If you discover a popular negative article about you or your business, naturally you will want to limit the number of people who see it. There are three key approaches to this: remove it, update it, or displace it. In this article we’ll take a look at how and when you can use each of these strategies.
Getting an article taken down from the Internet often seems like the ideal way to deal with negative press; however it is important to remember this can backfire if you try to do it in an inappropriate situation. For articles that present false or misleading information or divulges private and confidential details about your business, employees or clients, your legal team can send a request instructing the publisher to remove defamatory or libelous articles.
Never try to take down an article that is simply a bad review or an opinion piece that paints a negative picture without saying anything untrue or misleading. Even if you feel the coverage is not fair, trying to shut down information often has the result of amplifying it, a phenomenon referred to as the Streisand Effect. One of the most common ways organizations make this mistake is by using the automated copyright takedown systems (also known as DMCA takedowns) on sites like YouTube to force content offline. It is very easy to abuse these systems when no copyright infringement has taken place, but getting caught doing this can have a major impact on your reputation – it just isn’t worth it. Make sure you fully understand the definition of ‘Fair Use’ before submitting a copyright takedown request.
As a general rule publishers don’t like being asked to take their content down and may fight your takedown request, or simply have a permanently negative view of your business as a result. If you want to try to maintain a professional relationship with a website or network in the future, or just need an article to go away quickly, demanding a removal may not get the most helpful response.
Instead, you could request an update or edit to the article to set the record straight, correct any misleading information and eliminate instances of unfair bias. Publications are usually more open to this suggestion as they get to keep their content online, and in some cases it’s an excuse to update an old article that could actually be beneficial to their SEO.
This strategy is only relevant to a small percentage of negative articles and should not be attempted unless you are confident that the publisher is going to treat the request professionally, otherwise it could lead to further negativity by stirring the hornets nest.
Displacing an article from your search results means producing high-quality positive content that targets the same search terms as the negativity, with the end-goal being to push the negative content beyond page 1 of your search results (as more than 70% of search traffic does not travel beyond the first page of results).
This tactic has distinct advantages.
You don’t need any co-operation from the offending publisher. As you are simply out-competing the offending article in a fair marketplace, it will be much harder for your attackers to frame this as silencing criticism. Since there is no attempt to remove or change a criticism, there is also no need to be able to prove the original content was inaccurate or misleading. Depending on the nature of the claims, doing this can be time-consuming and may not even be possible without disclosing private or confidential information.
Another option you may be able to use if you are protected by EU law is your ‘right to be forgotten’. In essence, this right empowers you to request the removal of irrelevant or outdated information from search engine results. This law is primarily focused on protecting the personal information of individuals, and as such cannot be applied to business decisions which should be a matter of public record. The content will still exist on its own website, but cannot be found via Google or other search engines. This can lead to a lengthy legal battle however, and it is still a matter of debate to what extent this right can be applied internationally.
Fighting negative online articles can be time-consuming and stressful. That’s where ReputationDefender comes in – reputation management professionals to protect you from malicious coverage. Get in touch by calling +44 800 131 0700, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how we can help, or follow us on Twitter for daily tips on managing your online reputation.