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ORM vs. SEO: What's the difference?

Dec 9, 2014 6:51:00 PM / posted by Kent Campbell

Original: ORM vs. SEO: What's the difference?

What is an online reputation management company and how is it different from a search engine optimization firm? An ORM company is a technical public relations firm that uses aggressive content marketing and search engine optimization to achieve wholesale change in search results for branded search terms.

Even if you can’t tell a meta tag from a long-tail keyword, you’re probably familiar with the concept of search engine optimization (SEO). SEO boosts your website’s search visibility and makes you easier to find online. It’s a core function of competent online reputation management companies—and, if you care about managing your web presence, you need to have a firm grasp of SEO.

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But SEO is not online reputation management (ORM). Reputation management services definitely include an SEO component. But when it comes to comprehensive ORM campaigns, SEO is far from the whole story. Let’s take a look at the key differences between SEO and ORM.

To the Buyer’s Journey, Batman! 


To understand the differences between SEO and ORM, we need to understand the buyer’s journey. The buyer’s journey consists of three stages:

●    Awareness. The buyer can articulate a need or problem but isn’t yet aware of any solutions. She wants to go to southeast Asia but has no idea where to stay or what to do, so she searches for “southeast Asia destinations,” “things to do in southeast Asia,” and maybe even “China destinations” (if she’s feeling specific).

●    Consideration. She now knows she has a week to spend and has a budget in mind, but needs to create an itinerary—where to visit, what to do, where to eat. She searches for “what to do in Hong Kong” and “restaurants in Shanghai”

●    Decision. The buyer has an itinerary and needs to find specific providers in her destinations: “Hyatt Hong Kong,” “cable car Hong Kong,” “CCTV Tower Shanghai,” and so on.

Online Reputation Management (ORM) tends to target people peforming due diligence for a brand, product or person. SEO tends to target people looking for a kind of product, service or information.

An example of the differences between SEO and ORM: You search for a widget online and find a lot of companies selling them. But which is best? Your second search is about the companies that make the widget so you can make the right choice. SEO works to get a brand into search results in the first place. ORM works to help a customer go with one widget or the other.

Another key difference is that SEO generally tries to push a single website up in search results for a given set of search phrases. But ORM works to push five, ten or many more different websites and social media properties up in search results. ORM works to change all search results, SEO usually focuses on only one.

ORM deals with many different kinds of sites and considers the entire ecosystem of web properties, SEO does too, but usually in the service of pushing only one domain up in search results. 

The Basic Principles of SEO 

The goal of traditional SEO is to make the online content you control more visible to search engines. In practice, this means pushing your content to the top of search results for relevant keywords—your industry/niche, core services, variations on your business name and more, often with a particular focus on geography-specific searches (so not “auto body shop” in general, but “auto body shop St. Louis”).

If your SEO campaign is successful, competitors trying to rank for those same keywords will see their content fall down the results page, replaced by yours. Since the vast majority of web users stick to the first couple of searches, well-done SEO can tangibly boost traffic to your site—and, ideally, conversions and sales.

The nuts and bolts of SEO include, but aren’t limited to:

●    Well-placed keywords, typically in your web page Title Tag, content’s H1 tag, first paragraphs and meta descriptions
●    Engaging content that draws inbound links from high-authority sites and social shares.
●    A website that loads quickly and is easy to navigate

The Basic Principles of ORM

Online reputation management is a holistic, long-term process that builds on the basic principles of SEO to improve your online image in its totality, and in sustained fashion.

Unlike basic SEO, ORM isn’t quite as concerned with using positive content on your personal website to push down negative search results found elsewhere. ORM revolves around the creation and promotion of positive content, both on branded web properties like your corporate website, blog and social media pages, and on external properties that link back to your main websites and exist specifically for reputation management purposes. With ORM we are working to improve the impression of a brand online, not so much sell products and services. 

Fortresses of Authority

By creating a dense network of positive, relevant content that reaches far beyond yofortress-of-authorityur main website, ORM establishes a “fortress of authority” around your company, brand or core service. It positions you as a thought leader in your industry—an established, legitimate resource that inspires trust and attracts consumers in the later stages of the buyer’s journey like the Consideration Stage and Decision Stage.

Your fortress of authority doesn’t simply push negative entries down to the second or third (or even lower) pages of your search results page. (We call this “suppression.”) It de-legitimizes those results entirely, crowding them out of your prospects’ minds with more engaging and relevant information.

Expanding Your Sphere of Influence

Reputable online reputation management companies don’t just focus on web properties controlled by their clients. These firms recognize that even the most influential subjects need a little help to get their message across. A core component, then, is outreach to people and entities that control influential websites and blogs relevant to what you do. If you own a restaurant, for example, you might place guest posts and targeted promotions on foodie blogs or in the lifestyle section of your local newspaper.

ORM also requires both close attention to your social media accounts and enthusiastic social media outreach to influencers in your industry. Building a dedicated social following, especially if you have the right followers, can do wonders for your reputation and visibility. The key to driving the right traffic is hashtags

Playing Hardball

"Online reputation management sometimes utilizes what might be considered hardball tactics that fall outside the purview of traditional SEO."

And last, but by no means least, online reputation management sometimes utilizes what might be considered hardball tactics that fall outside the purview of traditional SEO. If your business lives and dies by reviews on influential online publications and directory sites like Yelp, you need to monitor such sites carefully and address negative entries. Though U.S. law gives publishers wide latitude to say what they want, online reputation management companies can help you respond forcefully—using the courts if necessary—when reviewers or third parties cross the line and post defamatory remarks, copyrighted content or incriminating material on sites you don’t control. 

Online Reputation Management: More Than SEO

Quick quiz: Which of the following defines online reputation management?

●    It’s a long-term process that produces demonstrable results
●    It targets buyers in the consideration and decision stages, not the awareness stage
●    It covers multiple websites, including those not directly owned or controlled by the subject
●    It covers the content found on social media sites and review sites
●    It involves outreach to and coordination with many different parties
●    It may use legal or other means to target content on external sites

If you said, “all of the above,” then bravo—you got it. See below for your prize: a free e-book on reputation management.

Though ORM uses some of the principles of SEO, you now know that it’s much more involved—and, when used properly and with discipline, much more effective. We have lots more to say on the subject, but we’ll leave it there for now. If you’d like to learn more, you know where to find us.




This article was originally published by Reputation X as ORM vs. SEO: What's the difference?

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