How to Combat Complaints Sites in Google : Open Discussion

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Combatting complaints sites in Google results has become an ongoing issue for many companies, as consumer complaints from years ago can appear on the front page of Google results when a brand name is searched upon.

Sites like RipOffReport, Pissedconsumer.com and Complaints.com are also no slouches when it comes to SEO and public relations, which pair organized and optimized site structure with organic linking via press coverage; into a deadly combination.

Why Are Complaints Sites So Popular?

From the consumer point of view, reputation management is a slippery slope in the search engines, as complaints sites are generally a reaction to poor service and give the consumers the effective channel to be heard, and possibly even effect the business of the company that they feel ripped them off.

Why write one letter to customer service when your letter can be shared with the world and possibly even rank highly on Google, attracting comments from other consumers and sometimes leading to a resolution with the company.

This is why complaint sites are so popular. The reality is that the clean-up for the small business can also be daunting, since RipOffReport.com has so much trust in the engines now, and a review on the site is about as hard to move in the SERPs as an angry bear away from its dinner.

Reputation Management or SEO?

Of course, the best way to battle online complaints is via not making mistakes and through good reputation management, responding to complaints in a personal manner from management, and not from a boilerplate response….

But as search marketers, these complaints sites are a pest to the performance of our clients, and with a good amount of them being either shakedown artists or complaints initiated by competition; we want to annihilate them from the front page of Google results (or from above the fold).

As long as TV and offline advertising campaigns are driving Google searches for brand names, those complaint sites, if they rank, are taking money and revenue from your ad campaign. And as search marketers, I’d like to ask readers to comment on ways to battle complaint site listings or more importantly, how to secure a company’s brand image in the search results.

I’ll review some of the basic techniques of dealing with complaint sites, but the goal of this post is to initiate an open conversation on complaint sites and how to outrank them. Please feel free to contribute to the conversation in the comments following this post.

Ways to Combat Complaint Sites in Google Results :

  • Subdomains, Company Blogs and Media Channels : One of the more popular ways to battle complaints pages is by setting up blogs run by your company on either a subdomain or a whole new URL. Chances are your company is sitting on plenty of unused domains which the have been buying over the years. Launch a CompanyBlog.com, a Testimonials.CompanyName.com site and some other high content subdomains or company resource sites to assist with the fight against complaint sites.

    Home Depot is a great example, as with a foundation site, workshop site and separate careers page they have outranked HomeDepotSucks.com … a site which used to rank #1 for “home depot” about 8 years ago.

  • Take advantage of .TV : Does your company produce videos for YouTube and other video uploading sites? Why not launch your company’s own version of Youtube at YourCompany.TV?

    The mix of video and transcript will surely lead to relevant rankings and incoming links and comment participation by your employees and possibly your own customers.

  • Blog and Press Coverage : One method to gather search results for your brand is to have bloggers write about your brand, company and newsworthy events that your company runs. When approaching bloggers about covering your company, ask them to include your company name in their title, URL structure (if they have optimized their blog URLs) and perhaps link to your site and other online coverage of your company (like your Wikipedia page or social profiles).

    Some paid reviews services are an excellent way to get these blog reviews running, and be sure to tell them to embed videos from your site’s YouTube Channel, this will increase the video views and syndication, which increases the overall authority of your channel.

  • Branded Online Social Profiles : Yes, this may sound very basic, but securing social profiles on the top social networking and social news sharing sites will not only assist with brand controlled search rankings, but also defend your brand against social profile squatters who register brand names.

    Be sure to befriend others with your profiles and use them to upload and share relevant news and stories not only from your company, but about the industry you serve.This will keep your profiles fresh and relevant.

  • Set Up a Social Press Room : Does your company have an In The Press section of your site or a Press Room? If so, be sure to add an area which links out to the large social profiles, blog coverage, your .TV site and blogs, forum threads, Wikipedia pages and other Internet areas which cover your brand or are controlled by your brand. This will give them instant legitimacy.
  • Hosted & Cobranded Subdomains : One step up from the blog reviews and blog coverage is actually reaching out to authority sites within your industry or vertical and having them set up a subdomain area of their site which is more of a cobranded brochure on your company.

    Example : company.searchenginejournal.com. PissedConsumer.com takes full advantage of the use of subdomains in their URL structure and targeted complaints areas, which they promote themselves. See if your company can get the jump by using a similar approach.

  • Video & Youtube : One strategy that businesses can utilize is the optimization of social video to leverage blended searches love for video content. By creating a well optimized video, complete with a well structured title, relevant contextual transcript, and links from company controlled websites, a small business can give themselves a “quick fix” tool to help reposition negative sentiment in the SERPs.

How do you combat complaint sites in Google and other search engines?

Feel free to share your ideas in the comments below and I’ll add them to the list 🙂

[Thanks to Dave Snyder for helping with this post]

Loren Baker
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
Loren Baker
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