The Beginner’s Guide to Reputation Management (Part 11 of 34): Ripoff Report

by JunLoayza on April 29, 2013

rip-off

Throughout this reputation management guide, we have used Ripoff Report as one of the main examples of how review sites can cause serious damage to a company or personal brand. In this lesson, we are going to explain exactly what Ripoff Report is, how people use the site, and how companies and individuals can deal with Ripoff Report should they find a defamatory report on the website.

What Is Ripoff Report

Ripoff Report is a site that allows people to publicly out companies that have malicious business practices or are taking advantage of customers. In concept, the site is extremely useful to users because it gives people a platform to tell others about a really bad experience they had with a company. Since the site ranks high in Google search results, these posts are front and center whenever someone searches for a business, unlike a personal blog or social media post, which might rank significantly lower in search results due to a low page rank. Ripoff Report provides a tool for users to avoid scams.

Unfortunately, some users abuse Ripoff Report. The problem with the site is that there is no way to check the legitimacy of a user’s claim. Did the user truly receive horrible service? Is the user posting to warn others, or does he or she have a personal vendetta against the company? Which claims made on Ripoff Report are actually true?

Who Can Post on Ripoff Report?

Anyone and everyone can post on Ripoff Report! This is both a strength and a weakness of the site. To demonstrate how easily we can do this and to provide of walkthrough of how users add content to the site, we’ve created a fake email, fake username, and fake complaint about a company (screenshots below):

Screen shot 2013-04-25 at 11.35.19 AM Screen shot 2013-04-25 at 11.36.21 AM Screen shot 2013-04-25 at 11.36.48 AM Screen shot 2013-04-25 at 11.37.08 AM Screen shot 2013-04-25 at 11.38.27 AM Screen shot 2013-04-25 at 11.39.21 AM Screen shot 2013-04-25 at 11.39.41 AM Screen shot 2013-04-25 at 11.39.47 AM Screen shot 2013-04-25 at 11.40.37 AM Screen shot 2013-04-25 at 11.40.41 AM Screen shot 2013-04-25 at 11.41.17 AM Screen shot 2013-04-25 at 11.43.38 AM Screen shot 2013-04-25 at 11.43.47 AM Screen shot 2013-04-25 at 11.44.24 AM Screen shot 2013-04-25 at 11.45.02 AM

And this is the result of the fake ripoff report that we created: here.

How to Deal With Ripoff Report

Ripoff Report has a number of well-meaning policies in place to protect its users and community. For example, it has a policy that it is immune from liability of any defamatory content due to the Communications Decency Act. This is a common policy among companies that allow user-generated content, due to the sheer amount of content these sites often generate.

It also does not allow users or companies to delete content after it’s posted, to avoid companies bullying individuals who use the site. This lends credibility to the site, especially when other review sites like Yelp have created controversy in the past by leaving fake/bogus negative reviews on a company’s page and then trying to get them to pay for a premium service where they could get the bogus reviews removed . Yelp has taken advantage of small business owners in a number of other ways, including charging 100x the going ad rate for local-based advertising.

Because Ripoff Report does not take down or delete any content, regardless of whether the company has settled the issue with the individual, we have come up with number of ways to handle both true and false Ripoff Reports for reputation management. We’re first going to talk about the less optimal ways to handle this, and then we’ll provide our recommendation.

Post a Rebuttal on Ripoff Report

When you post a rebuttal, it shows up directly on Ripoff Report, under the original report. This allows you to speak your mind and address the points in the original poster’s report.

There are a few caveats to posting a rebuttal. For starters, if you create more content (and more mentions of your company name), you could actually be improving the SEO for the report in Google. Also, you could start a “flame” war, in which the original poster is provoked to write even more terrible things about your company or brand in response to your response. This could bring additional attention to the report, particularly within the Ripoff Report community.

While a rebuttal might be tempting, there are a number of downsides and a rebuttal can easily damage your company’s credibility further.

Pay Ripoff Report and Join One of its VIP Programs

Ripoff Report has a few different ways to pay for content to be moved around and or censored.

The first is the Corporate Advocacy Program, which allows Ripoff Report to investigate the report made about you and post any findings on the same page as the ripoff report. It allows you to address whether the issue was resolved and present your newfound commitment to customer satisfaction.

