What is SEO reputation management?
SEO reputation management uses search engine optimization techniques to influence your branded search results in order to shape your online reputation. Unlike traditional SEO, which broadly focuses on many keyword categories, SEO reputation management is only concerned with branded keywords. A few examples include mentions of your company and top executives as well as your products and services.
ORM and SEO are similar, but they’re not interchangeable. Let’s look at how they’re different.
ORM vs. SEO
It’s easy to confuse online reputation management with search engine optimization because they both influence the Google SERP. However, there are some key differences you’ll want to be aware of. Think of it like this:
We use SEO to rank multiple one website for many different keywords. Conversely, we use reputation management to rank many different websites for a small set of branded keywords.
Put another way, the ultimate goal of SEO is to rank a single website number one for as many keywords as possible. The goal of ORM is to populate the first page of Google with positive content for brand-focused keywords.
How search engine reputation management works
SEO plays a vital role in online reputation management. In fact, if you don’t have a profound understanding of search engine optimization, then you’re just doing digital public relations. Before you can influence search engine results pages (SERPs), you need to understand why content ranks.
In short, search engines rank content they believe will best satisfy user queries. Their algorithms use hundreds of individual signals to determine rankings. However, we can bucket most of them into two groups: on-page and off-page. These signals measure important factors like user experience and content quality/relevance, as well as trustworthiness. But, there are many other reasons negative content ranks well, including topic density and popularity.
If you want to build a lasting brand reputation, you must understand how these pieces fit together. Moreover, it’s critical that you always comply with Google’s guidelines.
We’ve been at the forefront of search engine reputation management (SERM) for decades, developing unmatched technology and processes.
Our proprietary software, Presidio, analyzes data from thousands of URLs to map brand sentiment and extract the themes that drive unwanted narratives higher in Google. We execute exhaustive keyword research to spot trends and gauge search intent and popularity. Then, we scrutinize on-page and off-page SEO ranking factors to build an effective SEO strategy.
Why SEO reputation management is important
A negative brand image has a profound impact on your company’s health. That’s because corporate reputation drives hiring, sales, lead generation, business partnerships, investor confidence, CAC, and more.
Let’s break down a few of the key areas that are hardest hit by a negative online reputation. Learn more about the importance of online reputation.
Organic traffic loss
Long gone are the days when a customer had only one or two local stores to choose from. Now, prospective buyers are one search away from an endless list of brands vying for their business.
As a result, customers are extra skeptical and cautious about where they spend their money. For instance, one negative news article associated with your brand can repel customers from clicking on your website. Worse yet, negative content often attracts a lot of attention, creating a vicious cycle that robs your site of traffic. Unfavorable content earns links, pushing it higher on the first page of Google where more customers click on it.
These clicks siphon traffic from your website and social media accounts which rob you of potential conversions.
PPC traffic loss
Pay per click (PPC) advertising isn’t cheap. In fact, it’s about four times more expensive than SEO when it comes to customer acquisition. Furthermore, it has an abysmal CTR of about 2% compared to organic search where branded clicks often soar to 30%.
Now, imagine if a potential customer was just about to click on your paid ad when they noticed a negative headline a few results down. They’ll probably read that article instead, reducing your paid revenue even more.
Decreased overall marketing ROI
As a marketer, you spend millions of dollars each year to increase sales, build customer loyalty, and expand your audience. You invest in research, high-quality content, paid advertising, data analytics and so much more to increase revenue. But, a negative online reputation can sap the ROI out of your marketing efforts.
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy for brands to diagnose why their marketing campaigns are underperforming. You might not think that negative search results are to blame if the downward trend stretches across all of your marketing channels. But you’d be wrong.
No matter where future customers first encounter your brand — social media, billboards, TV spots, magazines — they’re likely to Google your business at some point. They may search your brand name to read online reviews or just to find your website. The point is, they’ll see what’s on page one and your digital marketing dollars will fly out the window.
Loss of company value
According to a new commissioned study by Forrester Consulting, 48% of executives believe reducing unfavorable search results would increase brand equity. That same study revealed that 54% of executives expect reducing unfavorable search results to drive revenue growth.
