How to Choose an Ethical & Effective Online Reputation Management Company
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Protecting your online reputation can be a full-time job—which is why you may not want to do it alone. But knowing how to choose the best online reputation management company might be difficult.
When searching for a reputable and effective online reputation management company, make sure that they:
- Have an active and reputable online presence,
- Let you meet with them face-to-face,
- Are realistic about the scope of work involved in protecting your reputation,
- Use “white hat” methods,
- Have a customer satisfaction guarantee,
- Do not ask you to use obscure payment or communication methods, and
- Hold a professional license or are subject to regulatory and ethical oversight.
Unfortunately, not all online reputation management services are above-board. It may be a red flag if an ORM company:
- Does not give an easy way to contact them,
- Has fake credentials or unsavory connections,
- Has primarily negative reviews,
- Uses non-traditional communication methods, and
- Guarantees results.
At Minc Law, we understand that your online reputation is paramount. It affects every aspect of your life, from your personal well-being to your business success. Our team has removed over 50,000 negative and harmful pieces of online content, and we offer online reputation management and digital risk protection services to identify and neutralize online threats.
In this article, we provide a guide to hiring an effective reputation management service. We address how online reputation management works, when to hire a professional ORM firm, and how to find a reputable company that fits your needs.
How an Online Reputation Management Company Can Help You & Your Business
With the internet’s prevalence in every facet of our modern lives, it is crucial to protect and maintain a positive online presence. But managing your or your business’s online reputation can be difficult on your own—which is where online reputation management (ORM) companies come in.
This section addresses the benefits and roles of an ORM company for businesses and individuals.
What Are the Benefits of Hiring an Online Reputation Management Company?
Professional online reputation management services use a combination of search engine optimization (SEO), digital marketing, and public relations tools to curate your brand image online.
An online reputation management company on your side presents many benefits; we address the most common below.
Bolster Your Online Presence & Attract New Business
Because ORM involves search engine optimization strategies, your website and branded online content will start appearing on the first page of Google search results. This free advertising helps customers find you and builds a positive online presence.
One way to build your online presence quickly is to encourage more online reviews. Because Google treats each review as new content—and online reviews influence at least 10% of how Google search results are ranked—more positive reviews quickly lead to better online visibility. One Harvard Business Review working paper found that each one-star improvement in Yelp can lead to a 5-9% revenue increase.
To learn more about how a positive online review presence can help your business, please see our guide explaining the importance of online reviews.
Curate a Consistent Brand Image & Boost Your Credibility
ORM services can help promote content that is consistent with your brand—and suppress content that is not. In turn, a more established and engaged online presence shows customers that your business can be trusted.
Build Customer Loyalty
Not only does a more consistent online presence attract new customers, but it helps retain those you already have.
A robust social media presence and consistent new online content help keep your brand front of mind for your customers. And using your social media profiles to listen to customer needs and validate their feedback helps improve the overall customer experience. This makes it more likely that customers will return to you when they need your product or service again.
Keep Up With the Times
For businesses, it is simply unsustainable not to have an online presence in 2023.
Your target demographic—no matter their age—spends time on social media. According to a 2022 Hootsuite report, more than 75% of the world’s population over 13 years old uses social media, totaling over 4.74 billion people globally.
And while Gen Z and Millennials are the biggest users of social media, even Baby Boomers spend an average of 1.5 hours per day on social media.
Another part of keeping up with the times is monitoring and maintaining your business reviews. Nearly nine out of ten customers read business reviews before deciding to use their services or make a purchase.
Simply put: if you want to reach your audience, you need to have an engaging and consistent online presence.
Retain Top Talent
Not only does a positive online footprint help attract and retain customers, but it can attract talented employees as well. Employees are drawn to companies with strong brands and a reputation for living up to their values.
If prospective staff can see from your online presence that you have a positive work culture and treat employees well, they are more likely to apply.
