Introduction to Online Reputation Management
This article is a summary of online reputation management. It touches upon all major aspects of ORM and provides linked access to more detailed articles about each section.
Definition of Reputation Management
Online reputation management is the ongoing process of influencing and shaping the public perception of an individual, company, or brand online.
Online reputation management is important because it shapes how individuals, businesses, and brands are perceived online.
Positive impressions build stakeholder trust, attract customers, and lead to opportunities, while negative online content can diminish opportunities.
Today, managing and improving online reputation is the primary tool for maintaining a positive image.
Statistics about reputation highlight the importance of reputation management in today's digital landscape. These figures underscore online reputation's profound impact on a business or individual's success.
Influence of Online Reputation on Consumer Choices
- 87% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. This highlights the importance of maintaining a positive online presence as consumers increasingly rely on online reviews to make purchase decisions.
- Nearly 50% of US adults who Google themselves say the results aren't positive.
- 85% of consumers use the internet for research before purchasing. This includes reading reviews and ratings of products and services.
The Economic Impact of Negative Reviews
- Negative online content or bad reviews can cost a business up to 25% more in salary hikes to attract employees due to decreased interest from applicants.
- One negative article on the first page of search results can cost a company over 20% of potential new businesses.
- If there are three negative articles, this figure jumps to a 59.2% loss of potential new businesses.
The Power of Positive Content
- Businesses risk losing as many as 22% of customers when just one negative article is found by users considering buying their product.
- Having a minimum of five reviews results in purchase likelihood increasing by a factor of almost four times.
- Positive comments and reviews can persuade 68% of consumers that a business is trustworthy.
Reputation Management and Recruitment
- 75% of employers are required by their company to research candidates online.
- 85% of U.S. recruiters and HR professionals say an employee's online reputation somewhat influences their hiring decisions. Nearly half say a strong online reputation influences their decisions to a great extent.
Further reading: Learn more about reputation management statistics here.
Evolution of Reputation Management
Online Reputation Management (ORM) is a modern concept but has evolved throughout history. Before the internet, reputation management involved shaping perception through real-world public relations activities. Like people... talking with each other. Weird.
The evolution of reputation management to online reputation management has highlighted its role in shaping perception. From ancient civilizations rating merchants' trustworthiness to Google's influence through search results, social media, and online reviews, reputation is more important and fragile than ever.
Rise of the Internet
ORM's importance surged with the internet's rise, as reputations could be shaped or shattered with a click — the advent of Google made things even more complex, leading to the emergence of specialized ORM companies like Reputation X.
Today, ORM is vital for corporate reputation and branding, valuation, and emphasizing proactive strategies for a positive online presence.
Role of ORM in Personal and Business Success
A strong online reputation is vital for personal and business success today. It shapes how others see us and affects the opportunities we are presented with.
For businesses, a positive online image creates trust with prospects and customers, which can lead to growth.
Individuals can enhance their career prospects by managing their online presence. Since most HR professionals search for candidates online, negative perceptions can hinder professional progress.
Understanding Online Reputation Management
Components of ORM
Reputation management, also known as online reputation management (ORM) on the internet, is a strategic approach that involves monitoring, influencing, and improving how others perceive a brand or individual. It blends public relations, branding, content management, psychology, and digital marketing techniques to craft a brand's positive image.
Here's a look at what reputation management entails:
The first step in SEO reputation management is monitoring and understanding how stakeholders see an entity online. This involves tracking online mentions, reviews, social media comments, news, and other sources that provide insight into public perception. Both free and paid monitoring tools can capture a wide range of online content that refers to the brand or individual.
Analysis of Reputation
Once monitoring is in place, the data collected needs to be analyzed to identify patterns, trends, and key insights about the sentiment of a brand. This helps in understanding the root causes of a good or bad reputation. For instance, you may notice a spike in negative reviews due to a specific product issue. Analyzing such trends helps to plan effective corrective actions.
Reputation Strategy Development
Based on the insights gained from the analysis, a strategy for managing reputation can be developed. This could involve a wide range of activities, from improving products, services, and operations to creating a stronger online presence with positive content.
