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Online Negative Reputation Case Studies – That’s Never Been Easier

reputation management 05 Online Negative Reputation Case Studies   Thats Never Been Easier

While Tom over at SEOmoz posted a must-read piece on negative reputation, its types and ways to deal with it (like SERPs monitoring, social media monitoring, etc), I decided to add my two cents here discussing a few online services that encourage spreading negative reputation over the Internet.

The websites discussed offer anyone anonymously to post a rant on other people or companies – be it a former boyfriend or a place of work. For some reason these services keep popping up quickly and that’s a complex question if that’s for good or worse. It seems so complex because:

  • these services allow you to take revenge on anyone who offended or hurt you if you have no other way to struggle (if revenge is a good or a bad thing – that’s for you to decide);
  • these services allow a dissatisfied customer/ employee to warn others of the poor service – also accounting for the new era of reputation management and customer care (but who will protect merchants and companies from the ungrounded/ false/ deceptive accusations? After all, like always, only minor (probably innocent) players will be affected – huge companies will find the way to counteract).

Disclaimer: before listing some of these services, let me disclose that I do not encourage or discourage anyone to use them. Besides, I am not linking to any of them, as, like I said, I am not sure if they should exist.

dontdatehimgirl Online Negative Reputation Case Studies   Thats Never Been Easier DontDateHimGirl.com is an online community of women offended by their boyfriends. The website (among other services) allow women to post the name and the story of the “cheater”.

It is worth to mention (and I do like the feature) that the service invites anyone to post a rebuttal – though I wasn’t able to find any and not sure how it can influence the initial rant; my guess is, it will still appear both on site and search engine results.

Anyway, to be completely honest, the site is not too good for rankings:

negative reputation Online Negative Reputation Case Studies   Thats Never Been Easier

  • it seldom appears on the first page for the [Cheater Name] search;
  • it doesn’t use the man’s name in the page title (and hence the title of the search result).

axelist Online Negative Reputation Case Studies   Thats Never Been EasierAxelist.com invites to share negative experience with any kind of possible contacts: bosses, cheaters, racists, business partners, liars, co-workers, tenants, employees, dates, debtors, politicians, teachers, stock promoters, stockbrokers, realtors, bullies, doctors, neighbors, etc.

Apart from the detailed complaint, the website provides some of offenders’ details: their age and location. The site explains its benefits the following way:

“File your complaint and watch Axelist expose and put your villain on the spot. We will post and promote your story and even go beyond the Internet to help you make your case.”

While the site could have done a better SEO job, it does have some ranking ability:

reputation management 02 Online Negative Reputation Case Studies   Thats Never Been Easier

jobvent Online Negative Reputation Case Studies   Thats Never Been EasierJobVent.com invites people to post negative (and positive) experience on their job allowing thus for affective discharge and also warning people who are going to start a new job.

They do have very interesting posting guidelines that attempt to encourage offended people to be as fair as they can. Among others, the rules state that:

  • no company deserves the lowest ratings in every category;
  • negative ratings should be adequately grounded;
  • profanity is not allowed;
  • no names or initials, just company name;
  • each company can be reviewed only once by one individual.

While I couldn’t find any first-page rankings for the [company name] – obviously due to the fact that [company name] has much higher competition than [personal name] – but the site does rank fairly well for some combinations of [company name] + [job]:

reputation management 03 Online Negative Reputation Case Studies   Thats Never Been Easier

To be perfectly fair:

  • none of the above services were designed for negative reputation management (hence poor on-site SEO btw);
  • each of the above services encourages fair ratings and true stories.

Closing: I may be sounding skeptical about the whole negative reputation thing and to tell you the truth, I am not sure myself what my attitude to it is. As a customer, I would really want to be timely warned of a bad service or product. As an active Internet user, I do realize that Internet is the place of unfair judgments, misunderstandings and manipulation; the place where people are often unfairly treated (let along if they are invited to rant), the place where online argument looks like this:

reputation management 04 Online Negative Reputation Case Studies   Thats Never Been Easier

Post images: Internet argument and RANT, this way

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  1. 14 Responses to “Online Negative Reputation Case Studies – That’s Never Been Easier”

  2. Nice post – some of those sites are scary. Good job I’m already practising my per-emptive reputation management :-p

    Thanks for the link too!

    By Tom on Jul 12, 2008

  3. Ann, I have a great one to add to your list: RateMyTeachers.com. This site is extremely dangerous for three reasons:

    1. Great SEO. The person’s name is in the beginning of the title tag, an H1 tag, an anchor text element, and the actual URL itself. Wow.

    2. Since the “victims”, if you will, are school teachers, many of them have no web presence of their own to combat this site in the SERPs. That’s how I found it in the first place… googling one of my friends and finding this site as the first result.

    3. Many of the reviews are written by – you guessed it – the students. It’s a toss-up for which standard review blurb is found more on this site… “I HATE HER”, or “SHE SUCKS!”. Very useful information indeed.

    Ah, the interwebs. So wrong for so many.

    By Mitch on Jul 12, 2008

  4. @Mitch : great addition to the post. Thank you so much…

    By Ann Smarty on Jul 13, 2008

  5. I’m the Marketing Director for an Atlanta-based property management company and while I can’t speak for the entire industry, I can speak for myself and my co-workers when I say that ApartmentRatings.com is one of the worst sites, ever. While I do applaud their expressed intention of giving prospective renters a true perspective on future communities, it’s completely made up of bitter residents (or former residents) and management companies that post fake information.

    I like to hear both positive and negative feedback, but most of these opinions are based on one situation that is usually very personal (late rent, missed service request, etc.) that probably doesn’t reflect the true integrity of the apartment community or its employees.