Stand Apart From the Competition
In today’s saturated business environment, it is easy to blend in with the crowd. But with a strong online presence, you can establish your unique brand voice and tell your story. Show what makes your brand unique and how you are different from your competitors.
For further reading, please see our comprehensive guide explaining the key benefits of online reputation management.
How Can An Online Reputation Management Company Help Businesses Attract & Retain Legitimate Customers?
ORM is not a one-size-fits-all kind of service—which is why your online reputation management company should customize your plan to fit your business’s needs.
You may want to focus on some review management services, which offer a combination of encouraging, responding to, and monitoring online reviews. Your ORM consultants can brainstorm ways to encourage customers to give good reviews.
This service typically also includes connecting to an online review monitoring platform—like ReviewInc.com—that lets you manage reviews on multiple review sites.
Or perhaps you need to restore your damaged reputation by employing reputational crisis management. ORM services can help you remove harmful content about your business. They can also suppress the negative content with positive, branded content that ranks higher than negative content in search results, such as:
- Blog posts on your website,
- Wikipedia page creation and management,
- Posts and video clips for social media, and
- Branded video content for YouTube.
How Can an Online Reputation Management Company Help Businesses Get Through Crises?
Professional reputation crisis management teams are well-versed in a variety of content removal, ORM, and digital risk protection strategies. They can help you not only mitigate the effects of a reputation crisis but improve your brand’s public perception overall.
Common ORM tactics include monitoring and responding to reviews and creating branded social media content. And if your business is going through a reputational crisis, an ORM service helps you:
- Remove fake reviews,
- Take down intellectual property infringements,
- Take charge of your online profiles and accounts, and
- Identify and eliminate digital threats.
In the simplest sense, online reputation management ensures the public sees what you want them to see when they search for your business online.
When to Hire An Online Reputation Management Company
Every business and individual has different needs, and the decision of when to hire an ORM service differs accordingly. We often recommend that every business have some sort of online reputation management plan or company working on their behalf to optimize and monitor their online reputation.
However, the decision for a business or individual to hire an ORM company usually comes after you try to remove something from the internet and are unsuccessful. The next best solution is to try online reputation management to try to suppress unwanted content and increase the rankings of other positive content to try to drown out the negative content.
In What Circumstances Should Businesses Hire an Online Reputation Management Company?
Generally, it is better to be proactive and utilize ORM service before a crisis arises. But we do not live in a perfect world, and you may not have an online reputation management team on your side until disaster strikes.
We recommend reaching out to an ORM company if any of the following applies to you:
Your Business Receives Harmful Negative Reviews
Negative reviews have the potential to do major damage to your company’s reputation and overall bottom line. According to one 2022 Brightlocal consumer review survey, 49% of consumers trust a review as much as a personal recommendation from friends or family.
If you are on the receiving end of negative reviews—and especially if they appear to be fabricated—it is crucial to act swiftly to address the problem. An ORM team can help you manage negative reviews quickly and effectively.
Negative Press or News Article Is Published About You
If you or your business is the subject of a negative news article, you may want to do damage control. Whether it is by reaching out to the publication for a retraction request or publishing your own response, an ORM team can help.
You Experience a PR Crisis
A public relations crisis might be caused by a viral social media post, an ethical misstep by your CEO, or a customer accident at your location. Having reputation management professionals on your side makes it easier to recover from bad press quickly and with minimal lasting damage.
You Are the Target of Other Online Attacks
There are many other ways you or your business can suffer reputational harm online. Perhaps you are being targeted personally by online extortion or harassment. Maybe your business is being attacked by a competitor who has hired professional “hitmen” to bombard your online profiles with fake reviews.
If your online reputation is under attack, it is essential to take immediate and decisive action. The longer negative content about you exists online, the more difficult it is to remove it.
How Should Individuals Determine Whether to Hire an Online Reputation Management Company?
Reputation management is not only for businesses. If you are the subject of harmful content or attacks online, it can affect your personal and professional life.
