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I was asked a question recently related to search results and it made me think about (big surprise) reputation. The question was “what if you are Brand X and have decent organic search results for your name and keywords/phrases but, directly below you are results that say ‘Brand X sucks’. What can Brand X do to get rid of the result below?”
My response: “Don’t Suck”
It was not meant to be flippant, I was being honest about the difference in today’s digital age that brands face. Awareness and credibility are now totally separate items. It used to be that you could buy enough awareness to become credible. That time is gone. It is more about being credible that will increase your awareness.
What shows up in search is your reputation. Google (or other search engines – there are others out there ya know!) could care less about whether you suck or not. Google only cares about serving up what is relevant to what people are searching for. If “sucks” is relevant to you, you have a suck problem, not a search problem.
Sometimes, one crank with a lot of Google juice is all it takes (please know the restraint I just exercised in not linking to someone on that phrase!). You may not be too bad off as one person’s rants are often just that – one person’s rants. However, if they have enough influence to affect search, they likely have some influence outside of the online space as well and that is what is more important to remember. That is where it gets tricky.
In Meatball Sundae, Seth Godin has a couple of brilliant quotes around this:

“No one visits a Web site’s home page anymore — they walk in the back door, to the page Google sent them to.” And, “New Marketing treats every interaction, product, service and side effect as a form of media”

Understanding that and acting accordingly are important to keep in mind. Which brings us back to the question of how can a brand eradicate the result below theirs that says they suck? Well, there is really only one way: Don’t suck.