    Read your reviews where people are more honest, like Yelp.com. At these there you can’t leave anonymous comments. I feel like people are more likely to be honest if they can be identified.

    By David Kotowski on Jul 15, 2008

  6. It is surprising that these websites can really mean something when searching since the search terms may be a person’s name which is not popular, these profile pages can rank very high in the results.
    It can be more devastating if the name is being put in the page title.

    By Palapple on Jul 22, 2008

  7. Over the weekend I attended BarCamp Edmonton and heard an interesting idea that’s on a slight tangent to this.

    The idea was that you should polarize the crowd; get a bunch of people raving about you and a bunch of people absolutely hating you, but just get them talking about you.

    Essentially you’re creating a positive and negative reputation at the same time. I suppose that might work for some people, but if you’re not into being outrageous, it probably won’t work.

    One thing I did learn in my public relations classes while doing my journalism degree: take bad publicity by the horns. Deal with it head on. Correct the problem, take ownership of it, and turn it into a positive.

    The flip side of that is to not try to hide things. If the media gets a hold of that, you’re done. First of all, it’s more honest if you’re the first out with the story via press release. It totally defuses the media’s “what are you trying to hide” line of questions. Second, you get a chance to direct the agenda.

    “Here’s what happened, here’s what we’re trying to do to correct it and here’s what we’re doing to try to stop it from happening again.”

    Imagine how many PR fiascoes could have been avoided by this kind of proactive PR approach.

    Interesting topic!

    By Alain Saffel on Jul 23, 2008

  8. Ann Smarty discusses sites that offer anyone anonymously to post a rant on other people or companies – be it a former boyfriend or a place of work. For some reason these services keep popping up quickly and that’s a complex question if that’s for good or worse.

    By JumpingSparkle on Jul 25, 2008

  9. @David: In what way does Yelp prevent people from being anonymous?

    “Read your reviews where people are more honest, like Yelp.com. At these there you can’t leave anonymous comments. I feel like people are more likely to be honest if they can be identified.”

    It is true that a lot of Yelpers *choose* not to be anonymous. I’m just speculating, but maybe that’s because they don’t have to worry about their landlord retaliating against them for posting a true negative review.

    The way corporate REITs treat tenants, you should be ashamed. Your comment is yet another example of blaming others for your problems (“That damn website!”) instead of looking inward where the root of the problem lies.

    “…can’t leave anonymous comments” on Yelp. Please. Get your facts straight.

    By Brett on Sep 7, 2008

  10. @Brett

    Help me understand why a Yelp user is less likely to feel like their landlord would retaliate against for a negative review them compared to an Apartment Ratings user?

    It’s true that you can’t leave anonymous reviews on Yelp, so I’m not sure what you were referencing when you told me to get my facts straight.

    I will concede that someone could create a fake profile (use a different first name, not post any information, and omit a picture) and post whatever they wanted. Similar to if your name was actually Jason and you left your comment as “Brett.” I guess technically you could consider that the same thing as being anonymous (although that’s more like lying whereas being truly anonymous would be not providing any personal details, but I digress).

    I don’t blame anyone other than myself or our associates when our customer’s expectations are not met. As I stated before, I appreciate feedback even when it’s negative. What I don’t appreciate is when people post negative comments regarding a problem they had (or sometimes incorrect/inaccurate info) without providing contact information for us to follow-up. Speaking of Apartment Ratings, when our Corporate associates read the reviews it’s helpful to have the complainant’s name to help get information about a problem that might be happening at one of our offices. Being able to call the manager and say “What’s the deal with Eric’s A/C not being fixed after 2 weeks of him calling?” That gets better results than “Someone posted a review that says that they’ve called to have their A/C fixed for 2 weeks and it’s not done. Do you know who that is? What’s going on? *pause* Oh. You don’t have anything outstanding?? Well, great job being caught up on your service requests.”

    In hindsight I would feel the same way if someone were complimenting our service and didn’t provide a way for me to say thank you. Using the same example, had Eric’s A/C been repaired the same day he called and he was impressed with our response I would want to send him a card to thank him for being a resident.

    Finally, I don’t work for a “corporate REIT.” I work for a private company that manages about 40 properties in the southeast. It’s true that our owners and investors don’t build these buildings because they want to be nice… it’s because they want to make money. We only make money when our residents are happy and we try to provide a quality living experience for everyone we serve. Sometimes we make mistakes, but it wasn’t for lack of trying to do the best thing for our residents by treating them fairly and with respect. I work in an amazing industry filled with extremely qualified, professional individuals who provide homes for thousands of people. No one I know would want to live in an apartment where they were treated badly, so I’m not ashamed of doing what I do. Nor am I ashamed of the property management industry as I know we treat people well. I’m really sorry that you don’t feel the same way (I assume a bad experience that caused you to feel the way you do – if that’s true I hope it was resolved or gets better; if I’m wrong I apologize).

    Thanks for your comment as you’ve made me stop to think about some important topics. The intention of my initial post was to reiterate the fact that someone’s anonymous opinion is less credible than hearing from someone who believes in what they are saying enough to provide their name and to provide an example of the two types.

    By David Kotowski on Sep 17, 2008

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    Can anyone share any thoughts on how to move up than Ripoff ?

    By Internet Marketing Solution on Nov 12, 2008

  12. The websites discussed offer anyone anonymously to post a rant on other people or companies – be it a former boyfriend or a place of work.

    By global on Nov 22, 2008

  13. Nice post. An interesting follow up post for business owners would be, what policies they should have for employee’s posting on social networks about the business.

    By reputation management on Feb 3, 2010

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  15. Nice post. An interesting follow up post for business owners would be, what policies they should have for employee’s posting on social networks about the business.

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