Life Coaches: 7 Ways To Protect Your Online Reputation

One of the members of the Coach The Life Coach Google+ group left a comment this weekend that I found really disheartening, even if it wasn’t that surprising.

I’m not going to go into details because you can read it if you’re a member (and if you’re not you can join by clicking the link above).

The coach in question was coming under attack in her own private Facebook group by some women who objected to the way she ran things and the information she was disseminating.

Everybody has an opinion and everybody has the right to air that opinion…..up to a point.

When you’re the member of a closed group that is run by somebody else then you should respect the rules of that group or leave.

It’s bad enough dealing with people trying to undermine you in front of those you’re trying to help. But when there is an orchestrated campaign, as it seems was the case, then quite frankly that’s unacceptable.

One of the women involved decided to escalate matters and took the fight to her public blog and launched an attack from a distance.

The member of the Coach The Life Coach group was understandably upset that a private disagreement had been moved into the public domain and quite naturally went to defend herself.

That was probably a mistake (albeit one most people would make)  because she ran the risk of generating traffic and comments to a blog that quite frankly was getting neither.

When I Came Under Attack

Just over 3 years ago I came under attack on a relatively popular satirical blog.

I rushed to defend a person who I have a great deal of respect for and who was being ripped in the comments of a previous post.

This is the kind of blog that doesn’t like rational debate – it’s an attack blog hiding behind the mask of trying to clean up the internet.

The owner took extreme exception to me questioning his motives and wrote an entire post attacking me without any substance whatsoever.

He distorted facts, used quotes out of context and edited my comments to make me look like a total douche.

I was fortunate that a number of people jumped to my defense including two ex-clients who had found the article independently, but soon the comments escalated.

Rookie Mistake

To cut a long story short, the worst thing I did was to respond to the post in an attempt to have a rational debate.

If I’d ignored it, it would have withered and died because there was no exposé of wrong-doings, he couldn’t find one single client to come forward and support him, and even some of his normally loyal supporters were questioning the point of it all.

In retrospect I’m actually quite glad it happened because I learned a lot. But at the time it caused me a lot of concern as to the effect it may have on my business.

Looking back, it’s effect was at the most minimal. In fact I’m not convinced there was any negative effect whatsoever, other than the time I wasted and energy I expended as it was going on.

I have heard a few Life Coaches express concern about their online reputation coming under attack recently and I understand their concern.

It’s very easy for a disgruntled client, blog reader or general malcontent to want to voice grievances (real or imagined) online, from the safety of their own living room and often anonymously.

I have been called out MANY times on my blog, social media and YouTube by people who don’t know me but have taken a dislike to me or my opinions.

I really couldn’t care less.

I will continue to write as I do and if some people are just sat around waiting to be offended and want to lash out, then so be it. I cannot change them and they sure as hell aren’t going to change me or my writing style.

So lets have a look at the ways to make your reputation as bomb proof as possible.

Life Coaches: 7 Ways To Protect Your Online Reputation

1. Don’t Give Your Clients Anything To Complain About!

Obvious eh?

In almost 10 years of coaching I have NEVER had a bad review, written complaint, request for money back due to dissatisfaction, or a single negative accusation from a client.

One coach in an online community said one of her clients had told her she was making it her life’s work to ‘bring her down’.

Seriously, wtf have you done to generate that kind of response?

I’m sure it could be just bad luck, but it may also not have been.

If you…

You’re unlikely to have people wanting to ‘bring you down’.

2. Don’t Get Into Comment Wars

If somebody writes a blog or social media comment knocking you, do either one of two things.

Walk away safe in the knowledge that a tiny, tiny, tiny, and once more for effect, tiny fraction of your potential clients will ever see it.

Or if it’s posted in a forum or group where you interact with potential clients, then calmly explain your position without getting too defensive.

I have been challenged several times in a coaches group I am a member of and whereas I’m not saying I encourage it, I certainly don’t mind it.

Every time somebody tells me I’m wrong or that I don’t know my stuff (and presuming they don’t have control over comments) it gives me an opportunity to demonstrate that I do know what I’m talking about.

Unless of course I’m wrong, in which case I apologize.

Seriously I do, and have done many times over the years.

3. Don’t Delete Comments

If you come under attack on your own blog, do NOT delete the comments, unless they are abusive or threatening. (If it’s the latter check the IP address of the commentor and then report them to their ISP)

The only comments I delete on my blog are spam or those that attack other commentors or guest posters.

Be polite, thank them for their rather interesting feedback and move on.

Also (and I have done this on 3 or 4 occasions) if you realize you got some facts wrong, really genuinely thank them because you just learned something new!

In such situations I will go back into the post and edit accordingly. I will also leave a note to the effect of,

‘Commenter X pointed out that I missed a piece of crucial information here and so I am editing accordingly’.

It shows confidence when you leave contrary opinions on your blog and readers are far more likely to trust you than if you take a big bother/sister approach by deleting and banning.

4. Ban Without Apology

Whereas I don’t block IP addresses on my blog unless they are spammers, I most definitely will ban people from the G+ group who ignore the handful of rules.

What’s more, I will do it without explanation or apology.

