Online Reputation Management: Why You Should Do It and How?
by Mike Khorev
Online Reputation Management (ORM), in essence, is taking control of what actually shows up when people look you up online (which is, something everyone is doing nowadays).
However, there is a common misconception that reputation management is solely about monitoring your social media channels or public relations. While there are some truths to that statement, online reputation management is much more than that.
In this guide, we will discuss all the ins and outs of online reputation management: from cleaning up negative content about you to managing damaging Google results, and many more.
Let us begin by discussing the importance of online reputation management.
Why Online Reputation Management Is Important
Here’s the deal, most of the potential customers (probably including you), will look up a company or brand online before making any purchases from them. If you are a professional, your online reputation (yes, including what you post in social media), might affect your chances of getting hired.
So, how you look online will directly impact your career or success: negative ones showing up online can damage your opportunities, while having positive ones will lead to more and more opportunities. Here are some important statistics showing why online reputation management is important:
- 90% of customers read online reviews before making any purchases
- When one prospect find just one negative article on the first page of search results, you risk losing 22% of sales.
- 85% of U.S. HR professionals say that the potential employee’s online reputation affects their hiring decisions.
- 65% of adults see online search as the best, most trusted source of people and companies’ reputations
That is just some of the most interesting statistics. In truth, there are a lot more out there.
Online Reputation Management Is a Necessity
The thing is, wouldn’t having a good product/service/brand be enough to maintain a good reputation? Wouldn’t any negative issues go away in their own time provided we continuously offer good product/service?
While it’s true that having a good product and/or offering a good service is the most important aspect of building a good reputation, it’s simply not enough because there’s always human bias.
No matter how good your brand is, we will always get those negative reviews, gossips, and conspiracies. When even the biggest brands in the world like Apple or McDonald’s are not invulnerable for this issue, nor will you.
Here, a proper online reputation management can counter than human bias, ensuring that verifiable facts (that are hopefully positive) are not buried under the (negative) rumors.
In the olden days of “offline” business, a good PR or a positive coverage by reputable magazine/newspaper/TV channel is usually enough. It is, in truth, much more complicated in this digital world where everyone has a voice on the internet.
While there is that saying that the internet is forever, doesn’t necessarily our online reputation can’t be managed. For the rest of this guide, we will show you how, but let’s address some of the most important online reputation issues, your biggest enemies.
Negative Content Affecting Online Reputation
We should first understand that there are several different negative content types that can hinder your online reputation, each with their own defamatory effect. Understanding these different types can tremendously help in fixing the issues.
- Social media complaints. In this social media age, this is probably the most common of negative content. However, unless you have a core problem on your product or service, this is usually not a serious challenge. The best way to address this is to answer each question and complaint properly.
- Negative reviews. There are now many platforms where user can leave their opinions in the form of reviews. While this can be a positive thing, having negative reviews can significantly affect your sales. There are also specific platforms like Pissed Consumer where users can leave this kind of negative content.
- Detrimental media coverage. While there’s the old saying that “bad publicity is publicity”, negative media coverage can affect your reputation in a long-term basis.
- Dedicated hate sites. There are even people that take the extra step beyond leaving bad reviews, and create dedicated websites containing their negative opinions. More often than not, these sites contain false and even illegal information. If this kind of sites happen to your brand, you must address them quickly.
Important ORM Principles
There can be many different approaches to ORM. Depending on your current needs and other factors, it can either be very simple or can be very complicated. However, there are several general principles that will apply to most, if not all ORM activities:
1. Remember that popularity precedes the truth online
This is true both for the search engine and general human opinion: we often assumes something is true when it’s popular, and vice versa. The search engines cannot properly determine whether the information about you is correct or not (although it’s getting better with time), so what’s popular usually get the top rank.
So, an embarrassing defamatory content from several years ago might stick if it’s popular, as well as a lot of irrelevant clickbait content we often see.
2. Always maintain, if not improve trust and credibility
Trust is very, very hard to gain, and yet very easy to lose. Having a good reputation is often not enough if people simply don’t trust and respect your brand. On the other hand, one or two negative reviews can be negated if you have the general trust of the public.
So, work on maintaining and improving your credibility. Use inbound marketing (internal link) to establish your credibility as a thought leader/expert of your niche. Make people think “hey, but they always publish excellent content, no way they are scammer!” when they read negative reviews.
3. Don’t click negative content
It’s always tempting to visit those negative pages or even dedicated hate sites about you. However, don’t do this, as this will give those pages some click-through-rate (CTR) increase, telling the search engines they are relevant.
This can be even worse when we tell our team and friends about these pages. Also, avoid linking these sites on social media or on any websites.
4. Monitor everything
A huge aspect of online reputation is monitoring what people are saying about you, especially on relevant review sites and social media.
Besides the ORM benefit, regularly monitoring social media and other channels can open up opportunities. A lot of people are asking questions on social media, evaluating whether they should buy from a certain brand. If you can engage them at the right time, you can significantly increase the chance of conversion.
