How Poor Online Reputation Management Ruined Business
Recover Reputation Looks at Several Real-World Examples of Damaged Brands in Finance, Law and Other Professions
See Related Article: Each Negative Link or Review Loses Thirty Customers or $30,000
Online reputations can be ruined, unfortunately, in a variety of ways. The reasons are varied: a competitor writes anonymous negative posts that show up on the first page of Google; an ex-employee upset over being fired takes revenge online; a client has a bad day and vents on Twitter; or, a legitimate mistake is made–we’re human after all, so they happen–and someone shares about it on their blog. The results often have a huge impact on business.
Here are some real-world examples of what can go wrong.
Trade Deal in South America Stopped Before It Started
A young entrepreneur with a finance background had ambitious plans to start a huge project requiring capital for energy related infrastructure and construction investments. The proposal is great: he figured out a way to generate jobs, improve the environment and reduce energy costs. He lined up partners, developed a solid plan and started moving forward.
One problem: Googling his name resulted in five (out of ten) negative articles showing up on the first page. Through no fault of his own, the posts linked him to a family’s legal issue that happened five years earlier.
His $100 million dollar idea is just that—an idea. No one will answer a call from him to schedule a presentation, or if they do the first meeting is canceled before he has a chance to explain.
Non Profit Ruined by Untrue Article
During 9/11, a group helped first responders and others, offering immediate aid as well assistance months afterwards. They had a long history in the community for helping, and were clearly a non-profit with an established altruistic mission.
Ten years later, a national new reporter wrote about 9/11 groups who embezzled or misappropriated funds and this organization was implicated. There was no court appearance, no charges, and no investigation—except that of online public opinion.
The first fifty or so articles were removed or pushed way back in search results, so their income and outreach projects were only marginally impacted. However, a second article by the same author a year later was devastating. This time it was picked up by a well known and influential online blog site with millions of daily readers.
The organization had to shut down; the leader’s life was ruined; the family lost their home.
A lawyer hired to resolve the issue through legal orders or threats probably made things worse. The author felt the need to substantiate the charges to his editor and legal department, and dug in for a fight, refusing to back down. However, even if the charity group won in court, the negative posts would still remain on the web.
As a result, the wife of the organization’s leader now feeling the impact, as is the non-profit that she runs.
Real Estate Developer Hurt by Ex-Employee Turned Competitor
Everything was going well in a real estate business to the point that the owner created a remodeling company to help renovate homes he purchased to rent. Because of the new sales, he hired in addition to his work crew and other staff, a manager and bookkeeper. These two, seeing the profits being made, decided to form their own competing company and started to draw away clients. When the owner found out about their side business, they had a falling out, and were fired. This resulted in the ex-employees posting damaging and untrue lies on sites such as RipoffReports.com and others. These quickly showed up on the first page of Google and business quickly dried up.
About a year later, the once thriving business closed.
Executive Job Seeker Finds Nothing
An out of work technology and marketing executive was actively looking for a new position inNew York. He frequently networked, sent resumes, and was active on social media. Finally, he landed a phone interview—or so he thought: it was canceled a day later.
Probably because an old disgruntled client created a web page using his name as the domain and filled it with negative comments, including an old invoice claimed to have been unpaid for over five years.
This cycle continued: he would land an interview and before he had time to explain the details, it would be canceled. After searching for several years, the executive finally landed a new job.
Sole Practitioner Damaged by Disgruntled Client
A lawyer, who has been helping individuals refinance their homes, had a thriving practice for several years in the New York area. He generated many new clients because of an excellent search engine optimization strategy, and successfully dealt with many issues with a wide variety of people.
One client became unhappy, however, over a trivial matter and decided to create a blog dedicated to ruining the reputation of her lawyer. This included using his name in the blog title and domain along with “ripoff.” This quickly moved above the lawyer’s own site on search pages, and immediately impacted his business.
Law Firm Hit By Negative Local Search Campaigns
A small law firm in the New York metropolitan region was extremely successful, and got many leads through word of mouth as well as through internet searches. They developed an excellent reputation and showed up on the top of Google for their key market.
After dealing with many clients, one was unhappy—the reason was completely unknown—and she started targeting them on local search and legal sites, including CitySearch, Avvo, Yelp, and others. Fairly quickly the negative links rose to the top of the first page and even above their own website. The firm’s business was impacted shortly, and they lost both leads, as well as some existing clients who saw the damaging links.
See Related Article: “5 Online Reputation Management Tips for Lawyers“
The Bottom Line
These examples show how bad online reputation management can lead to lost income, sales, and in many cases, a ruined business. Notice that most of these problems were not their own fault and that had they had a better web presence, the issues could have been mitigated.
The good news that in all these cases, their reputation was repaired.
Steven W Giovinco