The group is for Life Coaches to interact and help one another in a safe environment.

It clearly says that I won’t stand for people joining just so they can then push their services and/or products down coaches throats.

I have had two people whose first post was a sales pitch. They got kicked out.

On the other hand I do have people who I know are there to potentially pick up clients and I am cool with them.

Why you maybe thinking?

Because they add value!

One such person recently wrote a really long comment offering advice on another members website.

She offered massive help to another coach for free, so why should I care that she also demonstrated she knows what she’s talking about in the process?

If you’re kind enough to run a free group aimed at helping people, don’t feel guilty by kicking out those trying to undermine you or piggy-back on your hard work for their own ends without offering value in return.

5. Bury The Content

The coach who inspired this was worried about other people seeing this blog post, and I really get that after my own experience.

However, it was such a tiny blog with such low traffic levels and engagement that it’s unlikely to ever appear in an organic search.

On the other hand if you get attacked on a bigger blog and are genuinely worried about potential clients reading it, then do what you can to bury it.

As a rule of thumb your Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube and Twitter accounts are going to rank above all but the biggest of blogs unless people are searching under exact long tail keywords.

In other words, if somebody on a biggish blog wrote a post “Why Tim Brownson is a bald Limey idiot who looks like a Warthog” and you were to search under that exact phrase there would be a high chance that post would pop up.

However, other than my wife, nobody would ever type in such a bizarre search string, and even if they did I doubt it would be because they were considering hiring me.

The more active Social Media accounts you have the more likely it is that the negative content will get pushed down the SERPS (search engine raking pages).

Google+ is especially good at doing this as it gives priority to itself in searches.

Once it hits page three or lower forget about it because less than 5% of people ever go that far when searching for something.

Another way of burying content is to ask happy clients to leave you a short review on Yelp or any other such high traffic sites.

Note: Just because you can see a negative comment about you in Google, that doesn’t mean other people can. Google returns results it thinks are relevant to you, including negative stuff.

6. Make Sure Your Own Site Is Optimized For The Search Engines Properly

This is really just another element of burying the content, but doing it with your own material.

If you search for ‘Tim Brownson’ you will find my own sites high on the first page. In fact A Daring Adventure will probably be number 1.

If you want to attack me, you’re going to find it almost impossible to get that attack above my site in the SERPS.

Part of that reason is because I own the domain timbrownson.com and that redirects to A Daring Adventure.

As Google is all about relevancy it’s naturally going to think anybody typing in my name would be best served by being offered that exact domain name match.

I’m lucky to have a fairly rare name and you may not be so lucky.

If you can buy your own name as a domain do it in a heartbeat even if it’s only to redirect that traffic to any current domain you may have.

Let’s suppose I couldn’t get timbrownson.com, but I could probably get timbrownsonlifecoach.com.

I may not want to make that my main domain, but as I mentioned I can redirect the traffic wherever I want.

The second reason is my site is optimized well for search engines and I have hundreds of blog posts indexed on Google that can show in searches.

If you want more information on SEO check out SEO Made Simple For Life Coaches

7. Get Professional Help

To me this is the last resort if things are spiraling out of control and one I hope you never have to resort to.

Unless you are dealing with a serious computer nerd who really knows his or her shit, then even anonymous attacks aren’t really anonymous.

You can indeed comment on my blog using a fake e-mail and name, but unless you are very tech savvy you cannot comment without leaving the IP address of your computer/router.

That tells me where you are and who your ISP (internet service provider) is.

If you are being abusive I can then seek the help of your ISP and you may well end up on a black list of IP addresses and denied access to many sites.

There are many companies that specialize in defending your reputation online who you can hire.

I honestly don’t know how they work although my hunch is they do so by burying content, but they are always an option.

And finally there is the tried and trusted attorney approach.

It’s amazing how often people will back down when they receive a letter from an attorney.

Note: The laws on libel don’t apply when something is satirical or humorous so don’t be tempted to take the legal route in such circumstances.

What’s Your Take?

Do you have any other ideas in dealing with negative online comments or reviews?

I’d be interested to hear as well as if you have ever had negative experience onling.

Let me know in the comments.

Image: ‘Warthog’ Courtesy of Thomas ZUMBIEHL

Comments

  1. Eva

    Hello Tim,

    As your other posts, this is also a very valuable one. I do not have a real blog yet, so I do not know what comments I would need to use this handbook for. But once I did have an employee, who wrote a blog, and half the time she wrote about me. I found out by chance. It was a very upsetting experience, even if after sometime I fired her, because she was putting my and my company’s name at risk. And she was writing the blog from the office.
    At that time I needed to get professional help – one a lawyer, and second a coach, to help me work through the shock of not recognizing her borderline personality. This is a bit off-topic in this sense I know, but I would advise anyone who has problems dealing with a person who writes about them in a bad way, and that it may get to them, perhaps even undermine their confidence, it is ok to get help. When you are in a leadership position, either as a boss, or as a coach, when you are helping people get from one place to the other, you will have people judging you, and perhaps even attacking you, as you said. So if it gets to you, get help and talk it through with someone, who can help you clarify that the style, and probably some of the content is not about you, but the person itself.
    I agree with all other points. Thank you!