Online reputation management combines marketing, SEO, and public relations strategies to monitor and boost your online reputation. Whether you are starting a new business and want to put your best foot forward or you are searching for a new job – your online reputation matters.
Nearly every modern purchasing decision is made after conducting online research, so a negative or lackluster online presence can make or break a business. Even if you do not own a business, people are searching for you online – whether you realize it or not. Using online reputation management (ORM) tactics, individuals and businesses can:
- Monitor their name and business in search results,
- Solicit, respond to, and manage online reviews,
- Remove or suppress negative or unwanted content, and
- Monitor social mentions and maintain a positive social media presence.
Our experienced internet attorneys help businesses and individuals bolster and repair their online reputations. We offer Digital Risk Protection services to proactively track and prevent online threats that could compromise your digital assets. When the worst happens, we help clients remove unwanted and harmful online content to restore their reputations. We also help businesses with online reputation management services.
In this article, I will explain how online reputation works and explore its benefits to individuals and businesses alike. I will also cover commonly used tools that can be used to streamline ORM tasks.
How Online Reputation Management Works
Online reputation management (ORM) utilizes a variety of tools and strategies to improve and protect one’s online presence. Individuals and businesses that want to convey a positive, brand-centric online reputation can use ORM to control what appears in their search results. Online reputation management works by:
- Boosting the visibility of positive content that reflects the reputation you want to convey,
- Finding negative content that could harm your online reputation, and
- Removing or suppressing negative content.
Below, we dive into each of these components of online reputation management in more detail.
What is Online Reputation Management?
Online reputation management is an umbrella term that refers to a host of tools and strategies that you can deploy with the end goal of improving and maintaining the online image you wish to convey. Whether you own a business or simply want to maintain your personal reputation, online reputation management provides strategies for developing a positive online reputation. It is a way of shaping what appears in your search results if someone searches for your name or your business.
ORM tactics include monitoring and responding to reviews if you own a business and curating social media content that is consistent with your brand. For individuals, ORM involves making personal social media accounts private so that future employers only see you in a professional light. With an ORM plan, you can track and eliminate digital threats, remove fake reviews, remove content that infringes on your intellectual property, and take control of your online profiles.
Beyond that, ORM can help you identify negative or fake content and remove it so it will not harm your reputation. In a nutshell, online reputation management is a way of making sure others only see what you want them to see when they search your name.
What is the Difference Between Online Reputation Management & SEO?
If you own or manage a business, you may have heard of search engine optimization (or SEO). Unfortunately, some business owners conflate SEO with an online reputation management strategy. Although some elements of SEO and ORM overlap, there are important distinctions between SEO and ORM every business owner should know. SEO is a method of improving a web page, website, or online article to appear higher in search results.
SEO’s ultimate goal is to increase visibility in search results and improve the quantity and quality of your online traffic. Search engine optimization can be a component of an ORM strategy, but it is just one small part of online reputation management. However, ORM goes above and beyond simply reaching number 1 on search results for a particular term and ensuring that your other online content is also well maintained.
To better understand the differences between SEO and ORM, it might help to review exactly why ORM is so important.
What is Online Reputation Management in Digital Marketing?
If your business has a digital marketing plan, online reputation management can work with your digital marketing to promote your business and attract customers. If you are a digital or social media marketing agency, for instance, but your online presence is full of negative reviews and unwanted content – your marketing efforts are unlikely to yield the results you want.
Digital marketing efforts, campaigns, and strategies will not be effective if you are not engaging in some proactive ORM as well.
Why is Online Reputation Management Important?
For modern businesses, online reputations can directly lead to profitability and success. In fact, 81% of consumers research a product online before buying and 88% of consumers check out a business’s online reviews before engaging them.
But what happens if they stumble across a negative review?
An estimated 94% of consumers avoid a business after reading a single negative review. While that may seem unfair, it is simply the world we live in – and businesses have to find creative ways to deal with these statistics.
It is not just businesses that need to worry about their online presence, individuals must carefully monitor and protect their online reputations as well. 98% of employers admit to researching job applicants online and nearly 8 out of 10 people conduct an internet search on potential dates.
In a word, one’s online reputation can have a devastating (or positive) impact on their lives based on what people find in search results.
How Does Online Reputation Management Protect You or Your Company?
Businesses have a particular interest in cultivating and preserving a positive online reputation because it can have a direct impact on a company’s success. Internet search results influence what potential customers see about your business and virtually every consumer is searching online. In fact, there is little difference between one’s online reputation and overall reputation in today’s world. Your online reputation is your reputation.
97% of consumers read online reviews and more than 33% of buyers will not purchase a product without looking at reviews first. People trust the internet to be a reliable source of information for products, services, and even personal relationships.
