Rehabilitating a besmirched reputation online can cost time and money

Negative links can cause prospects to disappear and clients to ask questions

Jul 17, 2017 @ 1:34 pm

By Liz Skinner

Few prospects walk into a financial adviser's office without doing an online background check first, so firms need to have a game plan for tracking and reacting to negative internet posts about the business or its advisers.

Even someone who has been referred by a satisfied client can be turned off by a story reporting a disciplinary allegation, a sour review on WalletHub or Yelp, or even a blog from a disgruntled ex-employee, especially if the undesirable post lands on the first page of search results.

"So much of the worth of your business and the worth of your personal brand identity is tied up in your online reputation," said Sameer Somal, co-founder and chief financial officer of Blue Ocean Global Technology and advisory firm Blue Ocean Global Wealth.

(More: Digital marketing strategies take years to perfect but can yield prospects galore)

Businesses risk losing as many as 22% of their potential customers when a negative article is found by someone considering buying their product or service, and if three negative articles come up in a search query, the loss potential increases to 59%, according to research by Go Fish Digital, an online reputation management firm.

The process of cleaning up a firm's image online can takes months and thousands of dollars in

technical and public relations help, depending on the number of negative links, the source of the

posts, whether the information lands on the first page of search results and other factors.

Experts warn that just publishing new positive content will not likely fix the issue on its own, partly because Google automatically pushes negative posts (which tends to get more clicks) above the rest. To move the negative items down, some of the references about your firm need to be from objective, authoritative sources, such as well-known newspapers or magazines.

Mr. Somal's tech firm recently helped a regional registered investment advisory firm repair its damaged image after it was cited by regulators for failing to disclose an item in their required filings and several negative reviews about their work culture were posted online from ex-employees and anonymous current employees. He declined to name the firm.

The RIA's owners sought help after several key clients had mentioned that they discovered the negative links when Googling the firm. The owners believed new client opportunities had been lost due to the postings.

"The negative comments were spreading on social media, and they had no in-house capabilities to tackle it," he said.

(More: 7 ways advisers are turning off potential clients)

Blue Ocean Global Technology helped the firm turn around its tainted online presence by creating and building well-followed social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter that showed off the firm's expertise.

It also worked with the firm to publish or get mentions in about 75 different articles during the first year, including those by sources that Google considers more authoritative than those which had carried the negative comments.

Gradually, the negative links were pushed down and within about 18 months, the company saw a steady increase in regular traffic to their website and an increase in revenue, Mr. Somal said.

In cases where the posts are erroneous or proved false following publication, firms can ask the website hosting company to deindex the links by filing an abuse report, he said.

However, hosts can refuse and then it requires taking recourse with Google, typically after attaining a court order, thus adding legal costs to the overall bill.

The greatest step a firm can take to protect its reputation is to proactively build the business' name as experts in their domain. Therefore, fresh and relevant information illustrating a firm's capabilities will be tied to the firm and supersede negative links that are posted, said Bill Hartzer, a search engine and online reputation management consultant.

That typically includes having a firm Facebook page, a strong website with dynamic content, a LinkedIn profile and maybe a corporate LinkedIn profile, he said.

"If a company's done a good job of promoting their business it's more difficult to get something negative to show up when you search that firm or an adviser's name," he said.

(More: Edward Jones is winning the Google search war)

The cost of fixing a muddied reputation ranges from a couple thousand dollars a month for a few months' to up to tens of thousands of dollars a month for a year, Mr. Hartzer said.

Cleanup costs will be more in a major city because there are fewer searches of a firm or adviser done in smaller markets so it's easier to gain control over the search results, he said.

Here are a few of the circumstances that can lead to a negative link, according to these experts.

• Negative reviews of service posted by unhappy clients, or complaints filed on Ripoff Report.

• Disgruntled employees and former staff talking about issues at the firm on sites like Glassdoor.

• A person with the same name doing something criminal; their actions inadvertently get posted to an adviser's search results.

• Any public offense or violation reported by regulators or an industry group, such as being included on the list of individuals disciplined by The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards.

• Someone registers the name of the firm or an adviser with a derogatory domain name, such as [company name]sucks.com.

0
Comments

What do you think?

View comments

Recommended for you

Upcoming Event

Oct 23

Conference

Women Adviser Summit - San Francisco

The InvestmentNews Women Adviser Summit, a one-day workshop now held in four cities due to popular demand, is uniquely designed for the sophisticated female adviser who wants to take her personal and professional self to the next level.... Learn more

Featured video

Events

The importance of a diverse team

Clients, advisers, and even communities are telling firms that yes, diversity within the advisory community is important.

Latest news & opinion

LPL video about private equity looks like a swipe at Cetera

Recruiting video warns about potential consequences for advisers when a PE firm buys a broker-dealer.

Ladenburg chairman Phillip Frost steps down

The SEC charged Frost with fraud earlier this month.

Wells Fargo plans to cut staff up to 10% within next three years

Bank is struggling to cut spending amid regulatory fines and higher legal costs stemming from scandals.

Universal life insurance lawsuits underscore product risk

Sudden cost increases could cause clients to pay much higher annual premiums — or lapse their policies.

10 least affordable U.S. cities for renters

Based on average salaries and rents, here are the least affordable U.S. cities for renters, according to businessstudent.com.

X

Hi! Glad you're here and we hope you like all the great work we do here at InvestmentNews. But what we do is expensive and is funded in part by our sponsors. So won't you show our sponsors a little love by whitelisting investmentnews.com? It'll help us continue to serve you.

Yes, show me how to whitelist investmentnews.com

Ad blocker detected. Please whitelist us or give premium a try.

X

Subscribe and Save 60%

Premium Access
Print + Digital

Learn more
Subscribe to Print