The second is the VIP Arbitration Program, which allows a Ripoff Report Arbitrator investigate the claims from both sides and decide what is true and what is false. If the arbitrator finds any false claims on either end, he or she will redact those sections of the report and the rebuttal.

Bury Ripoff Report With Positive Content

A common way to deal with ripoff reports, regardless of whether they are true or false, is to bury them in Google search results with an onslaught of positive content.

We use the Octalysis framework to determine what the appropriate content should be to move ripoff report beyond the first or second page in search results. We use a combination of eight different tactics that range from quick-fix solutions to long-term defense solutions to make this happen. These include using images and video, guest blogging, press releases, social media, and search engine optimization to create positive content that ranks well in Google search results.

We also talked before about the specifics of building these assets—what, why, and how—in the lesson on online asset creation earlier in this reputation management guide. Lastly, we recommend reviewing the lesson on asset linking strategies so that you know exactly how to get your new assets to rank quickly in Google search (without getting delisted). By building a lot of assets and getting them to rank, then you’ll be able to bury the ripoff reports.

Using the Law

Back in the lesson about how to get rid of unwanted search terms in the Google AutoComplete results, we shared a number of cases in which a company used legal means to get specific keywords removed.

Unfortunately, this tactic has not yet worked as Ripoff Report defends its protections afforded by the Communications Decency Act. We do not recommend pursuing legal tactics against Ripoff Report to get content removed from their site.

Our Recommendation: Get Google to Delist the Report

We like this option in addition to many of the positive content assets a company should be creating to benefit from long-term reputation management. This option will not remove the ripoff report, but it will make it much harder to find. It’s also a more effective strategy than trying to simply bury the report because all the positive content in the world might only put the ripoff report on page 2 or 3 of Google’s search results. Delisting the report will remove it from search results completely.

Unfortunately, this method only works if the report is false. However, if it is false, here are the next three steps to getting the report delisted from Google:

1. File a lawsuit against the original author of the report.

Sue them to the full extent of the law—defamation, business disparagement, false light, and any additional claims that make sense in your case.

2. Win the case.

Obtain a court order that declares the ripoff report as defamatory.

3. Present the court order to Google.

Google is a neutral party and will not play “he said, she said” with its search results; however, Google respects and honors court orders for cases of defamation and will remove the ripoff report from its index. You can also submit the same court order to other search engines to see if they will honor it.

Caveats to Delisting in Google Search

Again, there are a few caveats to this method. If you can’t win the case, for example, this won’t work. There are many challenges to winning a case and you will need to consult a lawyer before pursing this route. There is no guarantee that you will be able to prove your case and get a court order, and you will pay litigation fees regardless of outcome.

Additionally, this action doesn’t delete the page, it only makes the page more difficult to discover on Google. Google often includes notes about pages it has omitted at the bottom of its search page. Someone could still click on this link that would then show them the missing search results.

Still, we recommend this method in addition to long-term reputation management defense to combat present ripoff reports. Google holds the most market share for search, and if you are able to get your report delisted you could save hundreds of customers from viewing the negative report online. Depending on what your company makes per customer, this could easily pay for itself by preventing just a few customers from viewing the report.

How To Create a Long-Lasting Defense Against Sites Like Ripoff Report

Ultimately, you need to build a long-lasting defense against any false negative reviews that are posted about you online. This means building a powerful personal brand, building your online assets, and becoming a thought leader in your industry.

You will of course have unhappy customers—this is inevitable in business. But it’s important to do everything possible to try to resolve the situation. If the situation cannot be resolved and the customer posts something on Ripoff Report, then you need to use ever facet of our Octalysis framerwork to build a long-lasting defense for yourself.

Thanks for reading this part of the guide and if you have any questions, you can email me at Jun [at] ReputationHacks.com.

About the author

JunLoayza Jun Loayza is the President of Reputation Hacks. In his entrepreneurial experience, Jun has sold 2 internet companies, raised over $1,000,000 in Angel funding, and lead social media technology campaigns for Sephora, Whole Foods Market, Levi's, LG, and Activision. Find Jun on Google or Twitter

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