5. Know when to address criticism and know when to keep silent
You have to master the art of knowing when to reply and when to ignore it.
In the case of customers complaining via social media platforms, for example, you should address them quickly and politely. Even when you don’t have the answers, replying with something like “We are aware of this problem and we are working on this as soon as possible, we will get back to you” is far better than not leaving any reply.
The same thing should be said about serious, accurate criticism covered by media or high-profile influencers. Address them with transparency and honesty as quickly as possible.
However, when it comes to detractors especially those spreading false information, it’s generally better to avoid writing back. Doing otherwise will send more attention to the issue, and it is also possible these people with bad intentions might twist your words against you.
So, know what and when to act.
6. Optimize your social media presence
If you are a B2B business, make sure your LinkedIn and Twitter profile is especially optimized. If you are a B2C business, Facebook and Instagram is the way to go. If you are a professional? LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook. If possible, have a presence on all major social media platforms.
Make sure your resume and information are up to date, and uniformed across all the available channels. Social media profiles generally rank well in search results related to your name or your brand name, and so they are extremely relevant to your online reputation.
7. Assume that the internet is forever
We have briefly addressed it before, but when something has been published online, it will be a permanent part of your online reputation. Remember that search engine results are not arranged chronologically, and not everyone check the date when the content has been published.
So, even past mistakes from a decade ago, outdated information, and negative stories from years past can still rank well if you are not careful.
8. Privacy is king
Sensitive personal details, including the details of team members that can be identified with your business, can be used against you. So, be careful on posting any personal information about you online.
Avoid using services that sell your personal information, and remove sensitive data from people-search sites. Respect your own privacy, and always be careful.
9. Your Google search results page 1 is your business card
The thing is, we do judge the book by its cover, and in the online world, it’s all about the 1st page of your Google search results. If you are a professional, obviously the main keyword to check here is your name. If you are a company, you should check all possible branded keywords, at least the most important ones.
Optimize this 1st page of search results at all cost, and don’t allow any negative content to creep here.
10. Know and learn about your detractors
While it’s often painful, criticism can be a great source of information about your audience, and a great learning in general. No matter what, they will have their reasons in publishing the negative content, even false ones.
The better, and the sooner you can learn about these reasons, the better you can improve your business. Of course, there are always people who are doing this for no reason at all, or just “having fun”. If possible, take a legal measure to show them you are serious about your professionalism.
Online Reputation Management Tactics
Although there can be many different approaches in maintaining online reputation, generally it will boil down to just three big categories:
- Managing Negative Reviews
We should differentiate two different groups of negative reviews and content: those who came from actual customers and are aimed to give proper feedback or expressing authentic disappointment, and those who are claiming something false and are clearly aimed at ruining your online reputation.
Remember that we can be biased in distinguishing the two, which can affect our approaches. Generally, however, we should address authentic negative reviews and content that are aimed as feedback. Address them politely and quickly, and provide solutions as best as you can.
For false content pieces that are clearly malicious in intent, including those with improper language and false accusations, you will need to address them seriously and quickly. If necessary, take legal actions.
To address false negative reviews on review sites (i.e. Google Maps), you can contact the site administrator and ask for a removal, provided you have sufficient proof. For example, if you can proof a reviewer has not bought your product before, this can be a valid reason. Refer to the 10 best practices we have discussed above to decide the best approach.
- SEO: Controlling The First Page of Search Results
As we have discussed, we should treat the first page of Google search results as our business card, and the best way to do this is through working with an SEO consultant. While SEO can be a pretty broad subject on its own (internal link), here are the general practices in relation to ORM:
- Your social media profiles are often the top results for brand keywords, make sure they are well-optimized with proper content
- Decide the most important brand keywords, and optimize your site to make sure they are ranked on the first page.
- Use keyword research tools like Google Keyword Planner, SEMRush, and Ahrefs to determine your target non-branded keywords that are relevant to your industry.
- Develop content pieces targeting these keywords, follow best inbound marketing practices. (internal link)
- Promote your content via social media, influencer marketing, and other means
In severe cases like dedicated hate sites and other serious defamatory attacks, you might need to investigate the attackers further. If necessary, get the help of professional online analysts to help investigate the identity of untraceable attackers.
Cyber investigations can be difficult and expensive, but it might be necessary for difficult cases. If the attack is serious and threatening, it is wise to hire a professional digital marketing consultant for your B2B or SaaS company than making things worse by trying to do it on your own.
Online reputation management (ORM) is no longer a luxury, but a necessity in this highly social digital world where everybody can share their voices. The bigger your brand or the more famous you are, the more defamatory attacks you’ll receive, that’s a fact we must acknowledge.
By following the best practices we have shared above, as well as properly investigating the issues, you can better manage your online reputation, which can not only maintain the state of your business, but encourage growth.
April 6, 2020