Online reputation management (ORM, also called search engine reputation management, or SERM) is exactly what its name suggests: protecting your stature where virtually all research is performed. It’s used not just for political campaigns, organizations and their employees, but sometimes for individuals who have had their name tarnished for whatever reason. (As you can see, this is a popular subject for the Found blog.)
Top Client Reputation Concerns
All businesses are concerned about their reputation generally. When they call us, it’s often over a specific concern. The ones we hear about the most are:
1. Negative Search Results. This was the number one online reputation management concern a few years ago and it still is today. When someone searches for branded terms (e.g. company name, branded / trademarked product, or executive / employee name), what do the top 10 results look like? How many of them do you own? Google’s 2010 change to allow more than 2 results for any one domain – not counting site links – has been a real blessing with this aspect of ORM. You may hear this concept of getting multiple results on the same domain referred to as “brand stacking.”
2. Bad Ratings & Reviews.
Bad online reviews and ratings from review sites like Yelp, Insider Pages, TripAdvisor, and many, many more have long been a concern of businesses. The issue has come even more to the forefront with more major sites like Cars.com jumping into the review game and especially with Google Places star ratings gaining so much prominence on regular search results.
3. Complaint Sites. Many complaint sites – such as Complaints Board and Rip-off Report – exist to allow consumers who have been wronged to voice their concerns. Some are legitimate power to the people sites (kind of like a modern day Fight Back! with David Horowitz) while others are complete shake-down artists. And in either case, being a caring organization that responds to complaints on these sites can actually help their SEO efforts, giving their rankings more prominence and longer lasting power.
4. Search Suggest & “Related To” Suggestions. Each search engine has its own variation of some kind of auto-search suggest feature and related searches that it places at the bottom of the search results. The auto suggestions have taken up even more real estate since Google’s switch to Instant, giving these suggestions even more prominence and lessening the impact of great organic rankings. Getting a bad branded suggestion such as “[company name] complaints” out of these results can be a real headache, especially since trying to influence the suggestions is expressly against Google’s Terms of Service.
Components of Online Reputation Management
Reputation management contains three active parts:
- Developing a plan
- Monitoring conversations
- Responding to negative and positive comments
We purposefully did not use numbers for the above list. These are fluid, interactive parts. Responding to threats may be the first thing you do – it’s crucial to have a strong presence in Google, bing, and the other search engines through search engine optimization and social media optimization. Otherwise your job becomes infinitely more difficult later. Similarly, even the best plans need to be changed as results dictate and response is necessary at all times.
Crisis Response: What to Do When Negative News Occurs
Once a crisis has occurred (and keep in mind – this may be a true crisis, a rumor, or even a case of mistaken identity), ORM focuses on a variety of areas. One main goal is to take up as much real estate in related searches – how many of hte top 10 Google results can you get? You can fill them with your official site, mini-sites, your blog, social media properties, other positive websites, positive news articles, and more. Doing so helps push negative news and Web pages down lower. Even controlling just the top three spots in the natural listings and one or two of the top sponsored results (from paid search) can make a huge difference.
Even if successful in pushing down bad results, keep in mind that many of those sites still maintain traffic of their own exclusive of the search engines (at least for those specific search terms). Therefore, a key component of most campaigns is actually reaching out and responding to allegations and negative reports on these sites. Why risk losing potential clients, investors, and employees for fear of possibly validating these claims?
Free Reputation Management Consultation
We can help you develop a plan to protect your reputation (and your key employees) as well as help you respond after a crisis has struck, although the latter is much tougher to do without any preparation – much like traditional reputation management and press strategies.
To learn more about our online reputation management services and how we can help you, call 800.979.3177 today or request a free consultation. If you are scrambling to respond to a negative event, we are available for hire on two- or four-week retainer.