We recently had an interview with Pierre Zarokian, CEO of Reputation Stars about online reputation management (ORM) services. Pierre Zarokian has been doing search engine marketing since the late 90s and his company Submit Express was of the first to offer search engine optimization services. In the mid 2000’s his company even ranked #1 for “search engine optimization” in Google. He is considered an expert in SEO and and ORM.
QUESTION: What is the biggest reputation management issue that you deal with?
PIERRE ZAROKIAN: The biggest reputation issue is negative Yelp reviews. Today, a large section of the population always checks online reviews before choosing a business or service. Many people won’t choose a business if it has a rating lower than 4 stars. This makes a measurable impact on your profits as a business owner. One study from Harvard Business School even found that every one-star increase on a Yelp review page had a 5 to 9 percent effect on revenue.
QUESTION: What are some other reputation issues your clients have?
PIERRE ZAROKIAN: Other issues include complaint websites such as RipoffReport, PissedConsumer, Scambook, and others. These sites often host negative reviews, business complaints, and scam allegations. These sites are challenging to deal with because they tend to rank highly on Google searches and many of them will refuse to remove negative content about a client. In these cases, the best options are to use SEO to push down negative search results or to get the negative content delisted from Google.
QUESTION: Do you ever deal with regular people that have reputation issues?
PIERRE ZAROKIAN: Yes, all the time. We deal with people that have arrest records and mugshots online. We also deal with people who have been accused of cheating and are posted on sites such as TheDirty.com, ReportCheater.com, ExposedCheatersOnline.com, etc. Not only are these types of content deeply embarrassing, but they can also discourage potential employers from hiring you. These issues can be dealt with through the legal system, working with Google to deindex the content, or making a deal with the site’s owner to remove the content, although this last method has a slim chance of working.
QUESTION: What are some recommendations you have to improve online reputation?
PIERRE ZAROKIAN: The key is to be proactive. The best way you can avoid negative reviews is by providing excellent service or behaving honestly. If you have a lot of satisfied customers or clients, asking them to review your business on Yelp is a good way for people to hear positive opinions about you. You can also create more positive content that will improve your brand image and rank highly in search engine results. If you have any negative reviews, you should make an effort to address them, even if it means giving unsatisfied customers a refund or discount. Lastly, if you’re getting a lot of negative reviews, it might mean you need to make changes to your business practices for your customers’ satisfaction.
QUESTION: Can I pursue legal action against a website that posts negative content about me?
PIERRE ZAROKIAN: This is not possible, mainly because of the law protecting review websites and public forums. The specific law is called the Communication Descent Act Section 230, which gives protection to any 3rd party forums, as they are not the actual posters. Instead of suing the website, you can sue the person that posted the negative content and try to get a court order for removal. However, you can only obtain a court order if the content in question is considered defamatory by the law.
QUESTION: How can someone get negative reviews removed from Yelp?
PIERRE ZAROKIAN: This is one of the questions I get asked almost daily. It is almost impossible to get a Yelp review removed, but some reviews can be removed if they are against Yelp’s terms of service, in which case you can flag them and request for Yelp to remove them for violating their guidelines. You might also get the poster to remove the review by contacting them and trying to resolve the issue. My company offers removal services and mediation services. As professionals, we often have more success in removing reviews than businesses that try to do it themselves. For further reading, you can read this article that I recently wrote.
QUESTION: Can someone use social media to improve their online reputation?
PIERRE ZAROKIAN: Profiles on some of the most popular social media services such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can rank well in the search engines. Hence, they may help to push down negative content. If someone wants to protect their reputation, they should create profiles on dozens of popular social sites and be active on them. Some of the other sites that could help are Quora, Medium, WordPress, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Linkedin.
QUESTION: Can someone get negative news articles about them removed from the Internet?
PIERRE ZAROKIAN: Most news websites would never remove an article unless it was entirely false. If you inform them of an error in their article, they may revise it. If the article violates copyrights, you may be able to get it removed. If it is a small privately owned publication, you might also be able to make a deal with the website to remove the article.
QUESTION: Are there tools to help monitor your name or brand name for any negative feedback online?
PIERRE ZAROKIAN: Yes, there are many such tools. Most tools check the review websites for business reviews and send you a notice. Just do a search on Google and you will find many. Gather Up, Shout About us, Mention, Chat Meter, and Review Trackers are some of the more popular ones. However, if you want to monitor an individual’s name, the best tool is Google Alerts, and it is free! You can also monitor company names with Google Alerts.
For more info about Pierre Zarrokian, visit his WordPress Blog.
Pierre Zarokian is the founder of Reputation Stars, an online reputation management company. He writes for the Search Engine Journal and other publications. Read more articles by him at Pierre Zarokian’s Blog.