Perhaps you are applying for a job and realize that when your prospective boss Googles your name, the first result is an embarrassing news story from high school or a social media rant about you. If you are unable to convince the original poster (or whoever holds editorial control over the content) to take it down, an ORM service can help you suppress it instead.
Much online content about individuals does not give rise to actionable claims of defamation or an invasion of privacy, but it can still be harmful to your reputation. An ORM service can help you remove or suppress these results from the first page (or sometimes from the search results altogether).
When to Consider Managing Your Reputation By Yourself
But some situations may be simple enough to handle on your own. If you have a relatively minor issue—like a critical social media mention or a few negative reviews—you may be able to “DIY” your reputation management.
Start by taking stock of your situation. How bad is it, really?
Google yourself or your business (preferably in incognito mode) to see what is being said about you online. If the harmful content is relatively minimal and not far-reaching, you can try responding to or removing it yourself.
You can also create your own branded content to suppress negative search results. Start a blog or YouTube channel, and make a habit of posting regularly on social media. Then make sure to keep tabs on your online reputation with social listening tools like Google Alerts and Talkwalker.
Ultimately, if you are knowledgeable of (or willing to learn about) SEO and content creation strategies, it is possible to handle your reputation management on your own.
When to Bring on an Online Reputation Management Service
Other cases may be a better fit for an ORM company. An online reputation management team often brings years of experience dealing with content removal and suppression. They also have a variety of technology solutions and services available to help you take control of your holistic online image.
If you are a high-profile individual or need reputation management for your business, the work involved may be too much for one person to handle. Or perhaps you do not have the skills or inclination to create SEO blog content or social media posts on a regular basis. And of course, if you or your business are experiencing a targeted reputational attack, you may want the assistance of professionals.
In the end, if you need faster results or you are struggling to manage your reputation on your own, it is best to reach out to reputation management professionals for help.
For further reading, please see our comprehensive guide explaining the best reputation repair strategies for individuals and businesses.
How to Determine if an Online Reputation Management Company or Service Is Legitimate
Due to the internet’s pervasive presence in the lives of individuals and businesses, it makes sense that an industry has evolved around online reputation management. ORM services come in various forms, but they can generally be divided into two broad—but intertwined—categories:
- SEO experts who specialize in optimizing branded content to rank well in Google; and
- Content removal experts who focus on removing unwanted content from the internet and/or search engine results.
Because ORM companies are paid to improve your online image, it can be in their interest to find a way to keep you as a paying customer. So unfortunately, some ORM services that purport to be a cure are actually the disease—much like one of those emails claiming your computer is infected and you need to download a program to fix it (but the program itself is the virus).
In this section, we show you how to choose an effective ORM company—and how to avoid common reputation management firm scams.
Common Reputation Management Firm Scams To Look Out For
ORM companies provide a vital service, and individuals and businesses often hire them while in dire straits. In turn, this makes the entire process ripe for abuse and fraud.
Listed below are several common ORM scams that you should be on the lookout for during your search for reputation management professionals.
Quickly Reverting to “Monitoring Only”
Online reputation management requires consistent effort and proactive activity. Some ORM firms begin by working hard to improve the client’s online presence—but then after a month or two, they stop being proactive. They coast through the rest of their contract by simply monitoring the client’s reputation for obvious crises.
Some ORM companies offer incredibly cheap service packages, then immediately try to upsell customers to “better” or more thorough services.
For example, they might promise regular social media management, but then once you have signed the contract, they inform you that you will have to pay more if you want them to post more than once per month.
Hijacking Your Website
Some especially unethical reputation management companies wait until you have given them access to your domain name and web hosting service for SEO purposes. Then, they lock you out of your website and hold it hostage until you pay them an additional fee.
Creating More Problems Just to Keep Getting Paid
Have you ever taken your car to the mechanic for an oil change, and suddenly they tell you that you need new tires and a new starter, too?
The same trick often happens in the ORM world. After all, the bigger your reputation issues become, the more work is created for an ORM company.
