As I discussed in a previous post, people must change their behavior in order to truly change their reputation - if your bad behavior got you into trouble in the first place.
But there are also instances where someone might require online reputation management when they've done nothing inherently "wrong". These people and businesses might just be victims to Google's negativity bias.
In 2014 a study conducted by two Canadian researchers proved the existence of "negativity bias" - psychologists' term for our collective hunger to hear, and remember bad news. This subconscious bias affects Google search results in a profound way. If negative articles or websites are being widely read, clicked, and shared, those are the articles Google's algorithm identifies as front page worthy.
Based on the "negativity bias," negative articles and website are the ones that are going to be shared, clicked, and commented on the most - which are all crucial factors in an article's ranking in search results.
Below I've described four scenarios where people may need online reputation management when they've nothing wrong, and their search results are simply being guided by Google's negativity bias:
1) Mistaken Identity
It's unlikely you've met someone with the same exact name as you in person, but they're out there. And just a quick Google search away.
What if you shared a name with someone who has a criminal background, and a Google search for your name returned mugshot photos and links about crimes and arrests? This could be detrimental to finding employment, starting your own business, and countless other opportunities. People who have never met you might not know that you are not the same people.
There are dozens of ways someone might have already ruined your 'good name' for you. Unless you begin building your own online reputation, your name might be subject to someone else's bad behavior forever.
Sometimes a bad online reputation can be life-threatening. Take for instance, the case of Suey Park, an activist who was attacked by an online mob for starting the hashtag '#CancelColbert,' after Stephen Colbert made what she felt was an offensive joke about Asians.
The harassment didn't end on the internet. After someone doxxed Park on Reddit, she began receiving death threats at her home. I'm sure Park never imagined a hashtag could put her personal safety at risk, and if she could go back and change it she would.
Time machines don't exist yet, but the next best thing would be enlisting the help of an online reputation management firm to begin the process of improving the search results that are putting her in danger.
3) Glass Houses
Everyone has done something at least once that we they are not proud of, are sorry for, and have no intention of ever doing again. (We're only human, you know.) If you were lucky, there was no one there to catch it on video and upload it to the internet. However, if fortune was not in your favor, the video went viral and was picked up by local and national media outlets.
Going back to the "negativity bias," these stories and links will be clicked on and shared thousands of times, and remain glued to the front page of your Google search results. Would you want a mistake you made in your 20's before your brain was fully developed to define you forever? Thanks to the power of social media, someone's 15 minutes of infamy can last a lifetime without a little help.
With dating sites for just about every niche you can think of, and the growing usage of apps like Tinder and Bumble, more relationships than ever are beginning online. This also means more relationships are ending online as well.
Sites like LiarsCheatersRUs and Cheater Report, where anyone can write whatever they want, completely unmonitored, about someone they may or may not have been in a relationship with, are gaining popularity and influence.
If someone doesn't have a strong online presence, these websites can rank very high in search results for their name. This can be catastrophic for people whose business is their name like doctors and lawyers. I think we can all agree that someone's love life, factual or fictional, shouldn't have an impact on their livelihood.
I hope to have cleared up some misconceptions about our industry and shed some light on real life situations. We often see cases like the above, involving factors out of a person's control, where online reputation management is the only solution to getting positive reputations back.