Chris: G'day world, Chris Hogan coming to you live from MeMedia studio here at Burleigh Heads and I have with me today our usual suspect, Andrew Groat and a guest, Brendon McAlpine from Internet Removals. How are you going Brendon?
Brendon: Good morning, thank you for having me, I'm great.
Chris: How are you going, Andrew?
Andrew: Yeah good.
Chris: Awesome, so today we've invited Brendon in because Internet Removals is a company that we believe every business out there needs help from and one of those reasons is because it's all well and good you marketers like us, driving traffic to websites and pages and improving conversions and all the rest of it but it's no good if your reputation is sub-par.
Chris: So, Brendon, do you want to tell us a little bit about Internet Removals?
Brendon: So, hard to believe, but I am an online content removalist, we help businesses remove content from the internet, quite simply. When you have a negative online footprint, the misdirection's horrendous in the sense you could spend hundreds of dollars, thousands of dollars getting directed to website, on Google, we're talking about Google's platform, but it's just bombarded with some negative content from the past or new or for whatever reason. And it's our business to help people let the right platforms know that the content is either misleading, untrue, false, defamation and getting the content down. Google Reviews is a platform that I don't think anyone want to be on sometimes, it's not initiated by the company in themselves, it's just you get an email saying, "Yeah, "let's become Google Reviews." but unfortunately it opens up a can of worms in a sense, simple as a customer not getting her dog cut correctly and they've got a platform to just put a barrage of negative reviews and you're measured on it unfortunately with Google Stars. People, their online footprint's pretty important, it has to be now more than ever. So yeah, that's what we do, remove content from the internet for corporate as well as public and public's more the bad side of the internet in the sense of image-based abuse as well as revenge porn unfortunately that's where you've lost content between yourself and a partner and they post it online, we do our best to let the people know to get it down quick.
Chris: What was that term?
Brendon: Revenge porn?
Chris: I've never heard that one.
Brendon: Oh wow it's big
Andrew: Yeah it's huge.
Brendon: Yeah it's a name now that's, I mean the government's spending millions of dollars on different commissions to recognise it and to get it prosecuted as domestic violence, which it is. As you know, domestic violence isn't just measured by fists and that sort of stuff, it's the mental abuse.
Chris: Yeah, it's cyberbullying.
Brendon: Yeah, look we've been doing it six years, so we've been at the coalface if not the leader in a sense, getting content down and recognising it but now new laws are coming out and people are starting to recognise that it is abuse and that's as simple as breaking up with someone and sending a barrage of messages threatening them, saying, "I'm going to post this stuff of you," we monitor it and then if it goes online we do everything we can as quick possible to get it down.
Yeah that's the nasty side of it unfortunately but in businesses you've just got to look at your footprint and see if there's a problem.
Chris: What have we likened having bad reviews to before?
Andrew: It's similar to if you had a physical business and you had a whole bunch of people protesting out the front you wouldn't get an awful lot of people through the door and this is basically the digital version of that, the online version of that. And what I found was interesting, what you were saying before is that a great deal of the reviews and stuff, the negative reviews are bogus.
Brendon: Yeah, a lot, most of them, I mean you can see it in the review, companies engage us to find out what the problem is and where it stemmed from as well as to remove it, put all our means possible to get the content down. And I've seen cases where, I'll give you an example of a real estate agency had a rental property with a person and that person obviously had a-- whatever happened between the person renting it from the real estate went pear shaped. Which is normal. And in Queensland property laws are pretty strict, you know, there's guidelines on how to do things but either way that person that was renting it didn't like what happened, had all the right procedures in moving them out, they weren't paying rent or whatever but decided to take their grievances online so they found out the person who owned the property had a business. Barraged it, put a massive amount of content on there, where they could, Google Reviews, saying stuff that was really relating to their business but they had no identity with them, they didn't know these people he just wanted-- he was calculated and said, "This is how I'm going to ruin it." And then he found out the daughter had a business, did the same thing and unfortunately that daughter's business relied heavily on the way she's looked in the market, it was all lies. And unfortunately what we've got to do is get that message and that story to Google through all their means and that's exactly what we do.
Chris: Which is a full time job, I'm sure.
Brendon: Yeah, it is.
Chris: So, essentially, it was really a good point that you made there about practically every business out there on the internet, even if you're not on the internet, you can have a Google My Business page which is capable of having anybody from around the world post a review on it.
Chris: And you may or may not know it.
