Changing Google search results…It’s something that many businesses would like to do at some point whether it’s due to a negative review from a disgruntled customer or just a lack of web presence. Fortunately, there are companies that exist solely to help these business owners to boost their search engine presence. Unfortunately, not all of these online presence management companies go about this process in the most ethical way…in fact, some use downright illegal practices like issuing fake court orders!

Changing Google Search Results: How Some Companies Are Breaking the Law

A recent segment on CBS News Investigations took a closer look at how some online presence management companies are brazenly shirking the law and doing whatever it takes to get clients the results they want. While this practice gets them a nice fat paycheck and leaves customers happy with their new online search results, the fact is, that it’s a criminal offense, one that can get both the SEO management company and the client in question convicted of a felony.

Changing Google Search Results: Why Do It?

The vast majority of businesses these days depend upon a web presence. A solid web presence serves many purposes including:

  • An avenue to sell products and services
  • An opportunity to reach clients outside of a local area
  • To engage with clients,
  • To take advantage of free customer feedback
  • To maximize a free or low-cost advertising and marketing opportunity
  • To encourage brand ambassadors and advocates to promote their business so that the business is not self-advertising

Now, there are a number of avenues that businesses can take advantage of to achieve the results above…

  • They can set up a page on an online review site so customers can leave feedback and reviews
  • They can buy keywords through search engine advertising programs
  • They can maintain an active presence on social media

But doing all of these things aren’t guaranteed to get that business the type of publicity that they are hoping for. So, what happens when these things go wrong?

When a Business’s Online Presence Goes Downhill

So, what does a business do when their online presence goes downhill?

When reviews emphasize the negative qualities of a business or when vindictive customers leave fake reviews out of spite, those negative “marks” show up in search engine results. This leads many business owners to seek out online presence management companies that can set about changing Google search results.

Changing Google Search Results

It seems like a pretty appealing prospect – pay a company and they will clean up your online reputation and make your company look like a shining example. But just how much can an online presence management company do to brush up your business’s online appearance?

Reputable online presence management companies work with a business to improve their image in various ways.

For example, responding to negative comments and reviews in a professional way. This may sometimes include an apology and request for a second chance in return for a coupon, a free meal, a replacement of a product, etc.

A reputation management company may also help to boost your online presence by optimizing your website for search engine placement so that your company becomes a more recognizable name.

Additionally, a reputation management firm can request the removal of false reviews or defamatory comments about your business from review websites. This removal process isn’t always easy and sometimes the review website may request a court order before they will remove any review or comment on a business. This requires an attorney, so a reputation management company may then help a business to get in contact with a local attorney so that the issue can be pursued further.

These tactics are aimed at improving a company presence by improving a company reputation and addressing false and intentionally harmful comments through the correct channels.

When A Business Hires the Wrong Presence Management Company

The online presence management game is a competitive one. It’s an industry where companies are constantly jockeying for clients and to keep those clients once they come onboard. This level of competition can push some businesses to take part in less than ethical business practices in order to attain and retain clients. In the case of the CBS article linked above, this meant creating fake court orders that were sent to Google demanding that negative search engine results about a business are completely removed. Assuming that these documents are legitimate, Google then removes these search results and the reputation of the business in question once again looks squeaky clean.

Of course, the methods outlined above are illegal and forgery is a felony, but in most cases, a company that hires this type of online presence management company is unaware of the methods being used to improve their online reputation. All these business owners know is that the company they hired to manage their business reputation has done the job and consequently, they don’t hesitate to sing their praises.  This praise then boosts the reputation of the online reputation management company and garners them more business and the vicious cycle continues. What these people don’t know, however, is that when they hire these corrupt online presence management companies they are colluding with that company and may be subject to legal prosecution.

So, is it Legal to Petition Google to Remove Negative Search Results?

There are some instances when it is necessary to petition Google to remove negative search results pertaining to your company. In these instances, though, a reputation management company should not be handling any type of legal documentation. They can request removal of content through publicly accessible links (usually found in the “Help” section of the site), but if those requests are denied YOU must contact a defamation attorney. An attorney will help you to go through the legal process of demanding content removal and can help you to obtain a legal court order for content removal if deemed appropriate.

Keep in mind, though, that in order to get content removed with a court order you MUST have a legally justifiable reason to request removal and “because it’s mean” just isn’t going to cut it.

Is Your Business Dealing with Online Defamation?

If your business is dealing with online defamation it’s time to contact a reputable defamation attorney. If your business is located in or around the St. Pete, Florida area, attorney Matt Weidner can help. Reach out today by calling 727-954-8752.

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