What is online reputation management?

Before I show you how to manage your reputation, it’s important that we’re all on the same page about what online reputation management is, and what it isn’t.

Simply put: Online reputation management (ORM) is the process of improving public perception of an organization or individual by influencing search results. So ORM isn’t exclusively public relations or SEO, but actually a hybrid of the two. Let’s dig in deeper.

Reputation management vs. public relations vs. SEO:

Many people are understandably confused by these three services because they often overlap. For example: reputation management companies use press releases and earned media mentions just like public relations firms do. Yet they also leverage search engine optimization techniques to push positive content higher in Google results, similar to an SEO agency.

However, there are some key differences: Public relations firms lack the necessary understanding of SEO to be great at reputation management. And many SEO agencies don’t have the crisis management skills required to navigate a delicate situation. In the end, no amount of SEO will repair your reputation if you don’t fix the root cause first.

Unfortunately, many inexperienced SEOs and PR firms still attempt to offer online reputation management services. And this causes huge problems for their clients.

I can’t tell you how many times new clients have contacted us because they’re fed up with a smaller firm that claimed to be a reputation management expert. Sometimes those companies just bite off more than they can chew, and their clients get the short end of the stick.

To sum things up: Search engine reputation management requires both public relations and SEO to be successful. Neither strategy will work without a holistic approach.

Discover our white-glove ORM solution, or learn how we help companies and individuals.

Why your online reputation matters

Whether you’re the CEO of a fortune 1000 brand, a financial services executive, a politician, a celebrity, a small business owner, or still a student, your online reputation matters. The sooner you manage it, the better. Don’t believe me? Here are just a few situations where a good reputation is crucial:

  • Launching an IPO
  • Securing financing for a new business venture
  • Attracting new clients
  • Closing a business deal
  • Developing a strategic business partnership
  • Running for public office
  • Showcasing customer reviews
  • Securing an agent or landing a starring role

Let’s be frank: most people (and companies) put off online reputation management until something goes terribly wrong. Does this sound like you? I get it: it’s a major investment. But the problem with a reactive approach is that it always takes more time and effort to push down negative content when you’re unprepared. As a result, negative search results do more damage and cost you more money.

In fact, reputational risk costs financial institutions hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

That’s why adopting a proactive online reputation repair strategy is key to a quick recovery. But preventative ORM isn’t just about protecting your brand’s online reputation. Check out all these other benefits:

Benefits of online reputation management:

  • Ensure that your online search profile reflects your company or personal brand
  • Eliminate brand ambiguity from Google search results
  • Protect your name and your legacy with a positive, accurate online presence
  • Establish yourself as a trusted authority on the internet and across social networks
  • Leverage a network of online relationships to build trust and credibility
  • Identify and address staged competitor attacks
  • Professionally respond to negative and untruthful claims
  • Amplify existing digital marketing campaigns

I’m sure you’ve realized by now that reputation management isn’t a quick fix for bad press. It’s a long-term project to protect and reinforce your reputation before, during, and after negative news cycles. But what type of problems can an online reputation management plan fix?

top reputation management issues

Top internet reputation management issues

There are literally hundreds of reasons why clients contact us for help. Some want to remove personal information from Google, while others want to delete negative results in their search landscape. Don’t worry, I won’t cover them all. I combed through our client database to uncover the top 6 negative online reputation issues that keep businesses and individuals up at night:

Bad reviews hurt your online reputation

Negative reviews on Google, Yelp, Facebook, and of course Ripoff Report cost businesses hundreds of billions of dollars each year. That’s because consumers overwhelmingly trust online review sites to learn about products and services before they make a purchase.

What’s worse, consumers can rarely differentiate between legitimate customer complaints and fake bad reviews. But don’t panic. A robust online reputation management strategy can immunize you against staged competitor attacks like that. Learn more from our other resources:

Unfavorable or misleading competitor comparisons

Customers do a lot of research before they decide which product or brand to invest their money in. And product comparison articles have a significant impact on their final decision.

Sadly, hundreds of “product comparison” websites are actually disguised affiliates or allies of one of the products they compare. Even worse, many of those websites are in fact owned by the same parent company. As a result, what looks like several unique perspectives could just be paid advertising from a single biased voice.

That’s bad news for you if review sites get kickbacks from one of your competitors. And when it comes to services, things are even murkier.

For example, there are countless articles about online reputation management company reviews. Yet none of the authors or websites have had any experience with the services they’re supposedly reviewing. Their ratings are nothing more than publicly available descriptions.