Chris: And most people don't, in fact we had a client recently that signed up for our marketing services and the first thing we did was an audit based on all of their channels that they either knew about, owned or didn't know about, unowned.
Chris: And found that basically their reputation was quite bad. And that was actually through no fault of their own in some regards, there were some really good ones and really bad ones, so their star rating was sitting quite low under the threes, due to the fact that they've had some people out there post some negative stuff that just either wasn't true or there might have been an element of truth in it and the rest was crap.
The interesting thing about that one is they weren't even aware of the Google My Business page being set up and they weren't aware of the Facebook page being set up. Some had been set up by staff that had since left and some of it was just set up by people doing the reviews. They didn't know even know it was there
Brendon: That's very common. Setting up fake profiles to discredit a business is huge, there's that many businesses out there I've seen that have had fake profiles up and they've gone, "Wow." And it's explained their reasons for drop offs and turnover and their volume's still good but customer callings have changed and stuff. Yeah attacks like that, it's more common than you can imagine. I mean, let's put it in perspective, let's say there was an employee of a floor shop who was rude. Who was really not a good customer service person, so that business owner's gone through the process of employing this person, he's now recognised that, not just through Google Reviews, but through customer's saying, "This guy's not good for my business," and he'd take the means either of training him or moving him on. Fair enough, the guy's moved on. On those reviews they'll state the name most of the time, that, "This guy, this and this," and should those reviews stay if the business has fixed the problem?
Brendon: Correct. That's a big part of what we see, most businesses fix a problem but unfortunately the bad name stays for good. I look at Google like this, and I probably changed this story a few times, but let's say we back in the Mediaeval times and they used to have billboards, big billboards, so you walk down the village street and there's that sign that has blacksmith, so-and-so and that's Google the billboard. Now if someone put up there the blacksmith and really nasty content, what would happen? The village, I guess the king would come along and pull it off.
Chris: Or the guy would go out of business.
Brendon: Correct or either way, the village would get together and say, "That shouldn't be there because it's against the law," all these different laws. And that's how it should work, we should be able to pull it down if it's illegal. Unfortunately with Google, there's a long process to let them know. Their problem's bigger than it is, I mean they get a quarter of a million flagging every day and what people don't realise is Google do take content down, it's just the way you take it, you make sure that the content's correct. You've got to look into each review and make sure that it's strength in what you're telling them and then it ticks all the boxes to get it escalated to a moderator, that's that person in whatever country that's got six seconds to read it so you want to get everything correct to there for them to go, "Well I believe everything "at the front end is correct, "so I've just got to read this and yep, "if it seems legit we'll get rid of it." And that's how primitive it is, it's primitive.
Andrew: It's an incredibly easy process to set up an account and leave a review or set up a Google My Business page for another business, but it's much harder to get it down, I think that's half the problem here.
Brendon: It shouldn't be.
Andrew: You don't need any form of identity or anything to be able to leave a review on a business.
Brendon: Correct, no qualifying really. I mean, I see reviews, they show you the location where they leave the reviews and you have to scream, "Bots," you have to scream, "It's computerised," or, "Someone's done this." This is on positive reviews, I'll just tell all of the viewers out here, do not engage in companies that give you positive reviews, okay? Because if the ACCC rings up and says, "I want to know that guy's name and I want to speak to him "and I want him to sign a stat dec saying "that you wrote the review," It's a $22,000 fine if you're wrong. And people engage these, I think they call it brushing, these bot companies to increase Google Reviews. Unfortunately the reviewer's not as dumb as you think. They'll look at it and go, "It's a guy's name that I can't pronounce "and then there's another ten of them." And you see different locations all over the world and you put two and two together and go, "No, it's not true.
Andrew: Yeah and you're a local Gold Coast business.
Brendon: It's the worst thing you can do. Never put false content up in the sense of positive reviews.
