Not all online reputation management agencies are the same. They have different strengths, weaknesses, and strategies. Here's a primer.
Online reputation management (ORM) companies offer a broad range of services that are generally focused around monitoring and improving their clients' online brands. Some online reputation management companies focus on a niche specialty like review management, while others offer a suite of services and a dedicated team (usually with a higher price tag). Almost every online reputation management company uses some combination of the following to improve someone's online reputation:
- Monitoring and influencing online discussions and reviews
- Writing content on pages like Wikipedia
- Using SEO to improve visibility of positive content
Spammers in the Reputation Management Industry
But many "reputation management companies" aren't actually reputation companies at all - the reputation management industry is full of SEO companies or traditional PR companies that have added on a service that isn't their specialty. Within the reputation management space, these firms are generally dubbed "spammers" because they contract cheap writers, storytellers, and engineers to flood Google with new content – content that gets flagged soon after the job is done.
In our estimation, the majority of businesses advertising reputation management services fall under this category.
Choosing the right firm to partner with is important, and well worth some research. Here is a list of the types of reputation management partners out there, as well as suggestions for picking the right one.
Offshore reputation management firms
The word "offshore" means different things to different people. Most online reputation management companies are based in countries like India and Pakistan, yet they seem to be located in the United States or Western Europe. In over ten years of online reputation management experience, we can say without a doubt that finding a reputation firm in the country your brand services is very important. That means that if the majority of your consumer base searches from France, your ideal pick would be a company that's based in Europe and speaks French. Why?
- You have better legal protection if companies are based in the US or EU
- The people doing the work should be native to the culture for which the work is being done
- They're awake at the same time you are
- Some offshore firms tend to cut corners on SEO, content, and timing
Note: In this example (your consumer base is located in France) a French-Canadian partner would make a great pick as well. While time zones would differ, a Canadian partner would still be native to the French and would be more likely to produce high-quality content.
"SEO" stands for Search Engine Optimization. While SEO is an important part of the online reputation management lifecycle, SEO firms are not usually reputation agencies. What is the difference between SEO and ORM? It's like the difference between an engine and a car.
In any reputation management campaign, it takes a qualitative touch to make an emotional impact on your audience.
SEO is a tool used by ORM companies to leverage positive content and increase the effectiveness of a larger campaign. While SEO is an incredible tool for strengthening the visibility and effectiveness of content, it needs to be used in conjunction with a strong and flexible narrative.
Another big difference between SEO and ORM is that SEO tends to focus on a single website, whereas ORM companies focus on many at one time. A good SEO company is great if you just need some help raising your website in search listings, but they’re not so good at providing reputation management services that include the many psychological elements that make up a comprehensive reputation project. In any reputation management campaign, it takes a qualitative touch to make an emotional impact on your audience.
Review management companies
Companies that specialize in review management are a good choice for local businesses that want to improve their online reviews. They don't usually engage in suppression, removal, protection, or related projects, but they’re effective in bumping up your review rating on Yelp.
"Big" reputation companies
There are a handful of "large" reputation companies out there. We differentiate "large" reputation management firms by their use of automation because it allows them to run many more campaigns at a much lower cost. Companies with technology that can automate parts of your reputation management journey can be more effective at some tasks, and less so at others.
For example, if you need to have your name, address, or other information removed from databases, some companies have built proprietary software to do this very effectively. If your campaign will involve content creation (i.e. sinking negative search results, promoting your business, or review management), you'd probably be better off with a small, dedicated team to do the job right. Google tends to find and de-rank auto-generated or "spammy" content.
One-person reputation operations
Most reputation experts are of the "one-person-and-a-garage" variety. These are a great choice if you want to hire a dedicated reputation consultant to work with your existing in-house PR and SEO teams. But most projects take a village, and if your needs grow too large, chances are a one-person operation is going to farm their projects out to overseas firms.
Mid-sized firms are a balance between hand-crafted reputation practices where everyone knows your name and large, automated firms. They offer the best of both worlds: the resources to deliver solutions and the ability to offer individualized attention. Of course, we're pretty biased on this one because we're one of these awesome, mid-sized firms.
Industry reputation specialists
Who better to help you than someone who specializes in your industry, right? Well, as it turns out, that’s not always an asset. For example, if you’re a car dealer, there are reputation firms that cater only to you. But you have to be careful—we know of a couple of automotive reputation firms that are the vendor of choice for major automobile dealerships but are actually low-end outfits that outsource to India with very low-quality results. Search for quality above specificity. If a reputation firm is great at what they do, it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in.
PR is different than technical reputation management
The best choice for many businesses is usually to use an internal or external PR provider for public-facing issues and to let a reputation management specialty company like Reputation X manage the "behind the scenes" portion of the projects. Often known as a "Reputation PR" company, specialist PR agencies like this frequently use our white-label services to discreetly make a difference for their clients.
Finding a company you trust
No matter whom you choose to work with, your reputation management company should have firm, positive references and a shining online image (after all, that’s what they’re promising to do for you). Read reviews, ask around, and consult with multiple firms before making your decision. Choose wisely—hire the wrong firm and you could create a bigger mess to clean up.
Reputation company FAQs
What are the different types of reputation management firms?
Reputation management firms range in specialties and experience. The best online reputation companies execute every campaign differently because every company and individual is different. Some of the types of reputation management firms include Automation-based reputation management, search engine optimization companies, public relations firms, and reputation PR.
What is the difference between ORM and SEO?
SEO is an activity engaged in by ORM companies along with many other tools and strategies that go together to make up the practice of reputation design and development. SEO tends to focus on a single website, whereas ORM companies focus on many at one time.
How do I choose the best reputation management firm for my project?
Read reviews, ask around, and consult with multiple firms before making your decision. Choose wisely—hire the wrong firm, and you could create a bigger mess to clean up.