This is incredibly dangerous for individuals and businesses seeking reliable advice that could impact their jobs and finances. The recommended “top pick” may offer a wide variety of services at a great price, but might not get results in the real world.

Negative articles

Negative articles are a huge online reputation management issue for our clients. Bad press weighs down a company’s reputation like a ton of bricks, affecting revenue, employee retention and funding. Financial services firms lose clients, investors dump stocks, and customers won’t buy from you.

But It’s not just businesses that are affected. High-profile individuals have also had their online reputations ruined by false information, lawsuits and public scandals that dominate their search results. Sometimes this content is embarrassing, other times it’s completely fabricated.

Unfortunately for CEOs and celebrities, when the press gets ahold of a juicy story, they often run with it while it’s hot. If accusations are later dropped, the story will still remain online. And the damage is further amplified when these false stories are syndicated hundreds or thousand of times.

Reputation attacks

Online defamation is perhaps one of the worst problems you can have. It’s one thing if negative content leaks out by mistake, but nothing is more hurtful than false, slanderous attacks.

Whether the source is a disgruntled former employee, a bitter ex, or an underhanded competitor, you must fight back. But be warned: these situations are extremely delicate. It’s best to seek help from online reputation management experts so you don’t make things worse.

Brand ambiguity

Not all businesses have unique names, and this can severely hamstring your digital marketing efforts. If your brand name is also a common word then you could be left out of your own branded search entirely. Not only does that make it harder for you to own your search landscape, but customers will also have a difficult time finding your website. That’s a less common problem, but certainly one that brand management can resolve.

Identity confusion

You may have a spotless online reputation, but others who share your name are likely to have a few blemishes. Sadly, digital identity confusion could cause someone else’s social media accounts, inappropriate photos, and criminal activity to appear in your personal search results. While you may know which results are yours, others might not be able to sort them out.

Misrepresented legacy

Some of our clients are global business leaders and philanthropists who’ve helped to change the world. Yet their search results didn’t accurately reflect their accomplishments. And in some cases, Google results, Wikipedia pages or public profiles were inaccurate or incomplete.

Online reputation management ensures that your contributions and legacy are accurately preserved online.

online reputation management strategies

Powerful online reputation management strategies

Now that I’ve covered what reputation management is and how it works, I’ll get to the important part: how to do it. But before you dive in, be warned:

Online reputation marketing is a ton of work. If it was easy, we wouldn’t be in business. Managing your internet reputation takes time and effort. For many of our high-profile clients, it takes an army of reputation managers, analysts and content writers working full time. With that said, let’s get started!

Internet reputation monitoring

As the old saying goes: “Knowing is half the battle.” Therefore, you must find and address issues before others notice them.

First, search yourself or your brand to see what comes up. Check out our post about how to Google yourself properly, because if you don’t do it right, you could miss something really important.

Next, sign up for Google Alerts. You’ll get a notification whenever someone mentions your name or brand so you can react quickly. Want more tools? Check out these incredible online reputation management tools that help you keep tabs on your search results, social mentions and brand sentiment.

Build your social media empire

Social media reputation management is a critical part of controlling your online reputation. Claim and use your social media accounts, and regularly respond to comments — especially if they’re negative. While you don’t need to post everything you do to all of your accounts, you should maintain an active social media presence.

It’s also important to let your followers (and search engines like Google and Bing) know that your properties are official. To build authenticity, set up profiles with images, logos, and business information. Include your business mailing address, email and phone number if applicable.

It goes without saying that you should be present on Twitter and Facebook. But also consider Foursquare, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Tumblr, or other social networks. Whether or not you plan to manage these accounts, you should at least claim them before someone else does.

Remember, you don’t have to post constantly. But those profiles often rank very well in search engines which makes them an essential part of most online reputation management strategies.

Expand your digital fortress

Claim all of your online properties and domains. Most businesses have websites these days, but many executives don’t. Likewise, there are many businesses that don’t have a blog (either on their website or elsewhere).

Branded domains are an important keystone in your online reputation management strategy because they take up valuable search real estate in Google.

Similar to your social media profiles, you should register your domain as well as any similar spellings. The last thing you want is for a troll to register a domain and pose as your brand. Spoof accounts and domains can leave a black mark on your online reputation.

More importantly, harmful online content will be kept at bay if you can lock out the first 20 search results with digital properties you control.

Earn positive reviews and brand mentions

Positive reviews and brand mentions are the foundation of all good online reputation management strategies. In fact, there’s no such thing as too much good press. So if your customer service is great, and you already get positive feedback from happy customers, then ask them for Google reviews!