The Role of Content Creation
One of the key tactics in reputation management is creating and promoting positive content that reflects the entity's strengths and achievements. This includes developing compelling and valuable content for the brand's website, blog, social media channels, and other platforms. It also involves ensuring that the content ranks high in search engine results, pushing negative content down the page.
Engagement with Audiences
Reputation management is not just about pushing out content; it also involves engaging with the audience. Responding to reviews, comments, and questions on various platforms demonstrates that the entity is attentive and values its stakeholders. Engaging with positive and negative feedback is important for maintaining a positive reputation.
Wikipedia Editing When Notable
Wikipedia page editing, or creation, is often part of a campaign to improve digital reputation. Wikipedia ranks very well for reputation-related queries, so it's often a touchpoint that requires editing.
Editing Wikipedia is often a delicate task. Not only do Wikipedia guidelines need to be followed, but the human element makes things even more challenging.
Editors are human and are often biased. Much of Wikipedia editing is about fighting bias towards clients on top of normal notability requirements.
Reputation management also entails being prepared for potential crises that could damage reputation. This involves creating crisis communication plans, training spokespeople, and implementing rapid response measures to mitigate damage during a crisis.
Reputation management is a proactive and strategic process that seeks to shape public perception of a brand or individual by influencing online information about them. It's a continuous and long-term effort that requires constant monitoring, analysis, strategic planning, content creation, and engagement.
Impact of Reputation: Brands & People
The influence and impact of online reputation extend beyond face-to-face interactions, affecting individuals and businesses.
Positive online perception cultivates trust, influencing consumer decisions and career prospects. But, a single negative review or scandal can trigger significant reputational harm and result in income loss.
For businesses, a strong online reputation translates into brand recognition, customer loyalty, and enhanced sales. It even affects the quality of employees a business can attract, affecting its long-term success.
Similarly, personal reputations hold weight, affecting job opportunities and relationships. One's standing online can have a direct impact, even on personal relationships. Many online sites are designed to damage people's reputations in the dating pool, so one bad date can leave a permanent mark.
Benefits of ORM
Professional Online Reputation Management (ORM) services offer many advantages, especially in addressing complex campaigns like online reputation repair, Wikipedia editing, and review/rating enhancement.
Agencies specializing in reputation-related projects possess deep knowledge and experience in the ever-changing online environment.
For online reputation repair, reputation management consultants understand the complexities of mitigating or reversing negative content's impact. Their expertise in crafting customized strategies ensures a practical and methodical approach to restoring a positive image.
Wikipedia editing requires compliance with sometimes Byzantine (complex) guidelines. ORM agencies skilled in the nuances of Wikipedia content creation and adherence to standards navigate this challenge. Their relationships with long-time Wikipedia editors, familiarity with sourcing, and neutrality improve the probability that accurate edits are accepted.
Reviews are a quick way for consumers to get a feeling for a business, product, or service. Improving reviews requires finesse and strategy. Professional, ethical reputation services solicit authentic positive reviews while navigating the rules of different review platforms.
Professional ORM services are effective due to their comprehensive knowledge, experience-driven tactics, and ability to navigate often highly nuanced challenges.
Types of ORM Services
Reputation companies offer myriad services to improve an entity's internet profile. Some of these include:
- Online reputation repair
- Reputation protection
- Review and rating management
- Wikipedia page monitoring and editing
- Google Knowledge Panel enhancement
- Correcting inaccuracies online
- Managing transitions from one brand name to another
- Search engine optimization
Choosing an ORM Firm
Professional reputation firms can take on various roles in a campaign or manage the entire process. Here are some examples of how agencies often interact with clients and partners:
- An ORM company may work one-on-one with clients to improve search results while never directly interacting with publishers.
- An ORM company may work with in-house or contracted PR agencies. In this case, the PR agency usually performs outreach to publishers for content placements, an attorney may perform outreach for removals, and the ORM company provides strategy, promotion, monitoring, and vendor management.
