog well.

This is one of your most valuable allies to pushing down negative search results and you can even be strategic by using keyword research tools or even using Google Adwords:

For example, you can find the keywords related to the negative links and pages and then blog against those keywords in your blog posts, your tweets, and more.

Gradually you will be able to beat them but it will take effort and a lot of time. Make sure to link to your blog posts via your other properties using those keywords as well.

3. Never Reference or Link to Them

This is one of the biggest mistakes that most people make that can really stop their efforts in cleaning up their search engine results – never link to the offensive or negative blog posts or websites.

By doing so you give them valuable link juice that is another signal to Google and the other search engines to continue to keep those pages noted as relevant. Don’t do this as you’ll be literally shooting yourself in the foot.

What you can do is talk about the criticisms or answer them wisely via blog posts or on your proper website. This will help keyword generation that were previously noted as negative turn positive over time.

4. Engage and Reward the Positive Results

As you see positive results either in forums, blogs, or tweets you should quickly and directly engage, thanking them for those results. Go one step further and blog about the positive feedback or use it in your other collateral.

Create links to these positive results that are generated outside your organization and reward those givers of praise candidly and profusely. In essence you need to capture those positive blips and make them even more known. Thank them and give them great feedback. Don’t let it pass you by!

5. Create Media Coverage Page

One strategy that has worked is to create a consistently updated “Media Coverage” or Press Page that showcases the new and exciting positive references to your business or brand. This can easily be done and easily maintained.

Heck, you can even solicit and ask for Testimonials as well if you feel so bold – this can work wonders as well as it begins to associate other positive people, brands, and companies with yours that might not have as much negative feedback that you’re experiencing.

6. Create a Direct Feedback Loop

Sometimes what people most need is a way to directly contact you and your organization with negative feedback and the only problem is that they can’t find it on your website!

It’s really a tragedy that many businesses do not have this direct and explicit feedback loop advertised on their website – instead, the customer turns to the internet (or their blog) to rant about the company when a direct email or Feedback Form on your website and blog would have done the trick.

Think of how clever (and easy) this is! There are tons of great systems and solutions out there like GetSatisfaction and UserVoice (there are tons of others) that provide really neat feedback loops for your customers:

7. Clean Up Your Old Pages (or Change Them)

It’s incredible how many old and archived pages are the source material for negative feedback and all you have to do is either clean them up (remove them entirely) or edit the actual slug or direct link to “cut” the power of the direct link for search engines.

This is especially valuable since these negative criticisms are almost never updated or kept up with and almost no one is editing old comments or blog posts for the “correct” link.

For example, if “LameBlogger” is talking trash about you linking to a page on your website at this address – http://companyname.com/services.html – then you can quickly change your .html page to a new link name and essential sever the connection entirely. You could easily just call it this: http://companyname.com/our-services.html and the offending post from “LameBlogger” will have a broken link.

Awesome! Go one step further and edit the content with new updated services using different copy and you essentially have an entirely unique page.

8. Ask Google for Removal

I say this near the end because it almost never works unless something significant has occurred that could warrant legal action. You can actually request the removal of images or entire pages on other people’s sites by going here to Google’s Removal System and the Legal Removal System.

Try it and see but don’t expect much. I’ve never personally gotten it to work but I’ve never had serious offenses to fix for myself or my clients.

9. Don’t Ask Them for Removal

I say this very simply and plainly: Don’t waste your time trying to get some crazy-customer-that-had-a-bad-experience to remove their comment. They probably already forgot about it so you’re opening the wound fresh and you then give them (perhaps) an upper-hand. Don’t waste your time and don’t remind them of the experience.

Move on and you’ll do much better and the internet will forget them eventually.

10. Don’t Give Up

Remember: Hard work, consistency, time, and a bit of luck are your greatest weapons of choice when it comes to combating negative search results. Do it well, do it wisely, and you’ll find you’ll be winning the war on negative criticism.

Of course, there’s nothing stopping more people from talking bad about you so make sure you’re always creating incredible value for your customers! That’s a no-brainer but it’s worth mentioning anyway.

Good luck!

[This is part of the Building a Killer Business and Corporate Blog Series.]