One of the most famous Google de-indexing incidents happened on August 9, 2011. For a scant eleven hours, many small business owners celebrated because notorious Internet gripe site, RipoffReport.com, appeared to be de-indexed from Google. Marketing and SEO experts huddled in chat rooms to discuss the implications: Did Google remove the site for Internet violations? Was Ripoff Report hacked? What did the de-indexing mean for the future of Internet reputation management?
When the dust settled, though, it turned out that the Ripoff Report’s de-indexing wasn’t a game-changer. The site had disappeared for a few hours because someone requested the action through the company’s Google Webmaster Tools account.
Why Some Businesses Consider RipOffReport.com A Reputation Management Nightmare
Internet gripe sites are a dime a dozen, but RipOffReport is among the most loathed — mainly because of its policies. On RipOffReport (at the time of this writing), consumers are allowed to post any and all claims – verified or not. Yet, if businesses provide evidence that claims are false or resolved, it costs $2,000 to get the “bad” information removed from the site. And even then, defamatory comment is not guaranteed to be taken down.
Yes, business owners can rebut negative reviews for free, but said rebuttals are placed on the bottom of a page and are often overshadowed by the complaint.
In some ways, RipoffReport.com is an open invitation to anonymously malign competitors. The site’s rules are so questionable that both Bing and Yahoo! have relegated it to the 3rd and 4th pages of search results. In Google, however, RipOffReport continuously shows up front and center in the SERPs (at the time of this writing).
What The RipOffReport.com Google De-Indexing Day Taught Us
The elation of Ripoff Report’s Google de-indexing didn’t last long. Within hours, it became apparent that the removal was a simple, rectifiable mistake. Someone with access to Ripoff Report’s webmaster tools account had sent in the removal request.
It’s still unclear if a hacker, disgruntled employee, or inexperienced intern was responsible, but either way, the event was a reminder about a simple online business rule every company should follow: protect your passwords! A lot of stuff can be done through webmaster tools, so be careful who you trust to access yours. If someone leaves your organization – even on good terms – it’s always a good idea to change your username and password.