- During a Wikipedia improvement campaign, the ORM company will often provide strategy and monitoring of the Wikipedia article. They will develop content and a timeline for placement of the new content and manage third-party Wikipedia editors for content placement and defense of edits.
- Yet another role ORM companies often play is that of white-label reputation management vendors. This is often the case when an ORM company works with a PR agency to perform all reputation-related activities without the client's direct knowledge.
- Check out these case studies for a better idea of how reputation management consultants work.
Selecting an ORM Company
The criteria used to choose the best ORM company varies based on need. Selecting the right ORM firm requires thoughtful consideration. Various types of ORM companies exist, each with distinct strengths and strategies.
Types of Reputation Company
Different types of reputation companies include:
- Local review specialists
- Traditional public relations firms
- Wikipedia editing companies
- Reputation repair and content removal specialists
- DMCA removal companies
- Localized reputation firms specializing in niche areas of the world
- Defamation attorneys
Regardless of the chosen ORM company type, it's crucial to prioritize trustworthiness, solid references, and a positive online reputation. Making an informed choice ensures effective online reputation management and mitigates potential issues.
Note: Onshore vs. offshore
Some reputation management firms that appear to be in one area of the world operate offshore. These are often in countries apart from where the problem exists. Many firms exist in places like Pakistan or India but have a local office in the US or Europe to appear to clients as if they are locally based. It is wise to inquire about the location of the people who might be working on your campaign before signing an agreement.
Online Reputation Management Service Process
Overview of ORM Processes
The methods used for digital reputation management will vary based on the objective. Most campaigns are some form of content removal or suppression. The ORM process differs based on many factors.
The online reputation management process is comprised of five stages:
The Research stage involves identifying key search phrases related to the subject, considering content removal options, and conducting a reputation and SERP gap analysis.
The Strategy phase designs a plan tailored to the goals, such as Wikipedia development, review improvement, or suppression of negative results.
Content Creation, a time-consuming step, involves brainstorming content ideas, developing content outlines, and setting up a content calendar.
The Development stage focuses on building web properties like websites, blogs, and social media profiles.
Finally, the Promotion phase leverages owned properties, solicits earned content support and utilizes content promotion and SEO to maximize visibility and engagement.
Strategic retargeting ensures ongoing improvement in search results.
Tools for Effective Online Reputation Management
Overview of ORM Tools and Software
Several tools aid in monitoring, measuring, and enhancing website performance in search engine results. The tools track keywords, facilitate content posting, and improve outreach and link-building activities. Some of the tools used for reputation campaigns include the following:
- Ahrefs: Offers comprehensive site and keyword coverage, aiding in competitive analysis, keyword research, backlink research, content research, rank tracking, and web monitoring.
- Buzzsumo: Assists in discovering fresh content ideas, identifying influential bloggers, and analyzing content performance in search results and social media.
- Guest Post Tracker: Helps find guest posting opportunities and manage campaigns, listing over 1,500 sites accepting guest posts.
- SEMRush: Provides a comprehensive dashboard for managing various SEO initiatives, offering keyword analysis, competitor metrics, backlink tracking, and more.
- Moz: Offers SEO monitoring tools and access to a supportive community, allowing analysis of site rankings, identification of potential issues, and keyword targeting.
- Google Search Console: A comprehensive tool for improving site performance on Google Search by measuring search traffic and fixing issues.
- Majestic: Used for in-depth SEO and link research, assessing website quality for link purposes.
- Screaming Frog: A technical SEO tool focusing on on-page SEO elements, such as page headings, site structure, and XML sitemaps.
Calculating Online Reputation Management Cost
Factors Influencing ORM Costs
The cost and effectiveness of online reputation management (ORM) vary significantly based on many factors like business size, reputation situation, timeline, and goals. ORM costs vary widely based on many factors. Factors that affect the time and cost include the following:
- Degree of difficulty of the campaign
- The required speed of outcome
- Whether new, positive content is being created organically
- Whether litigation exists and is ongoing
- How often is negative content refreshed
ORM services cover competitor and keyword research, Wikipedia analysis as needed, content planning, brand monitoring, SEO plan design and implementation, and more.