Some low-quality online reputation management companies (who know their clients are not tech-savvy) create negative content about their own clients anonymously. When the content begins ranking higher in Google and the client sees it, the ORM firm takes it down and lies to the client about how much effort and skill it took to have it removed.
What Are the Warning Signs of a Scam Online Reputation Management Company?
The best way to avoid being scammed by a low-quality ORM company is to recognize the red flags before you sign a contract. The most common warning signs include:
- No easy way to contact them,
- Fake credentials or unsavory connections,
- Primarily negative reviews,
- Non-traditional communication methods, and
- They guarantee results (but no refunds).
No Easy Way to Contact Them
Creating a website is easy and inexpensive. Even if the ORM company has a professional-looking homepage, do not let your guard down.
Look for contact information, like a physical address or customer service phone number. If there is no clear way to speak with or visit the ORM team if a problem arises, look for another company.
Fake Credentials or Unsavory Connections
While you are viewing their website, pay attention to its top-level domain (TDL). While it is true that reputable businesses can have URLs with alternative endings, it is still best to be wary of an ORM company’s website that does not end in “.com”.
Also, do not take awards or “As Seen On” citations at face value. Research where and when the company received an award or appeared on a TV program. If you do not dig deeper, you risk being misled by a fake credential into believing you are working with a trustworthy company.
They Have Primarily Negative Reviews
Next, look for reviews of the ORM company. If they are a legitimate option, they should have a Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating—and preferably a long-term BBB presence. Check the company’s BBB reviews and reviews on other reputable consumer review platforms to make sure other customers have had a good experience.
They Use Non-Traditional Communication Methods
One major red flag is if a company asks you to pay or communicate with them via non-traditional methods. If the ORM service only accepts PayPal or asks you to communicate through obscure messaging services, it is a sign that they are not being totally upfront.
They Guarantee Results—But Not Refunds
Finally, be wary of any ORM company that promises you a cheap and easy solution to your problem. No reputation management service can guarantee results.
Much of your online reputation is up to factors outside your control, like public opinion and search engine algorithms. Any ORM company that claims they can guarantee results (like that your site will rank first on Google or you will never have a second of negative PR) is lying to you.
At the same time, a reputable ORM team should be confident enough in their abilities that they are willing to offer a refund if your goal is not met. If the ORM service does not offer some sort of money-back guarantee, you may want to look elsewhere.
Consequences of Choosing an Unethical ORM Service Provider
As with all new industries, there are no regulatory agencies overseeing ORM companies. There is no professional licensing or credentialing—and absolutely no oversight. An ORM company can be local to you, or they can be located halfway around the world.
Choosing an unethical ORM service provider means you risk the cure being worse than the disease. And if the relationship goes bad, your situation can become very precarious; just as these teams know how to fix your reputation, they know how to destroy it.
For example, some ORM companies have cozy relationships with certain websites where damaging content is posted. If you have a dispute with the ORM company, you may find that you are blacklisted by the website as well—and it becomes much more difficult or expensive to remove damaging content about you.
How to Choose an Effective & Professional Online Reputation Management Company or Service
Before hiring any ORM company, be sure to do your research. Check the firm’s website and reviews to look for any of the red flags listed above.
Then, ask yourself the following questions:
Can You Meet With Them Face-to-Face?
Make sure you at least have the option to meet with them (whether at their office or over Zoom). Not only should you know their address, but ideally, they should be physically located in your home country. That way, if they do not do their job or things go south, it will be easier to report them or even file a lawsuit if necessary.
If you are considering hiring Minc Law, for example, you would be able to visit our website and find our contact information. You can easily speak with us on the phone or come into our office and speak with us face-to-face. You can also easily find our attorney licensing information with the Ohio Supreme Court to ensure that we are bound by professional rules and ethical obligations.
You should take the same approach when hiring an ORM company as you would when hiring a law firm. The team you choose will represent you—so do not play fast and loose with ORM services.
