Online Reputation Management: An interview with Gary Novick, the commercial director of Veribo...

Ahhh the mire that is Google – we live by it, we die by we can very easily be slandered by it – stare too long like Narcissus and we can even fall in, but is there a way to bend the Google rules? Is there a way to claw back some semblance of control over inaccurate or simply unwanted results? The answer is a resounding YES thanks to a slew of ‘online reputation management services’. Cue my meeting with Gary Novick, Commercial Director of Veribo (the brainchild of entrepreneur, CEO and founder Ehud Furman, previously the European managing director of – the price comparison site bought out by EBay in 2005). Gary is one of Veribo’s legion of caped crusaders saving thousands of happy customers (accountants, doctors, bankers) from the threats dotted across the barren wasteland that is the web. So now that I’ve got him here (to a very upmarket branch of EAT in case you’re wondering), the very first question on my mind is - how on Earth do they do it?

“We don’t technically manipulate the search results because that isn’t actually allowed,” Gary says gracefully. “ Our work is focused around specific search terms and the results these search terms generate on the leading search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing and Social Media). Our main strategy includes setting up and maintaining relevant online assets that will gradually push down the negative content and replace it with client approved content that we control and manage on the client’s behalf. We will also help promote the clients new and existing businesses, and other client ventures such as sport, art and charity in order to make them significantly more visible and closely linked to the client name search.

“Google is a computer,” Gary continues in his lovely South African drawl. “It says to itself - hang on a minute this information is no longer relevant and up to date, the new content is up to date and factual, and therefore it replaces the existing and gradually suppresses the content that the client doesn’t want to be seen online in the search results.”

“Suppression’” is the key word in Gary’s vernacular – he freely admits that they can’t remove everything, but can do their darnest to make sure it’s as far down the Google search results as possible. But won’t people just scroll down as far as they like? “If it’s not going to come up in the first five results you are not going to look any further.” Gary says with assurance. “You might go to the bottom of the first page but on a very rare occasion you’ll draw through the second page. So if we can get at least the first one to five pages cleaned on the client’s behalf they are pretty much safe - that applies to ninety-five per cent of the general public.”

Online reputation management as an industry has already been hard hit by its own crisis; “There are other companies in the market who haven’t had very favourable comments and it has tarnished the industry,“ Gary says sadly - but I have to say over the last four weeks all my interactions with Veribo point to a company with exceedingly high standards, an organization dedicated to ensuring that the “customers crying down the phone” are given a new lease of web life. “There aren’t any funny hidden charges or small writing,’ Gary says. “What we say is what it is and if we can’t then we don’t and if we do we do.”

Suppressing information isn’t the only string to Veribo’s bow, they also keep a beady eye on new content; “We closely monitor the name search online, and anything written about the client in real time pings onto our system and if it is positive and in line with all goals and objectives we will promote that and if it is negative we will do our best to suppress it.”

So the service is clearly comprehensive – but what is Veribo’s biggest challenge? “It’s for people to understand what our value is; everyone out there understands the need - we just have to educate them so to speak.”

On a more serious note there are those (I know them personally) who have suffered deep psychological and financial stress at the hands of inaccurate or even falsified information that seeps its way into poll position as Google crawls the web. Gary knows them well; “That is exactly why I got into this business because I feel that everyone needs to be protected - I am a private guy myself, I don’t like my life and my family life to be for everyone in the world to see and that’s why I really believe in this product.”

And for the penultimate question; has there ever been anything that Veribo hasn’t been able to suppress? “No,” Gary says with conviction. “We can suppress anything... It just depends how much time the client is prepared to give us because it is not a short process of one to two weeks, you can be looking at three and up to eighteen months sometimes.”

And finally – what’s the most rewarding part of the job? “When a client says you’ve done a great job for me you have completely transformed my image online... I get attached to them; we try and go above and beyond - that is what you have to do.” It is indeed and from Gary Novick, caped crusader – I’d expect nothing less.

November 2012.