54% of executives think reducing unfavorable search results will drive revenue growth
Here’s a complete list of online reputation management statistics that tell the same story. In other words, top executives understand the connection between reputation and revenue. Download the full study here.
However, it’s hard to pin down the precise value of a positive brand image because it impacts virtually every money-making aspect of your brand. Share-holders may dump stock after performing a reputational risk assessment. Customers may boycott your brand causing top executives to exit the company. Stock value alone can wipe away millions of market capitalization. Just look at what happened to Papa Johns in 2018. Their CEO’s reputation erased $96.2 million in market value in a few hours of stock trading.
Inability to hire top talent
Talent acquisition is another area of your business that SEO reputation management can improve. Negative reviews and articles turn away promising applicants before you even have a chance to discuss your competitive benefits package. Sadly, criticism doesn’t need to be valid to hurt your recruiting efforts. Unfounded complaints and accusations can also cause a top recruit to choose another employer.
Even if you do convince a prospective CMO to accept your offer, you’ll end up paying more in salary and benefits than if you had a great reputation. For instance, Harvard Business Review found that a company with 10,000 employees spends as much as $7.6 million in additional wages to make up for a poor reputation.
7 SEO reputation management tips and tactics
Before we dive into some core SEO tactics, let’s deal with the elephant in the room…
Removing vs burying search results
Contrary to popular belief, online reputation management doesn’t use “negative SEO” or “reverse SEO” to suppress Google results. Nor do firms hack websites to delete information.
In fact, it’s virtually impossible to completely remove search results Google because there are just too many uncontrollable variables. Instead, ORM companies strengthen and improve your online presence to reposition unwanted content on page two and beyond. As positive results rise up in Google, they push down negative results.
As you probably already guessed, in order to bury one negative result that ranks in position two, you have to lift up as many as nine other URLs. So, you may need to develop content, build a website, launch a blog, and establish new social media profiles before you even begin to execute your SEO reputation management strategy.
The following is a sample of some of the work we do for our customers. We explain our complete process in our article about reputation management costs & pricing.
1. Keyword research
Keyword research is the foundation of an effective plan. It’s critical to uncover every single search term that could surface undesirable content for your brand, products, services and executive team. Use SEO tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush to find them all. Depending upon how large and well-known your company is, there could be thousands of keywords to discover.
2. Mapping the search landscape
Next, do a Google search for each of your target keywords and take a holistic look at your results. Is there a good variety of content types, including featured snippets, videos, images, articles, websites, blogs, and social profiles? Do you have a Wikipedia entry or a knowledge graph? What’s the overall sentiment surrounding your brand: favorable, unfavorable or neutral? How many results do you control on the first page? Does your homepage rank for your brand name? Do your strongest assets show up first?
Don’t just look for negative content and ignore everything else. Identify gaps and opportunities in the search landscape where your voice isn’t represented. Establish yourself as a trusted leader in your market so people see the whole picture when they search your brand.
3. On-page optimization for owned web properties
Your website probably ranks for your company name, but it may not show up for crucial comparative search terms and reviews. On-page search engine optimization ensures that your content ranks for as many branded terms as possible. Look for opportunities beyond your primary domain, too. You’ll also want to claim and optimize personal websites, blogs, review profiles, and other web assets.
The most important elements to focus on for assets you control are title tags, heading tags, internal links, body copy, image alt text, and site speed.
4. Content marketing strategy and creation
A thorough and forward-thinking content strategy is vital to SEO reputation management. Sadly, too many business leaders erroneously assume that “content strategy” means saturating your company blog with as many posts as possible. Or worse, stuffing each post with keywords to the point that they’re painful to read.
Google has evolved way past that point.
Now, it’s essential to develop an expansive content marketing plan that leverages all types of content to build out your portfolio of web assets. You need to think way beyond blogging. Content marketing also includes social media, customer reviews, videos, graphics, biographies, press releases, and so much more. If you aren’t thinking that broadly, then your content strategy isn’t as robust as it needs to be.
5. Claim and optimize social profiles to rank in Google
If you haven’t invested in a strong social media presence yet, now’s the time to start. Customers turn to social platforms to share their experiences with your business. Prospective applicants use them to scope out your company culture and employee engagement. And executives leverage Twitter and LinkedIn to establish themselves as thought leaders in their industries.
