The Unfortunate Adventure of Danny Venz and Efforts to Effectively Manage Online Reputation
Not long ago we wrote an article about Reputation Management and Managing Online Reviews. In the post we gave some tips on how best to put your best foot forward and insulate yourself from bad reviews. But one thing was missing…
What about this RipOffReport.com website? When it comes to business name specific SEO, there are few sites more powerful. If you’re named in the site, it likely will rank on the first page – if not #1 – on Google for a search of your name. Scary thought. If you can afford it, you might consider hiring THEIR SEO company. We’re good, but “wow”.
Recently, we came across a client who is suffering the sting of a 2009 mention on RipOffReport.com. And quite frankly, it is completely unfair what the mention is doing to his business.
Here’s the gist:
Danny Venz is a State Farm insurance agent in Dallas, Texas. Danny Venz has been a State Farm agent since 1985. State Farm is the #1 property / casualty insurance company in the US.
It stands to reason that if you have millions of customers that you’ll have a few that are less than pleased with their service.
And one of those individuals that were less than pleased decided to take their cause to RipOffReport.com and effectively libel Danny Venz. And in the internet equivalent of 3 inch headlines (H1, H2 AND H3 titles) it reads:
Danny Venz State Farm Insurance is a Ripoff! Fraud, I Say! SCAMMER!
Why it is unfair:
If you know anything about how insurance works, you already know that the insurance agent has absolutely NOTHING to do with the claims process – other than to sometimes facilitate the processing of a claim by a policy holder. Insurance claims often involve adjusters, lawyers, and computer programs that do not care about customer service.
I’d argue that blaming your agent because an insurance company executed a claim in accordance to what is written in the policy – that the policy holder reviewed AND signed – is like blaming your doctor because you got sick after taking more pills than the labeled directed.
So what is Danny Venz to do?
If you follow RipOffReport.com’s advice, your options are limited…or expensive.
You can respond publicly to the report. Not always a good idea since most of the time a reader will side with the individual making the complaint (human nature) and virtually any response will potentially just make matters worse.
Reading through their information, it is obvious that they have been impacted by reverse SEO or negative SEO efforts. They have an entire section of their site dedicated to warning people about the evils of SEO companies. Reverse SEO (or creating internet properties – websites, blogs, etc. – designed to rank for the same type of keywords that the report ranks for – in order to move the listing down in search engines) is difficult, time-consuming and ultimately frustratingly expensive. And it is a moving target.
Of course, RipOffReport.com is a business. And businesses tend to want to make money. As such, they offer a VIP Arbitration Program that starts at only $2000. They openly hide behind the First Amendment as they defend their policy of NEVER removing a report with an arbitration ruling. So basically, libel and slander are now protected by the First Amendment. Not sure that was what Jefferson had in mind.
It is a wonder that RipOffReport.com hasn’t been sued for extortion because charging people a fee in exchange for removal is similar to what got Yelp.com in trouble not too long ago. The judge tossed the case out, but it did lead to significant changes in Yelp’s business practices and put reputation management on the map.
So, again, what is Danny Venz to do?
Since the root of the issue rests in the fact that Danny Venz does not make decisions in the claims process, we recommended that he strongly encourage and solicit State Farm to respond to the report on the site.
If State Farm will not respond, then we recommend that Danny Venz carefully craft a response that sticks exclusively to the general facts – with absolutely no mention of the specific allegations or customer. The facts, of course, consist of the separation between insurance agent and claims processing. I’d also likely mention that insurance is highly regulated for the consumer’s protection and point out that insurance policies are primarily written by lawyers and then re-written by different lawyers so as to be as comprehensive as possible both for the benefit of the policy holder and the insurer.
We also recommend getting as many reviews as humanly possible to show in the business’s Google Places listing. No matter how much SEO your listing has, Google will always rank better. Many consumers will naturally click on the map listing without even reading further down the page. It won’t rectify the situation 100%, but it will help.
Finally, we recommend that Danny Venz not hide from the report. With sufficient explanation of the facts readily available on the report, any consumer who takes the time to read the report SHOULD also have the sense to read the responses.
And, push come to shove, I’d recommend at least investigating the feasibility of a Reverse SEO campaign. However – and remember who is saying this – reverse SEO can be quite a process. I’d choose very wisely when choosing a Reverse SEO company- and I’d ask for multiple references of successful campaigns in the same vertical market.
By the way, we don’t do Reverse SEO, but we do know some very reputable folks that do.
At the end of the day, the best practice may simply be to stop dealing with human beings. We can be such a finicky lot.