Chris: Yeah so there you go, you can get stung both ways. I think it's great that Google reviews and the ability to get reviews from people exists because it's important as business owners that we keep our customers centric to the operations of our business. They give us insights to our business that we otherwise just cannot see, you know? And there's a fantastic interview that my co-founder for BeachCity just did with a gentleman by the name of Nicklas Bergman, best-selling author of The Tech Storm, great book, you should go and read it. Nicklas interviewed the chairman of Ikea. Now I'm not going to reveal what the chairman said, but you need to go and watch it. In a nutshell, be consumer-centric. And the way that he did that was fantastic, go and watch the video, we'll link to it in these comments. But that was a really valuable lesson from that chairman of Ikea, that they keep, or he in particular, keeps his customers at the centre of their operations of their business and knowing what they want is valuable for the future growth of the business, it's valuable for the current operations of the business, it's valuable for knowing how to deal with your current clients and what they expect from you and if you can't get around to a lot of your customers yourself, you do need to take heed of the potential that they have already gone and commented online and if they haven't then you should be talking to them anyway you should be talking to your customers. Internet Removals sounds like a fantastic business for my mind and I'm not saying this to butter you up or to tell people to go and get business from you, but I know in everyday operation of running businesses that shit can happen, yeah? Yeah I might deserve some of those bad reviews but if they're managed correctly that potentially I could get them removed, resolved and therefore improve my reputation and because I've improved my systems or I've changed something in the business or I've got rid of that person as you mentioned earlier. So I think it's a fantastic business and service that you're offering because I don't have time to do that.
Brendon: That's exactly it and the time it takes for you to go and research the policies of a big provider and find out what's the process to get the content down correctly and be in that part of 150,000 applications, of which ours are coming up front because we're doing it right, is key. Every business owner I know and dealt with respect the customers and listen to them because it's their business, they wouldn't be in business if they didn't understand customers. They would prefer that the reviews are controlled in a sense of it goes to their website, all these big companies have these processes of letting them know there's a problem. The problem is, when you have something like Google Reviews, that it become a mob mentality when someone puts a review up and then you get some disgusting content that just has no relevance and that's where our customers feel it's completely unfair and it shouldn't be their biggest measure really. I mean, Google's it, guys. Google is it. I mean, what else do you use to find content?
Andrew: Yeah and your reviews appear before everything else.
Andrew: It's the most prominent thing on the search result.
Brendon: I had one customer who was going to spend lots of money on advertising and that particular advertiser gave me a call and said, "Man, can you look at this guy's footprint, "this guy's about to dump a tonne of money." I looked and I said, "Man, I would wait six to twelve months "until we can get some results before you even invest." There's no point making that redirection.
And the customer stood back and I got to mediate with him and said, "Have you looked at the concerns?" He said, "Yeah," and again, that was about an employee. He said, "We got rid of him, he's gone. "We've done everything that we can "to resolve that issue, we saw." It just didn't need to be made public and stay there and just drag all these customers away.
Andrew: The big problem there and we keep saying that you need to take Google My Business and Google Reviews seriously, is people think that they go away eventually because, I mean the old mentality was, if you have a bad name out there and you turn things around that eventually word gets out that you've improved your business. It doesn't work like that on Google, they stay there forever unless you do something about it.
Brendon: Correct and it's important, there's no doubt about it. Not only for the corporate world but for the public, as I said, we help the public more than anything with getting content down. I mean, education's a big thing on us, for schools we're about to do education pieces for year eleven and twelve, for me to sit there and say, "Hey guys, "you're about to step into the corporate world, "I just want you to step back and look how you "present yourself online. "If there's any issues, clean it up now." Because we have employers call us to check out people's online--
Chris: I've done that myself.
Andrew: That's certainly something that's happened here.
Chris: So if you're ever going for a job interview beware of Google because I've done it, I've just Google searched people's names and funnily enough, I still employed someone, even after I saw all of the crap that they were writing on social media channels. But I took it for what it was, they just didn't think. They just went, "Ah you know, "I'm just having a conversation with my friend, "it's only me and my friends that can see it, "we're having a bit of banter." And, you know, lots of swearing and calling each other names and all that sort of stuff. "That's just fun banter, that's what we do in our lounge room." Yeah, that's right.
Brendon: It's not in your lounge room, man, it's in a stadium full of 1.5 billion people.
Andrew: Yeah, but when one day you're going to be managing business social media profiles and things like that you need to be aware that people need to be able to trust that you're not going to have it come back to you.
Brendon: Ever since I've been doing this I've deleted a lot of posts of mine that weren't that bad but I've looked at it and gone, "What's the perception another person's going to take of it?" And go, "You know what? It's not worth it." You know, it's not me, I'm only saying a joke between my mates, yeah plenty of times I've deleted posts, because I've thought about it, only because I know about it.
Chris: Well, I've been sued for making a comment on a Facebook group. Because I basically said something about somebody that maybe I thought would have been true but it wasn't. And I was just trying to be a helpful citizen. It turned out to be, you know, if I had my time again I wouldn't have written it.
