How Ripoff Report is a Nightmare for Business Public Relations
The Ripoff Report has become quite problematic for many businesses that operate online as its power over the years has driven away customers when a negative post appears on the site. The negative impact that the Ripoff Report offers is considerable and depending on the size of the online business the effects may very well be devastating. This is particularly true for startups that need to establish a positive reputation early in their life, only to see it devastated because of a negative review or post on the Ripoff Report.
What is the Ripoff Report?
Founded in 1998 by Ed Magedson, the Ripoff Report has grown exponentially over the years and has become one of the most prominent sites for consumers to complain about businesses on the internet. The Ripoff Report allows any individual to complain about any firm, business or other individual while enjoying complete anonymity. In addition, the official policy of the Ripoff Report is to not remove any post for any reason, even if requested to do so by the original author.
Ripoff Reports has built their reputation by using statistics and bold statements of their effectiveness in terms of listing reviews, posts and articles. Plus, the website is considered to be in the top 2,500 in the world with over 1 million visitors per month. Compare that to the Better Business Bureau which has around 400,000.
In addition, Ripoff Reports claims immunity from lawsuits thanks to the federal law called the Communication Decency Act. Basically, this means that any content posted in their website by a third party does not reflect on the position of the website owner. This is a common sense law that makes chat rooms and other, similar types of websites possible.
How Ripoff Report Works
All that is needed to file a complaint to Ripoff Report is some basic information such as an email, name or physical address that is used for verification. Once the report is filed, the author is now available to be contacted by a lawyer, advocacy group or even a government agency depending on the nature of their complaint. It is also possible that advocates for consumers and even the media will be there for support, however many authors will choose to remain anonymous.
Even the people behind Ripoff Report admit that the information on their website can be very damaging to businesses, organizations and individuals whether it is true or not. However, the most disturbing aspect is that there is no verification process to determine whether the information posted on the site is true or not. This means that Ripoff Report is not in a position to care one way or the other if the information posted on their site is accurate.
Google and the Ripoff Report
It does appear given Google’s analytics used for their search engine results that Ripoff Reports does hold a position of authority which means that posts are given a higher level of importance than if they were posted on standard blog sites. It is fairly common for a post to be made on Ripoff Report that will settle to the top search rankings on Google within a week or two.
Recent studies have shown that 8 out of every 10 consumers who see negative information about a particular product, individual or company will not make a purchase based on that information. In fact, 4 out of 5 consumers will actually reverse their purchase decisions based on seeing negative information. So, for startup businesses in particular, having a negative post or report about their company or product whether true or false can be devastating. Plus, the longer the negative information sits at the top of Google’s search engine rankings, the worse the effect will be.
This is because a whopping 85% of consumers will go online to find out information about a company, organization, individual or product first before making the decision to buy. So, it is little wonder that the Ripoff Report holds such sway over many potential customers given its elevated status on Google’s search engine rankings. It is possible that one negative post on the Ripoff Report could cost a business up to 80% of new sales and in attracting new clients.
What is worse is that even if a court finds the information to be false and defamatory, Ripoff Report will not remove the original post. So, even when it is shown to be false, the information stays in place and is often the first thing that potential customers see when checking out a product or a company. About the only recourse on Ripoff Report is to file a rebuttal which will appear next to the offending post. However, a rebuttal may actually make the situation worse by keeping the original report high on the search engine rankings for an even longer period of time.
Can Anything Be Done about Negative Posts on the Ripoff Report?
Because the information that is present is never removed, then the actions that a person or business can take are rather limited. For example, while a court ruling that the information posted was false and malicious has no effect on removing the post from the Ripoff Report, the post can be removed from the Google index and those of other search engines which would then make it far more difficult to find.
However, getting a court ruling does take time and it will cost several hundred dollars in fees. Plus, there is no guarantee that the court will see the information in the same light as the individual or business owner which means that all that time and money might be wasted.
There are online reputation companies that offer some help in terms of lowering the rankings of the negative information, but overall that approach is also quite limited. In the end, it will come down to just how much damage is being created by the negative post and what is it worth to the online business owner or the individual to have it removed.