Additionally, a great way to clean up your online reputation is to make a positive impact within your community. Go above and beyond to help veterans, donate to homeless shelters or be an environmental steward. Not sure where to start? Check out these corporate social responsibility examples to get some ideas!

Most importantly, let the media know about your good deeds with a well-written press release!

Become an industry expert

Online reputation management won’t work without self promotion. Make a name for yourself (and your company) as a credentialed industry expert. To begin with, you can publish white papers that include unique data and write helpful articles on your website. But don’t stop there.

You should also write for other blogs in your industry. While it’s definitely time consuming to write bylined articles, it’s absolutely worth it. You’ll build up your personal brand, authority, and expertise as a credentialed author. Further, Google will have tons of new content attached to your name to show searchers.

To top it all off, you can even link to other content within your articles that you want to push up in your search results. That’s a win-win strategy.

Remove negative content if you can

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just hit the delete button anytime something bad popped into your search results? Unfortunately it’s just not that easy. In fact, there are only a few rare instances in which you can remove search results from Google.

Google will only remove something if it violates their guidelines or you have a court order. Since most negative content doesn’t qualify, that means you’ll have to resort to pushing it down with reputation management techniques.

Use SEO and reputation management techniques to bury bad content

As we just covered, your best bet to remove negative articles and reviews from your search results is to push them way down. Focus your attention primarily on the first page of Google results, since 84 percent of people don’t look past page one.

Many of the ORM techniques we’ve already discussed will help you do this. Namely, starting a blog or two, expanding your social media presence, and writing contributor articles. But to be honest, SEO isn’t something to take lightly.

You’ll need to work with an online reputation management expert to get results. In fact, even a few honest mistakes could make your situation worse.

Respond to negative comments quickly and professionally

I’ll admit that this rule is very hard to adhere to. When someone attacks you, your family, or your company, the last thing you want to be is polite. But trust me, if you lose your temper you’ll make things much harder for a reputation management agency to fix.

Let me put it another way: respond to negative comments as if you were in a public forum surrounded by potential customers, business partners, employers and even your family. If you do that, you’ll never go wrong.

Diversify your search landscape

Do your search results contain an image carousel or any videos? If not, you should consider publishing that type of content. Those features take up valuable real estate in your search landscape, and that means there’s less room for negative content to creep in.

Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube are all excellent ways to leverage visual search features. What’s more, they’re free to set up and easy to use!

Get help from internet reputation management experts

I don’t blame you if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed at this point. There’s a lot that goes into online reputation management. It’s hard to get it right, and even if you know what you’re doing, you may not have the resources to get results by yourself.

Check out our services page to learn more about what we do. If you think we’re the right company for you, give us a shout. Or read my post: choosing the best online reputation management services and companies. Either way, I hope I’ve been able to help.

Before you go, here’s a quick rundown of some tips and best practices for online reputation protection!

business man with shield protecting his reputation

Reputation management tips and best practices

The following online reputation management tips can be used by just about everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re a student, job seeker, or any average Joe or Jane. Jump right in to put your best foot forward.

Triple check everything before you post

It sounds simple. And it is. Way too many brands have had their feet held to the fire because of a preventable gaffe. Just check for grammar, spelling and tone. And don’t post something in anger that you’ll later regret.

While you can certainly edit or delete your own post, you can’t stop others from taking a screenshot. Which means once you post something, it’s more or less permanent. That’s especially true if you have a ton of social followers.

Stay away from controversial topics

Look. I know that social media has evolved into a casual space where people (and brands) can openly share their thoughts. But there are limits to what you can get away with. CEOs have created corporate reputation management nightmares for their companies due to social media comments. And some even resigned as a result.

Stay positive and professional

Do you want to avoid online reputation management problems? Only post things that you’d say in front of your boss and your grandmother. It goes without saying that you should avoid vulgarity, hate language and slang. But take it a step farther. Present yourself as a kind, intelligent professional, and you’ll avoid the most common issues.

Use your real name

This is important. If you want to build up a positive online reputation, you must use your real name (or your brand’s name). I’m not talking about your social handles. I mean in your profiles. If you use “me”, “we”, or “I” throughout your profiles and descriptions, Google won’t associate these accounts with your name. That means you won’t benefit from their ranking power. Your LinkedIn profile is an excellent place to write a bio in the third person without sounding odd.

Here’s the bottom line:

Online reputation management isn’t easy. The more visible you are on the internet, the more effort it takes to maintain a positive image. It’s never too early to protect your internet reputation.