Brendon: It's funny you say that because we have people that ring us to help them, because they're being sued to get content down from a provider. We've actually had people that have rung us quite a few times that have said, "I've said something, I want to get it down." And we go, "Okay, what did you say?" And then we look and it's, right, same process. So there's people out there, a lot of people going, "I wish I'd never said that. "I can't get it down." I talk to my daughter about this every day. How you present yourself online is how you present yourself on the market.
Andrew: Yeah it might be just a matter that you got hot headed about something but the problem is it stays there forever now if you don't take it down.
Brendon: Yep, and content is a lot harder to take down and a lot easier to put up. I mean I tell businesses, I had a guy recently ring me and ask me about, "Google Reviews, Google My Business sent me an email saying do I want to register." I said, "Don't even bridge with them, "I'd prefer you didn't. "Establish your business now, iron out all the kinks, "all the parts that could go wrong "where people could write a review "about you making a mistake." I said, "Wait twelve months and have a look at your business "and then decide if you're prepared to go on Google Reviews. "Because those twelve month periods are the periods where "you're going to have ups and downs in your business "and you're going to open yourself up "so just wait twelve months." I just said, "Don't, don't open Google Reviews." Google Business, do not, my opinion. Unless you're ready and your business is safe, it's one of those areas where you can't.
Chris: What do you mean? Sorry, what do you mean by that? Don't open Google Reviews?
Brendon: So Google Business will find out about your business and they'll let you know. "Hey, do you want to be on Google Business?" And you go, "Yes, of course." Details, where your address is and that sort of stuff.
Chris: But anybody can go and create one of those.
Brendon: They can but they also promote it. Do you know what I mean?
We've had them call us quite a few times, saying, you know, not call us but notify us. But I say either don't or just check out your business as a high-risk area where, you know, if you're in the car industry, reviews are are, you know. I feel sorry for those car dealerships because really, all they're doing is selling a brand new car, okay? And you decide to buy it or not. And they invest a lot of money, those people that own those businesses, millions of dollars and the land to store the cars. If you have a pleasant experience coming in. And I don't want to name these particular hashtag because it could promote the thing, but there was one particular hashtag where a guy's bike got damaged and he decided to hashtag with a group of Australian larrikins who had no idea of the context of what happened, and barraged this social media with hundreds of content. And that's terrible and this business owner's invested a lot of money, spending with the Mercedes and the BMWs to get the licence to be part of their website, they pay a lot of money for that just like McDonald's does, to own a McDonalds. And now he's got a one star and there's 300 reviews, because of the hashtag. And these guys had no idea. And the simple thing that happened was yes, they did drop the bike and they scratched it and they fixed it. But the guy wasn't happy, for whatever reason, so he decided to hashtag it. And there was 300 terrible comments.
Andrew: From people who had nothing to do with it.
Brendon: Nothing to do with it.
No idea, don't even know the person it happened to, it was just part of that group. And we spend a lot of time fighting those groups too. Those social media pages, unfortunately Facebook's honestly gone to ground right now and our response time back from is just pitiful.
Chris: Yeah shutting down pages is probably easier.
Brendon: I mean, yeah, it's all about the numbers, there's 100,000 people on their Facebook page. Pretty bad stuff, it's either got to have terrorism or child or sex related before they'll take it down, if it doesn't, they can do what they want.
Chris: So I think we should probably pull it up there, we could go into some really great stories.
Brendon: Maybe another time, love to have a chat. I'm pretty sure people want to know more.
Chris: Absolutely, Brendon, how do people reach out to you?
Brendon: Yeah look, our website as well as we've got a 1300 number that we can--
Chris: What's the website?
Brendon: www.internetremovals.com.au If you type in content removal Australia it'll pop up on Google's search words as well. As well as I've got a Twitter page which is @contentremove, I think, I can't remember the exact--
Andrew: We'll put all the links in the bottom.
Brendon: But yeah, just be aware of your footprint is all I'll say and have a look, if you watch this, step back and go, "I'll just have a little look." Any issues, let me know, if not, education is to be good.
Chris: Don't drink and review, don't just think that you're in your own little lounge room when you're reviewing.
And I know I've learned some lessons, maybe the hard way. And it's best not to.
Brendon: Thanks for having me too guys.
Chris: Thanks for watching guys, that's episode 84 of Get Fact Up, you know where we're at but I'll tell you anyway. We're on memedia.com.au you can watch the full episode there, also on YouTube and on Facebook, just search for MeMedia on Facebook. Thanks for watching, we're back next week for another episode of Get Fact Up.