How would you like it is there was a massive billboard in your city which allowed anyone with a grudge against you to anonymously post defamatory messages and get away with it 100% of the time?
Believe it or not, such a billboard already exists in the form of sites such as pissedconsumer.com, ripoffreport.com, scambook.com, complaintsboard.com, and any online message board. Anyone, be it your competitor, a disgruntled employee, or customer with unrealistic expectations can write whatever they want on these sites. Because the aforementioned sites are powerful, these defamatory comments have a good chance of ranking for your name when you search for it.
Let’s assume the worst and that sites such as pissedconsumer.com and ripoffreport.com are ranking for your name. Although your first instinct may be to send a cease and detest order, the website itself, is protected by the Communications Decency Act of 1996. Trying to sue the poster is possible. However, suing the author for libel may be a very long and expensive battle ending up nowhere, though one which should be considered if you have the resources. If you can prove that published libel caused you significant harm you can go ahead and sue the person. Assuming changing your personal or business name is not possible, what else can you do?
- Put out as much material online as possible, which features your name. The more of it you have, the less chance that sites such as pissedconsumer.com will show up for your name. This material can be in the form of articles, blogs, websites, social media profiles, and videos that have your name in the title. Unfortunately, getting defamation completely off the first page of the search results may take as long as a year. It all depends on how much of it there is. However, the effects of online libel can be mitigated in the short term.
- If you have someone that is out to get you and you know that you are clearly in the right, make a blog, Youtube video, or website that explains the situation. And even if the negative comments are somewhat true, do your best to explain what you did wrong and how you are changing the way you do business. Creating a web property that ranks in the top three of the search results is easy to do. Your job would be to address the online comments in a way that puts you in a favorable light.
Google’s algorithm is constantly changing and the good news for professionals and businesses is that sites such as pissedconsumer.com may be harmed by future Google updates. However, your reputation, which is most likely your most significant asset, should not be left to chance. Take a proactive approach to marketing yourself online now, whether or not defamation is popping up for your name in the search engines.