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Cleaning up your Online Reputation: How to Rebuild After a Viral Legal Issue

— September 17, 2021

If you have negative articles or court documents about your company, product, or personal life on the first page of Google, it will take time to suppress them.

There’s nothing worse than the feeling of being publicly shamed. Whether it was a legal issue, a misunderstanding, an accident, or something you did wrong on purpose, the feeling is usually the same – embarrassment and regret. Unfortunately, with the internet, it’s not always easy to get public legal sites to remove your negative story or court details. Most times you can’t simply ignore it and hope your online reputation will improve on its own. Articles can live on the web for years and years to come; you must proactively take action.

Cleaning up your online reputation after bad publicity has gone viral is something that every person or company needs to do. It’s important to get the right information out there about what happened and how you’re taking steps to fix it. However, making sure that this message gets across can be difficult. 

Don’t Click on the Negative Links!

First and foremost, when you see your name or legal case spread out on the first page of the search engine, it will be very, very tempting to click on the links and read them over and over again. This is one of the worst things you can do.

The Reason It’s Bad for Your Online Reputation

Every time someone clicks on a negative link, Google sees this as an endorsement that these are relevant and good quality articles which means they will likely rank higher in future searches. This also applies to other websites; every time another site links back to information about you or your court case from their website, again – Google views this positively.

Can You Legally Have a Negative Article Removed?

While most of us would love to have negative articles about us removed from the Internet, it is nearly impossible. If you are considering this as a solution, it is recommended that you stop and think carefully before acting. You will need to contact the website directly in order to request removal; while some sites do allow for this type of action, other sites may not agree with your reasoning and not remove the article.

Even if you involve lawyers, the success rate is very low for article removals. It also can be costly with many law firms requiring a retainer of approximately $5,000, just to get started. Another risk involved in trying to have an article removed is that the website containing the negative article may write a new article or update the existing article stating how you were trying to get them to remove the article. With new or refreshed content, it could push the negative article closer to the top of the Google search results.

The Importance of Good Content

Yelp Can't Be Order to Take Down User-generated Content
Photo by Thomas Lefebvre on Unsplash

When you are attempting to remove negative content, it is important that your own website and other websites have good quality and relevant content. If the only articles about you on the web are negative, you must have positive articles written about you to even have the chance of outranking and suppressing the negative sites.

Good and relative content will work with Google’s algorithms, which determine where a site ranks in the search engine results pages (SERPs). When someone conducts a search on Google for your name or your company’s name, if they click on an article about you from another source instead of clicking on your site, — even if that article was posted years ago – it can still hurt the rankings of your own website.

How to Get Good Content on the Web

Articles are great because they’re easy for people to find and link back to, that is if you choose an appropriate keyword-rich anchor text. They also give journalists something new to write about which helps promote you or your business without having any negative or legal commentary attached.

You can do this by writing up a press release and then distributing it through PRWeb or just submitting articles to other websites under your own name as well as that of your company. You can also create social media profiles, which typically rank well in Google.

The more positive content surrounding who you are, what you have done, etc., the less room there is for bad publicity on the internet!

Reputation Management Companies

Creating articles and publishing content yourself can be very, very time-consuming, especially if you don’t already have a relationship established with websites and major news sources. This is why many individuals who have had viral legal issues opt to use white label reputation management companies.

While there is nothing wrong with enlisting the help of an online reputation management company, especially if your legal case or negative publicity has gone viral and start appearing on major news sites, always make sure the company is reputable.

Rebuilding After Negative Online Publicity is a Marathon, Not a Race

If you have negative articles or court documents about your company, product, or personal life on the first page of Google, it will take time to suppress them. It is a marathon, not a sprint. Even with great content on the web, it will often take 3+ months to begin to see movement. If you are just starting on your online reputation management, is important to prepare and set expectations early on with yourself.

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