When a person is Googled – for example, during a job application – 98% of the time the employer won’t look beyond the first page of search results.
This is not just the case with individuals; companies can also suffer from negative content clogging up the initial results.
A bad financial performance from two years ago might appear higher on the Google results than a more recent article showing positive performance or large-scale improvements to the business.
White Canvas specialises in readdressing the balance by creating positive and realistic journalistic content online, which can help flush out negative content, ultimately helping individuals or businesses to be seen in a more favourable light.
Marco Juffermans talks us through how he became the premier Reputation Guard…
Could you tell us a bit about your professional background?
After completing a degree in economics and communication science at the University of Amsterdam, I started working for a large cinema chain.
My first assignment there was to increase popcorn sales. My first thought was that there needed to be an extra decision-making step in the buying process. They already offered small and large portions, but what about a third medium option?
We Dutch find a small portion to be too little, but a large too expensive. By introducing medium-sized popcorn buckets, or rather, introducing a new-sized large bucket, sales began to explode.
After this, I had jobs at a range of different companies and business niches. Then, in 2002, I was made partner in a web hosting company, and not long later, in 2004, I started my own business in SEO and online marketing.
You founded White Canvas – how did launching the company come about?
Well, my first real job was centred around helping companies to become easier to find online. After working in this area, it soon became apparent that there was a large need for online reputation management.
I was often asked, ‘how can I get tidy up the Google results and get rid of negative reviews of me or my company?’
I soon became known as Mr Un-Google, and essentially created the un-Google concept. That then led me to 2014 when White Canvas – Reputation Guards was born.
Reputation Guard is a tool we developed that monitors specific keyword usage and alerts us to any changes so that we can take quick action to rectify any unjust negative content.
We never rest on our laurels at White Canvas and are always looking at how we can make ourselves better. In 2020 we reimagined our Reputation Guard technology to make sure we can better protect our customers’ reputation.
This was back before the full force of social media was understood. There is an enormous amount of harm and damage that can be done to a reputation via social media messaging. Take Twitter for example, where you can be accused of anything without the chance of defending yourself, or worse, Facebook, where we see increasing numbers of revenge porn incidents.
We work to the belief that everybody has the right to be forgotten
How much has the industry grown since you started?
White Canvas was a diamond bullet idea that struck gold in the untapped and previous unexplored niche of online reputation management.
We started with a location in Amsterdam, and that is where our head office is based to this day, but have grown rapidly and now have sales offices in Monaco, Marbella, Los Angeles and London.
We have been able to help customers across the globe to safeguard, protect, and manage their online reputations. We work to the belief that everybody has the right to be forgotten.
What sets you apart from your competitors?
That would have to be our in-house designed and registered S.I.L.K Technology. It is powered by a combination of legal and technical methods that create a methodology that delivers results.
Through this we can ensure that negative online content is either removed from easy viewing or possibly even deleted permanently.
S.I.L.K stands for Search. Identify. Lower the ranking. Keep it there.
Give us a real-life example of a person or company who felt they were being misrepresented online and how you went about rectifying that?
We respect our clients’ privacy and never discuss their details in public.
One thing I can say is that we once met a deflated young woman who was facing a bad problem with revenge porn being posted on her Facebook.
We helped this lady, managing to take legal action to help her clean up her digital reputation.
What has been White Canvas’s single greatest success so far?
In 2014, I feared that we would lose all our clients as Google launched a complaints process whereby people could raise a request with them to have unwanted content removed from the search rankings.
The famous ‘Costeja arrest’ was a landmark verdict laid down by the European Court of Justice in May 2014 and created the ‘right to be forgotten.’
From that moment on, Google was obliged to remove any validated links that redirected people to negative content. However, this proved to be much easier said than done, as Google continued to reject more than half of the requests they received to remove negative content.
As a result of this and the ruling laid down in court, White Canvas gained a lot of new customers, as suddenly, both individuals and companies alike started to pay more attention to their online reputation and explore ways they could tidy it up.
What are the biggest challenges White Canvas is currently facing?
The biggest challenge we have right now is keeping up with the growth of the business and the increasing demand for reputation management, especially in these Corona times
Online reputation management is now a widely accepted niche and that has seen interest in our services boom.
How has the Covid pandemic affected your business?
Well, our entire business is built around online reputation management, so we are used to dealing with people in a digital setting. That goes for both customers and employees. Working from home is also not a problem, however, we are noticing that the longer this goes on, the more our relatively young staff struggle with being in isolation. So, with that said, we are trying to work in the office again where possible to do so.
Freedom or the press and a person’s right to privacy. There is a lot of tension between these two camps. Where do you stand on this topic?
You need balance in life, and so we view this tension as healthy and necessary. You can’t have balanced reporting without both sides being represented. However, a lot of what is printed is overly negative in its messaging. Sensationalism sells and it is easy journalism. If you want to object or fight back against it, you can go to court, but that is a length and costly process. Then, if you win, they might print a retraction that gets buried on page twenty-four of whatever publication it is.
In the Netherlands, you can submit a complaint to the Journalism Council, an institution that not all media companies or publications are a part of. In all honesty, it’s not that great. Journalists are not known for their willingness to go back and review previous pieces and correct themselves. I get the impression this is not just a trait in the Netherlands, but rather the journalistic profession as a whole. That is why it is often cheaper and easier for people or companies to manage their online reputation themselves.
To circle back to the freedom of the press stance, we create positive content in a professional way, and I do not see anything there that impacts this stance.
Have you ever had to turn a client down, and why?
As I mentioned earlier, we respect our clients’ privacy, but I can say that we are not out here helping convicted criminals. We have high standards and integrity and vet our clients thoroughly before taking them on board. After all, we need to make sure we protect our own reputation as well as our clients’.
How are you looking to develop your business next year?
Well, thanks to Donald Trump, everybody is now aware of fake news, and that has helped us more than we could ever thank him for. Online reputation management is here to stay, and in 2021 we are going to be investing a lot of focus on expanding our presence in the United Kingdom.
White Canvas isn’t worried about Brexit, because nothing will stop us from helping our growing client base in the UK. In fact, as we look to establish our brand in the UK, we are currently trying to add to our British sales team.
For more information on White Canvas, head to whitecanvas.eu