There is an old saying that there is no such thing as bad publicity. This axiom also holds true when it comes to bad publicity on the Internet as far as SEO is concerned. If your goal is to generate traffic, bad publicity can be almost as good as good publicity; at least in the short term.
It’s just that if you are trying to build yourself a business, you need to have your bad publicity balanced with good.
Short Term Vs. Long Term Goals
In the short term, bad publicity will give you a massive spike in traffic to your website. People tend to love scandal and seeing how a website is referred to as a “scam” tends to make people curious to see if they can spot what the scam actually was. They’ll drop by and poke around to see who you are what you’re all about.
Now the catch is that while this will give your traffic a nice spike for a while, if there isn’t some counterbalance to the negative publicity which allows you to build a better reputation, your traffic spike will be mostly short term rather than long term (in other words, you can quickly become yesterday’s news).
It’s possible that such is all you want – for example, if you are focusing on a hot new trend, like the iPad and don’t care about building long term traffic. However, if you need a longer term plan, you need good publicity as well.
That way, your negative publicity will give you a short term bump while your positive publicity will keep people coming back for new content that you add to your website.
Does Google Care If Your Publicity is Negative?
Strangely, though you might think otherwise, the answer tends to be no. Google’s system checks for popularity; in other words, how many other places link to you and for keyword density.
It doesn’t check to see if your website is considered a scam or not (though if people complain specifically about your website, then a human being may very well be tasked to check it and see what the situation actually is).
How Do I Get Good Publicity?
Few people go out looking for bad publicity. If you happen to get it, because (hopefully) your website was misunderstood or (more ominously) there was a real problem with your website, it can help you SEO wise. Again, the bad publicity will mean a short term bump in traffic (as long as your site isn’t considered to be a site which infects computers with viruses).
In order to get good publicity to counterbalance it though, you’ll need to go on the offensive. Fortunately, once you are in the news, getting your side of the story out there is easier.
Contact news outlets, especially those who have carried your website in a negative light and offer to do interviews with them where you show them why your website isn’t evil incarnate the way they claimed initially.
It pays however to be contrite if there really was a problem and to show people that you are changing your ways. If the problem really was all a big misunderstanding, then be prepared to demonstrate exactly why people came to the wrong conclusions and why those conclusions were wrong.
Something to Remember
The ideal is to only go after good publicity and to stay away from bad publicity. However, the reality is that if you are doing your job right as someone interested in SEO, then you will inevitably attract bad publicity; it’s simply part of the game.
Or, to put it another way, if no one is happy with you, you’re doing something wrong in your SEO efforts. However, if everyone is happy with your website, you’re also likely doing something wrong with your SEO efforts (i.e. simply not attracting enough traffic to get the inevitable complainers).