Reputation improvement campaigns range from six months to a year in duration in most cases. Monthly costs can range from around $4,000/month for simpler issues to over $10,000 per month for multinational issues.
Effective ORM comprises competitor research, keyword analysis, reputation strategy development, content planning, brand monitoring, and more. Achieving lasting results necessitates resource investment. ORM pricing models involve setup, research, strategy, content, development, and promotion. ORM's success depends on selecting a company aligned with business needs and goals.
See this article for a detailed breakdown of online reputation service costs.
Ethical Considerations in ORM
As with any field that has the power to influence public perception, online reputation management (ORM) has an ethical dimension. Principles of honesty, transparency, and respect for the right to accurate information should always guide ORM strategies and techniques.
Ethical ORM Practices
Ethical ORM practices provide truthful, constructive information to improve a brand's online reputation. For instance, they are responding to negative feedback in an open, respectful manner, working to resolve customer issues, or encouraging satisfied customers to share their positive experiences. These strategies promote transparency and foster trust between the brand and its stakeholders.
Examples of Unethical ORM Practices
Unethical practices, conversely, involve deception and manipulation of public opinion. Here are some examples:
Greenwashing involves misleading consumers into believing a company's products, services, or practices are environmentally friendly when they are not. This deceptive marketing strategy is unethical because it exploits consumers' growing concern for the environment to enhance the company's reputation.
Sockpuppeting on Wikipedia involves using multiple accounts to create an illusion of support for a viewpoint or to manipulate the content of an article in favor of a brand or individual. This practice violates Wikipedia's guidelines and is considered unethical because it undermines the credibility and neutrality of the platform.
Astroturfing creates an artificial sense of grassroots support for a cause, individual, or product while concealing the true origin of the support. This can involve posting fake reviews or comments online to boost a brand's reputation. Such practices are deceptive and undermine the democratic nature of online discourse.
Some ORM agencies work to improve the reputations of problem governments, often by spreading positive narratives about bad government actors and suppressing negative information about these governments. This can also be characterized as propaganda but is often treated more subtly.
Political reputation whitewashing is ethically problematic because it can legitimize and enable human rights abuses.
Ethical Standards in ORM
Maintaining ethical standards in ORM is about avoiding bad practices and promoting good ones. This involves prioritizing transparency, respecting the right to accurate information, and upholding principles of fairness and respect in all ORM strategies and activities.
By doing so, we can ensure that ORM contributes positively to the digital ecosystem rather than detracting from it.
Future Trends in ORM
Impact of Technological Advancements
ChatGPT and Google Bard are two LLM (Large Language Model) AIs already significantly affecting digital reputation. A recent case may be a bellwether for future AI-related litigation. In one case, a Dutch politician said she was a terrorist (she isn't).
Technological advancements in AI will drive more efficient propaganda faster and more highly tuned to their audiences.
Bad actors, dark PR agencies, political entities, and everyday people with access to powerful tools will continue to negatively affect corporate reputations and those of people.
Sentiment will be eroded slowly in some cases and quickly in others.
For example, Bear Traps, bad news designed to drive stock prices down so that short sellers can reap quick rewards, will become AI-powered.
It will happen with greater frequency and will be very difficult, if not impossible, to control.
This means that AI will need to be used to fight propaganda. While controls on AI are being discussed among industry leaders and the US Congress, reputation management firms will also need to step up.
Synonyms for Reputation Management
You may have heard of online reputation management being referred to as one or more of the following:
– Online Reputation Management
–Brand Reputation Management
–Online Image Management
–Digital Reputation Management
–Brand Image Management
–Online Brand Management
About the author
Kent Campbell is the chief strategist for Reputation X, an award-winning reputation management agency based in California. Kent has over 15 years of experience with SEO reputation management, Wikipedia editing, review management, and strategy. Kent has helped celebrities, leaders, executives, and marketing professionals improve how they are seen online. Kent writes about reputation, SEO, Wikipedia, and PR-related topics. You can find Kent's biography here.