The internet is a competitive landscape and occasionally, things don’t always go to plan.
Whilst you can control many things associated with your brand, business, organization, or individual reputation, poor reviews, bad press, and other damaging stories can come out of the woodwork to haunt you in the SERPs.
According to The Harris Poll, 4 out of 5 consumers search a business on Google before purchasing from them. Meanwhile, 86% of people rate local business reviews as important, and over half look for businesses with 4-star reviews or over.
Clearly, trust is a massive priority and sharp-eyed internet users will always pick up on negative press, stories, and reviews in the SERPs.
In short, when bad press strikes your brand, you need a strategy to fight it.
Reverse SEO is one tactic you can use.
What is Reverse SEO?
Reverse SEO is a strategy whereby you identify problematic web pages associated with your brand and attempt to push them down the SERPs.
This could involve a combination of pulling up positive or neutral results that appear below the bad results in the SERPs to push the bad results down, creating new content to rank for the keywords of the negative content, or even creating new sites to take the space of the bad in the SERPs.
The negative content you’re targeting will usually return for queries involving your brand/business/personal name.
Pages that might impact your brand could include:
- Bad reviews of products
- Poor experiences that people have had with your brand/someone within your brand
- Revenge tactics used for personal or competitive disputes
- False or spam content (related to the above)
- Negative press
- Any other content you don’t want to be associated with you or your business in the SERPs
Locating this content is simple when your brand, organization, or personal name is used. But otherwise, it might rank for your products, services, employees, or other aspects of your business.
It’s worth bearing in mind that if the negative content itself is very poorly optimized then it’s not likely that many people will see it – that’s why it’s best to focus on content that ranks for branded or personal mentions.
Is Reverse SEO Black-Hat/Allowed by Google?
Reverse SEO is not a black-hat SEO tactic, but negative SEO is.
There is some crossover between the two and it’s important to bear in mind that a poorly executed reverse SEO campaign can easily become black-hat and serious repercussions are possible.
Fortunately, so long as you stay within the lines with reverse SEO, you’ll be fine.
Negative Vs Reverse SEO
Negative SEO is a black-hat technique, unpermitted by Google and other search engines.
Negative SEO ranges from producing fake reviews on a competitor’s products to flooding their pages with spammy links or holding sensitive information for ransom. Brand mentions could also be ranked alongside NSFW content.
Not only is negative SEO expressly disallowed by Google, but it can also be situationally illegal.
Before You Consider Reverse SEO
Before you consider reverse SEO, you may be able to request that Google removes the harmful content from the SERPs for you.
Google’s removal policies revolve around legal issues, privacy breaches, security, and the potential for personal harm.
They keep free speech in-tact, meaning that they won’t apply to general negative press or other bad coverage that affects your brand.
Google has 6 main content removal policies:
- Remove non-consensual explicit or intimate personal images from Google
- Remove involuntary fake pornography from Google
- Remove content about me on sites with exploitative removal practices from Google
- Remove select financial, medical and national ID information from Google
- Remove “doxxing” content – content exposing contact information with an intent to harm
- Other specific legal issues
In any of these situations, Google should help you remove the content in question from the SERPs.
Google can also remove fake Google My Business reviews, providing you have a strong case.
You can also have a look through the site and find out whether they’re breaking other Google guidelines, e.g. they’re engaging in negative SEO or are publishing illegal or spam content.
Contact the Site Owner/Manager
Secondly, it’s always worth contacting the site to ask what’s going on and get them to explain their side of the story. Tread carefully and kindly request they reconsider their views or otherwise take down the content.
This is a good shout if the negative press/review results from a rare defect product, a misunderstanding, or a complaint that is no longer relevant/has been dealt with internally by your company or similar.
So long as you’re professional, courteous, and have a strong, genuine case, then there’s a good chance this will permanently solve the issue!
Reverse SEO: Research Stage
The first stage of an SEO campaign is locating the target pages and analyzing them for competitive intel.
You’ll need an SEO audit tool or competitive research tool as provided in SEO suites such as Moz, Ahrefs, UberSuggest, and Semrush.
Trust Score and Domain Authority
You’ll first need to look at the site’s trust score and authority.
Needless to say, if you’re a small business and you’ve been unlucky enough to get slapped by a bad review or negative press from a major publication then there’s likely no easy way out.
If the domain has a low trust and authority score and the content itself is thin then you’ve got a strong chance of pushing them down the SERPs.
The next step is to analyze the keywords used by the page in question.
These are the keywords you’ll have to target in your reverse SEO campaign. If you create on-site and off-site content around these keywords, you can rank for those keywords and resecure the SERPs.
You’ll also want to analyze the backlinks of your target page.
This will enable you to contact those sites and request they backlink your own properties.
Reverse SEO: Organic SEO Comes First
The best way to perform reverse SEO is by bolstering your own domain’s SEO.
This technique has longevity – if you can rank in a few places across the SERPs then you’ll leave less room for negative press and reviews.
For example, if a poor review hits one of your new products hard then you can create new pages on your site dedicated to that product. These should rank themselves, thus pushing the negative reviews out of the picture.
Of course, this technique can generate traffic of its own, which is a bonus.
Always focus on building and consolidating your own quality content around your brand name and products first.
Brand Name Optimization
Negative content typically hits the hardest when someone searches your exact brand, business, or organization name (or you as an individual).
In this case, you might realize that you haven’t actually published enough optimized content for your brand name – publish more to fill the SERPs with your own positive branded content.
Press Releases and Building Positive Reviews or Feedback
If bad press or negative reviews hit you hard in the SERPs then you can build additional positive reviews and press to reoccupy the space.
Create new press releases for your target keywords and write more guest posts for other sites. The more the better! The long-term goal is to really monopolize the SERPs with your own positive content.
Build Links to New Sites
You can also build links to other positive content that appears around or below the negative page you’re targeting in the SERPs.
Look beyond page 1 of the SERPs and discover content you can link both on-site or off-site with the aim of boosting that up the SERPs.
Reverse SEO: When One Site Isn’t Enough
If you find that guest posting and publishing more keyword-optimized content on your own site isn’t doing the trick, then you can consider creating additional websites specifically for the purpose of reverse SEO.
- Use these new sites to publish content optimized for your target pages’ keywords.
Make sure these new sites don’t seem or look like competitors to your own site, though. They should be complementary where possible.
Reverse SEO can be very effective and eliminating thin, low-trust, or authority content from the SERPs is usually straightforward.
But if you’re dealing with a lot of negative content or content published by authoritative domains then reverse SEO can be very tricky indeed!
There are SEO reputation managers out there who can assist with high-profile reverse SEO, these could be worth looking into if the negative content is particularly damaging or malicious.
Remember to always focus on bolstering your own organic SEO around problematic keywords before resorting to other more complex tactics!