Do They Have an Active & Reputable Online Presence?
Look for teams with established social media profiles, community acknowledgments, and professional listings. Their website should be authoritative and rank well on Google—after all, if you are hiring them to perform SEO services, they should be able to do that for themselves.
They should also have stellar online reviews and no credible reports of engaging in scams.
Are They Realistic About the Scope of Work?
Unethical and ineffective ORM companies often promise quick and cheap fixes. A good reputation management team takes their time to do things right—and they will encourage you to take your time choosing the right representative, too.
Do They Use “White Hat” Methods?
White hat methods are completely legitimate and do not violate any laws. In contrast, disreputable ORM firms often use shady “black hat” methods that could cause more trouble for you later.
Do They Have a Customer Satisfaction Guarantee?
While no ORM firm should guarantee results, most legitimate ORM companies offer some sort of refund if your goals are not achieved.
How Do They Accept Payments?
An unethical or scammy ORM team might ask for a direct deposit or wire transfer (since these forms of payment are nonrefundable). Look for a company that accepts payments through escrow accounts instead.
How Will They Be Accountable to You?
Read over the service agreement before signing it and make sure the services, timeline, and costs are clearly defined.
A good ORM service should hold a professional license or otherwise be subject to some regulatory and ethical oversight. They should be able to cogently explain how they are accountable to you as the client—and how they will remain accountable for the duration of the relationship.
Questions to Ask An Online Reputation Management Company Before Using Their Services
Hiring a reputation management team is no simple feat. It involves considering costs, looking for red flags, and finally ensuring you will work well together with the team you choose.
In this section, we provide a few final tips for finding the right ORM company for your needs.
How Much Do Reputation Management Services Cost?
When it comes to online reputation management, the old idiom is true: you get what you pay for. The total cost of online reputation management services may range from $500 to $50,000 per month, and it depends on the scope of services and the size of your business.
Most ORM firms offer a combination of services, including:
- Reputation monitoring to identify and prevent digital and reputational risks;
- PR services, including press releases, media relations, event planning, and speech writing;
- Website design to create a reputable home base for search results about you;
- Wikipedia page management for curating online content about you that matches your brand identity;
- Content marketing services for creating SEO content that ranks well and boosts your brand image
- Online review management for soliciting, monitoring, and responding to reviews; and
- Content suppression services that push negative results further down a search results page.
If you have a large business, you may want everything listed above, along with additional services like crisis management and web asset audits. Companies like Wal-Mart and Amazon have robust—and costly—reputation management plans.
What Questions Should You Ask Before Hiring An Online Reputation Management Company?
Once you have narrowed down your list of ORM companies, make sure to ask any finalists the following questions:
- What is the timeline for your services?
- How do your review response services work? (Is it automated or managed by a team? Do you integrate with a central review management platform?)
- Do you have any former clients I can speak to about their experience with you?
- Do you have any experience with other businesses in my industry?
- What is the process of working with your team?
- What is your preferred communication method, and how often will you check in with me?
- What does the onboarding process look like?
We Help Individuals & Businesses Reclaim Their Online Reputations
At Minc Law, we know the devastating effects that negative online content and media can have for individuals and businesses. We have helped both individuals and businesses remove over 50,000 pieces of damaging content from the internet, minimize reputational risk, and reclaim their reputations.
We also help people actively monitor and remedy threats to their online reputations with our digital risk protection service.
“Fast. Legit. Can’t thank Melanie enough for this service. Feel like I have my life back again. Do not hesitate if your thinking of using them.”
Aug 17, 2021
If you or your business’s online reputation has been damaged or is under attack, reach out to schedule your initial, no-obligation consultation by calling us at (216) 373-7706 speaking with a Chat representative, or filling out our online contact form.
Manish Dudharejia. How to make online reviews one of your most powerful SEO weapons. Search Engine Watch (2019).
Wade Burgess. A Bad Reputation Costs a Company at Least 10% More Per Hire. Harvard Business Review (2016).