SEO and Online Reputation Management – The Ethics

Yesterday, the Telegraph reported a story about the Russian region of Chelyabinsk, which has recently announced it will pay the equivalent of £8000 for SEO services to essentially eradicate negative results from the prominent positions in Google, thus ensuring that users searching for information about the region find “positive or neutral evaluations of the ecological situation.”

The negative “˜press’ relates to nuclear waste and pollution problems in the region.

This type of activity is known as online reputation management.

Is Using SEO to Hide Negative Results Ethical?

The Internet has made it possible for anyone to say absolutely anything about any other individual or business and to potentially have what they want to say heard or read by a huge global audience. While this has been phenomenal for writers, musicians, journalists, bloggers and many others, it does have its downsides for businesses.

Forums, blogs and review websites will often be an open platform for people to publish negative information about a company. Sometimes, the negative comments and feedback are justified – other times they’re vindictive and untrue. And what’s perhaps more frustrating is that comments are often anonymous or made from usernames rather than real people, meaning that the business has no means of contacting the individual to deal with any problems.

Consumers will commonly Google company names before making a purchase and such posts and comments can appear in the search results – thus potentially damaging the reputation of a company and putting people off buying products or services from them.

As such, SEO can be an effective tool for a business to build a positive brand online.

As for whether or not online reputation management is ethical, well (in my opinion at least) it comes down to how it’s done. Falsifying reviews and creating false positive posts is, in my view, unethical. However, using search engine optimisation techniques to make truthful, honest and genuine press reports of profiles of your company prominent in search isn’t only an acceptable reputation management technique, but is actually a sensible marketing technique as well.

People will always have their own opinions on this matter. But my view is that managing your online reputation isn’t actually about “˜hiding’ anything. It’s about ensuring your content on the web is visible to users already searching for you – whether it’s your website, your social media profiles or news coverage about you. And that is simply good marketing.


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