How to Remove Ripoff Report from Your Google Search Results
Being posted on the Ripoff Report can be quite detrimental to the online efforts of businesses both large and small. A consumer complaint site, practically anyone can post to the Ripoff Report about any person or business with very little in the way of verification. Yet the results can be quite devastating as the post remains there even after both sides resolve the original complaint.
While rebuttals can be added to the original post, it will often not have any real effect in lessening the impact of the negative report. In fact, it can sometimes make the situation worse by keeping the original post timely and easier to find for search engines which only hurt your online reputation to an even stronger degree.
How People Address Negative Posts on Ripoff Report
There are a number of ways that online businesses and ordinary people can address the negative impact of posts on the Ripoff Report.
Sue Ripoff Report: Because Ripoff Report is protected by the Communications Decency Act, there have been very few successful suits launched against them. While Ripoff Report is not completely immune from liability, it is an expensive process that may cost tens of thousands of dollars to achieve.
Sue the Author: This is generally considered ineffective as well for two reasons. It will not remove the post from Ripoff Report and the author may have very little in the way of money which will not attract many lawyers to take your case.
Hiring an ORM Firm: An Online Reputation Management (ORM) firm is essentially a public relation variant that addresses the search engine optimization (SEO) consequences of negative posts. Their actions usually include creating a number of positive posts, articles and even websites to bury the negative post. While in some cases this can push down a negative report from the first page of search results, it has a more difficult time with posts on Ripoff Reports.
It may seem that the options are quite limited, but there is a proven way around this issue that will help eliminate the presence of negative posts on the Ripoff Report.
Have Google Delist the Report from Their Index
This is a very simple option that is little known, but works quite well in getting rid of a negative report from Ripoff Report. By having Google de-list it, it basically disappears from view for most people. The process involves three steps;
File a Defamation Lawsuit against the Author: If the post falls under the category of defamation, disparagement or falsehood, then you have enough grounds to prove your case under the law. However, you will need to be honest with yourself that the negative post is not based in truth or strong facts, but instead on simply smearing your good name. Here, you will need legal advice to see if you have strong enough grounds for a suit.
Get the Court to Declare the Report False and Defamatory: This means that you will have to win your case against the author. But the end result will need to be one that refers specifically to the report itself as defamatory and false.
Send the Order by the Court to Google: Once Google sees the report they will have the offending report, post or website removed from their listing. While it will still appear on the Ripoff Report, it will not be searchable through Google which means that most people will never see it.
The Cost of Litigation
Regardless of the outcome, it will usually cost several hundred dollars in terms of filing, processing and litigation fees. With no guarantee that the outcome will be in your favor, this means that the money will be spent regardless. This is why consultation with a lawyer is crucial as those who are experienced in this type of law will have a good idea of how winnable the case will be.
Of course, you will have to be faced with the possibility of losing the case even if it seems solid which means that the results cannot be used to help you clear the offending report from the Google index. Plus, even if you get the negative report removed there are other search engines such as Bing and Yahoo. So, you will have to submit the court results to those search engines as well to compel them to delist it from their indexes.
Should You Pursue Delisting a Negative Report from Google?
The bottom line will be how much you are willing to spend to have a report delisted from Google’s index. Remember, no matter the result you will not get your money back from the court or the lawyer who assisted you in the process. Depending on the impact of the negative post and the overall size of your business, pursuing this particular method may or may not be worth the effort.
You will need to judge the impact that the negative post is having on your online efforts. It will need to be significant enough to justify spending around $10,000 – $15,000 for you to pursue this particular method. If it is not, then you might be able to ignore it or try to cover the negativity with plenty of positive posts, reviews and websites.
However, the effects of a negative report will only grow over time and inaction may encourage the perpetrator to post more negative articles on more sites. By taking positive action through the courts, you may be able to stop this negative trend in its tracts as long as it is based on false information.
For those who have been victimized by false and malicious reviews on sites dedicated to consumer complaints, there are several companies available that can help delete the material or at least take it away from being seen all through proven legal and ethical approaches. There is a proven, performance-based model that ensures the best results which is transparent and accountable to boot. For those who have been victimized by false and negative reports such as those on the Ripoff Report, there is hope.