Social media profiles also offer tremendous value for your SEO reputation management program because they help you occupy more real estate in the SERPs. So, it’s non-negotiable that you take control of as many profiles associated with your business as possible. Optimized, professional social media profiles rank very well in the SERPs, helping you reach customers and stakeholders while pushing down negative content.
6. Establish a presence on review platforms
Word-of-mouth referrals are becoming less relevant as the number of review sites available to customers grows. It’s important to know which review websites your customers prefer to use. For instance, local businesses may rely more on Yelp, while larger companies might benefit from Trustpilot. However, there are several key platforms that you absolutely need to be engaging with in order to control your narrative in the SERPs:
This platform allows former and current employees to measure your company using a star system. They can also leave feedback about the CEO, management, and the pros and cons of working for your business. Unfortunately, disgruntled employees frequently use Glassdoor to publish unfounded or exaggerated accusations about your business and C-level executives. These negative reviews are very eye-catching to prospective talent. If they clog up the first page of search results, that can mean big problems for recruitment and retention. In fact, 33 percent of prospective employees said they will decline a job offer if the company has bad reviews.
Read our article about how to remove Glassdoor reviews to see how employee feedback impacts a company’s bottom line.
Trustpilot is a massive review site where users reportedly post nearly 1 million new reviews each month. The site uses a star rating system to generate a “TrustScore” that makes it easy for customers to quickly compare brands.
Trustpilot offers businesses a free startup account that they can use to respond to customer feedback, including positive reviews. It’s worth noting that you must take ownership of your account to respond to customer feedback — both positive and negative. Doing so gives you the chance to catch problems in the customer journey and experience before they surface in your search results.
Google My Business
Google has long had its own popular reviewing platform for customers, and that feedback is featured prominently in the SERPs. That’s why it’s crucial to devote ample time and resources to monitor this service. Just like Trustpilot, Google allows businesses to take ownership of their own profiles in order to engage with customers through their reviews.
The overall sentiment of these comments is important, but it’s equally critical to address customer complaints head-on by replying to their reviews. It might seem like an insignificant part of managing the customer experience, but reviewers are looking for your attention when they give your business a starred review.
Read more about how to get Google reviews from happy customers.
7. Build authoritative, relevant backlinks
Backlinks are one of the top three Google ranking factors, and they aren’t going away any time soon. But why are they important? It’s because Google uses them to measure expertise, authority and trust. When a website links to a piece of content, it’s a signal that indicates the content is a valuable resource about a specific topic. But all backlinks aren’t created equal.
Popular, trusted, high-authority websites pass along much more value than unknown, low-authority websites. And spammy links from shady websites or private blog networks provide little to no value. In fact, they could even harm your search rankings by dragging you into a bad link neighborhood.
Relevance also plays a big role in link value. For example, a backlink is worth more if the sentence, paragraph, subheading, page and website are all relevant to the page it links to.
Unfortunately, many reputation management firms continue to execute decades-old link building tricks that provide no long-term value. They flagrantly disregard Google’s guidelines with private blog networks and worthless auto-generated content. In fact, these tactics create immense risk for businesses because they will inevitably be discovered and devalued.
SEO reputation management takes time — get started today
We view SEO reputation management as a long-term brand partnership.
There are plenty of other firms out there that will promise you guaranteed results for pennies on the dollar. But, be warned, those firms operate in the shadows of the internet and create more problems than solutions. They’re goal is to produce short term, unsustainable wins for a quick paycheck. But Google gets smarter by the day, and eventually these shoddy methods will catch up with you.
Working with a reputable search engine reputation management company from the beginning allows you to build a lasting digital fortress around your brand and virtual legacy. Our highly-skilled team can repair reputation damage from a viral news cycle or help you recover from a crisis. We scale to meet the ever-changing needs of your business and we seamlessly integrate with your team. And we never outsource projects to freelancers or deploy high-risk tactics that could compromise your identity.
Reputation Management Resources
10 Questions to Ask Your ORM Firm
Spot a high-risk ORM firm with these simple questions.
How to Push Down Negative Search Results
Find out how to bury negative search results in Google
Reputation Management Pricing Guide
Find out how reputation management pricing works.