For businesses all across the globe, the internet is seen as a great equalizer. It’s a sales and marketing channel where size doesn’t matter, and where just about anyone can compete for the attention of a nearly limitless audience. Unfortunately, it’s also a place where negative information can take on a life of its own – without regard to the veracity or the agenda of the source.
On the internet, there is no filter. That means there’s nothing a business can do to stop an individual with a grudge or a competitor from posting negative and damaging information online in a deliberate attempt to harm them. That doesn’t mean they’re helpless, though. In fact, businesses under siege by negative information online can use a variant of the same techniques they use to promote themselves as a means of fighting back. It’s called reverse SEO, and it’s something every business owner and brand manager should be aware of.
What is Reverse SEO?
By now, most modern business owners and brand managers should have a basic understanding of search engine optimization (SEO) as it pertains to their own marketing efforts. In short, they are tactics used to raise the ranking of web pages so they will appear as close to first as possible on search engine results pages. Standard SEO tactics won’t help, though, when negative or inaccurate information about a business dominates those search results. In those instances, businesses require methods that help to de-emphasize said information as a way of keeping users from seeing it.
For instance, imagine you’re a brand manager for a car equity loan business. In such a niche industry, it’s easy enough to create brand awareness with a target audience. The problem, however, is that such loans are often unfairly associated with risky financial products like payday loans in commentary all over the internet, and that can damage your company’s image in the eyes of the public. To minimize that risk, you might endeavor to create pages that debunk the supposed link between the two products and target their keywords at the same ones that the offending pages have targeted. Alternately, you can work to increase the ranking of existing positive pages created by others. That’s a prime example of reverse SEO – essentially, methods designed to harm the rankings of undesirable pages and boost more desirable ones.
The Ethics of Reverse SEO
While reverse SEO is a valuable tool in any business’s marketing arsenal, it is also one that should with great care. That’s because it is all too easy to cross the line between suppressing incorrect information online and stifling speech you don’t agree with. As a matter of ethics, the former is acceptable, while the latter is not. Unfortunately, it’s also common for businesses to use reverse SEO tactics as a substitute for solid customer service and good business methods.
When making the decision to engage in reverse SEO tactics, it’s a good idea to make sure you’ve tried every other means of resolving the underlying issues first, such as:
- Contacting the source of the negative information to address their grievance
- Reporting inaccurate information to search engines
- Creating specific rebuttals on your own web properties to address the situation
- Pursuing legal remedies (i.e. slander and libel cases)
Once all other options are exhausted, you might consider reverse SEO. It’s also important to be aware that reverse SEO tactics are labor intensive, as it is necessary to promote several pages at the same time to drive down any one specific result.
The Bottom Line
No business wants to be in a position to have to defend itself from negative or inaccurate information online, but it’s a reality that often cannot be avoided. This is especially true in an environment that tends to reward bad actors and leaves aggrieved businesses with few options to right online wrongs. That’s why it’s important for business owners and brand managers to be acquainted with reverse SEO techniques and when it’s appropriate to use them – and to not be afraid to do so when it’s justified and necessary.