What is reputation management?
In the strictest sense, reputation management is anything having to do with the reputation of you or your brand. This would include not just your online reputations, but everything from word of mouth from past clients to reviews in traditional media, such as magazines and newspapers. How you handle your clientele is important, and the best advertising is still a happy customer. We do not want to ignore the importance of customer service reputation management, and we often incorporate customer service strategies in our reputation management efforts. Traditional media can still be important in the right industry. However, in the digital age, companies are often most concerned about their internet reputation, and for good reason. An unhappy customer might be able to poison the well for your business with dozens of their friends and family through word of mouth complaints. In the online world, they can negatively impact the opinion of anyone who searches your name or the name of your brand online, which is potentially devastating. This is where digital reputation management comes in. For a more complete answer to the question “what is reputation management?” click here.
So if I have one or two unhappy but vocal online clients, how do I fix my online reputation?
There are a couple of different approaches to online reputation management companies take to this problem. The first is to try and make the person who made the negative comment change their story. This can involve negotiations and personal outreach, or at times, lawyers and legal threats. There are two big problems with this approach. The first is that it can be extraordinarily expensive. The second is that it is often ineffective. The courts, the search engines, and most review websites have held that unhappy customers and past-employees have a right to freely express their opinions and experiences, in most circumstances.
The second approach to online reputation repair is to essentially overwhelm the negative review or comment with positive testimony. This is a pretty obvious and effective tactic when looking at online reviews. If there are 1 or 2 negative, 1-start ratings, but hundreds of 4 and 5 star ratings, the impact of the 1 star reviews is almost completely diluted. The same can be true when a negative comment shows up in the search engine results when people search for your name or the name of your brand. Search engine reputation management overwhelms a few bad comments with lots of good news and reviews.
What is search engine reputation management and how does it work?
SEO reputation management services are different than other types of reputation management services, in the sense that generating positive testimonials/commentary/news is the easy part. You can write it yourself, provided you do not attribute it to anyone else. The role of a good online reputation specialist is to optimize the positive things in such a way that they rank above the negative reviews/commentary, and displace them. The goal is to force all negative reviews/commentary off of the first page because nearly 90% of all Google searches never proceed past page 1. If you can force negative reviews and commentary onto page 2 in the search engines, they effectively become invisible to 90% of all searchers. Once the negative commentary is forced off the first page for every conceivable keyword variation and is nearly invisible to your online audience, you have completed an effective search engine reputation management campaign.
What should I look for in an online reputation management company?
There are plenty of reputation management companies with varied online reputation management strategies. There are seven things that we suggest you look out for when hiring a reputation management agency:
- Make sure you are hiring a team of reputation management consultants, and not a lone wolf. Nearly every credible online reputation management strategy involves high level search engine optimization, quality writing, and web development. It is extraordinarily rare to find a single person with the skill set to do all three things well.
- Make sure your rep management team practices white hat SEO reputation management and understands the relevant FCC regulations. A black hat SEO reputation management company can run you afoul of Google and actually end up reinforcing the negative results you are trying to bury; an ignorant or arrogant reputation management agency can run you afoul of the FCC and potentially subject both you and them to severe penalties. We pride ourselves on being one of the most effective and ethical for reputation management companies in the USA.
- Avoid the legal approach. As we alluded to above, involving lawyers and litigation, while emotionally satisfying when you feel you have been wronged, is often the least cost-effective approach. Some online reputation management companies have a mixed approach employing both the legal and SEO tactics to online reputation repair. It is nearly impossible to be good at both SEO and the law, and this approach tends to waste a lot of money. In addition, it alerts the offended party to your efforts, which can be counter-productive.
- Having said all of that, make sure your firm has an attorney either on staff or on retainer. This is not because you will need him or her in a legal fight with the person who wrote the negative review. With proper online reputation marketing, the person who wrote the negative review will not even be aware of what you are doing or how you are doing it. The attorney is to provide sound legal interpretation of changes to FEC laws, which happen fairly frequently.
- Make sure the team you hire to do online reputation management marketing are SEO experts, who can show you SEO success on other projects that are not related to reputation management marketing. It is easy to write glowing commentary or news. The difficult part is to get these articles to rank in the search engines. Ask to learn more about their SEO tactics, and their online reputation management tools.
- Make sure they provide you with comprehensive online reputation monitoring. You should never have to ask how a rep management campaign is going. They should provide you with regularly updated reports. What’s more, this should include every brand related keyword with a negative result. If the rep management consultants you hire only focus on the keyword you bring to them, and do not research other variations of your brand name that might have negative results, then this team is not pro-active enough and their approach is not comprehensive enough to bring you success in your rep management campaign.
- Finally, make sure the rep management agency you hire has all kinds of vague success stories for other online reputations management marketing campaigns that they won’t reveal any specifics about. Confidentiality is key. They should never disclose the name of any past client. After all, would you like to have your rep management agency bragging about the negative results they were able to purge for your name or brand? Only trust an agency that keeps the confidentiality of their former clientele.
Who needs online reputation management?
Most commonly, we are hired to do corporate reputation management. That, however, is not always the case. High profile individuals may need online reputation management, as well. We have helped celebrities, political leaders, and Presidents/CEOs of corporations and institutions with their personal reputation. In fact, CEO reputation management is one of our favorite projects, as we are often able to achieve success relatively quickly.
As we mentioned, most of our internet reputation management projects involve corporations or organizations of some sort. Many folks mistakenly assume that it is only large firms that need reputation management. That is absolutely not the case. The online reputation of large and well-known brands is unlikely to be dramatically altered by digital reputation management alone. These firms have a well developed reputation, good or bad, that transcends simply the results but appear on search engines. When we say brand names like Comcast or Amazon, you automatically make brand associations, regardless of what the search engine results indicate. Dominos and Old Spice changed their corporate culture and their brand, and that was reflected in their total online presence. Google reputation management can and should be part of a larger online brand reputation management project for large firms. It is smaller, and less well-known firms that are the most impacted by negative feedback and ratings online. Their online reputation is the most vulnerable. As a result, they are most likely to benefit from effective online reputation management strategies.
Small business reputation management might be the most important sub-set of our online reputation management services. For instance, a few negative reviews from disgruntled employees can have a dramatic impact on hiring for firms large and small. Both retail stores and online shopping sites can lose thousands per month due to a well-placed negative review and never be able to pinpoint the reason why. Online reputation management for hotels and restaurants is also extremely important, as even a mix of good and bad reviews can lead to the loss of a large, and completely untrackable number of clients. The same is true for small professional firms, such as attorneys and physicians. Reputation management for doctors and lawyers can be extremely important in helping them reduce lost clientele over a single unsatisfied, vocal customer. While healthcare reputation management is overlooked, it should not be, as trust is even more important when people are concerned about their health. Reputation management for doctors’ offices, labs, clinics, and even large hospitals can significantly improve the bottom line for entities with negative reviews. It is for this reason that we have engaged and a number of professional, retail, restaurant & hotel reputation management projects.
You probably have a host of other questions specific to your unique reputation management goals. For a free expert consultation, please call us at 800-391-2392.