ORM can be used to influence what appears when people search for your or your business’s name. ORM strategies involve generating positive reviews (and mitigating the negative ones) and moving branded content to the top of search results. It can help you monitor negative content and suppress it accordingly.
On a personal level, ORM can help you secure employment – because most employers conduct an online search before deciding whether to even interview a candidate. It might also affect your living situation because landlords look into prospective renters to determine whether they will be trustworthy.
For businesses and individuals alike, you have an online reputation whether you realize it or not. If you are not actively monitoring and maintaining your online presence other people are – in the form of user reviews and social media posts. Online reputation management services can help you remove and suppress negative content that you would rather others not see. It can also fortify your reputation with positive, on-brand content.
How Do You Know What Results Come Up When Someone Googles You or Your Company?
If you are unsure where your online reputation stands currently, there are simple ways to find out the state of your online presence. Let’s take a look at four ways you can identify what results appear when someone searches for your or your business’s name.
First and foremost, Google yourself! The search results that appear are the first things others will see when searching your name (or your business’s name). Try to analyze those results from the perspective of an outsider and use search terms with your name, location, business, and other keywords people might use to search for your online.
Are the results positive? Do they present the image you wish to convey? How would you feel if these results showed up for a job applicant or another business?
Pay close attention to the first 3-5 search results, because that is where most internet users focus their attention. While you may be inclined to read several pages into your search results to find the most flattering content, the average internet user rarely ventures past the first page.
Check Social Media Privacy Settings
Then, check out your social media channels (ex. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) to ensure they are either private (if you are an individual who wants to maintain a professional image) or aligned with your company’s vision.
Video: How to Protect Your Privacy on Social Media
Review Your Google Business Listing
If you own a business, review your business’s Google listing for accuracy and look at your online reviews. You may also want to check several different keywords related to your business to make sure you are not overlooking any unwanted content.
Set a Reminder to Keep Checking Your Results
Finally, set a reminder to regularly check these results. You want to proactively monitor your online reputation so that you can stay ahead of negative content and continue to put your best digital foot forward.
If you are looking for advanced tips on how to obtain a full picture of your digital profile and footprint, make sure to check out our comprehensive post by paralegal Dayra Lomba ‘How to Google Yourself to Find Negative Search Results‘.
The Major Benefits of Online Reputation Management
There are many reasons to undertake online reputation management whether you decide to go it alone or with a professional online reputation management company or service. In the sections that follow, I will provide more detail about each of the benefits of online reputation management, specifically how:
- The content you create lasts forever,
- Your online reputation impacts every facet of your life and business, and
- ORM directly increases your business’s profitability.
What Are the Advantages of Online Reputation Management?
Let’s take a more detailed look at each of the primary benefits of online reputation management.
The Content You Create Lasts Forever
Although not always the case, online content can stay online forever. It can be difficult to remove negative reviews, news articles, or other damaging content once it has been published on the internet. With an ORM plan, you can proactively monitor negative online content and respond appropriately – even if that means suppressing the content.
Comparatively speaking, ORM can be a better investment than traditional advertising due in part to the longevity of online content. A newspaper advertisement might be published once and then is gone – but an online article might be around forever.
In a sense, efforts to make positive content more visible and negative content less visible can have long-lasting effects on your life and business.
Your Online Reputation Impacts Every Facet of Your Life and Business
ORM can also influence every facet of your life and business. As an individual, your online reputation can impact your career, your relationships, and even your housing. A poor online presence could lead to job rejections and even termination. Since today’s dating scene has transitioned online, many prospective dates Google potential mates before deciding to meet. The information that appears in your search results could end a prospective relationship before it starts.
As a business, online reputations affect the quality of employees you can hire (and retain), and the profitability of your business.
ORM Directly Increases Your Business’s Profitability
ORM has a high return-on-investment for businesses. Money invested in monitoring and fortifying your business’s online reputation directly impacts your bottom line.
To better understand the benefits of ORM for businesses, consider the following statistics:
- 75% of consumers trust a company more if they have positive reviews.
- Every additional star in a Yelp rating leads to an increase in business revenue of at least 9%.
- Americans report telling more people about bad service than good experiences.
- 69% of job seekers admit they will reject a job offered by a company with a bad online reputation.
- 97% of consumers search online for local businesses.
People search online for everything. With the right mix of ORM tools, you can capture the attention of potential consumers and make the right first impression.
What Does Online Reputation Management Include?
Every ORM package should be customized to an individual or business’s needs. Large corporations have different needs than small, local businesses – and businesses have different needs than individuals. Online reputation management is not a one-size-fits-all type of service.
Online reputation management often focuses on helping businesses:
- Monitor, and
- Respond to online reviews.
When review management services are needed, this will typically include an online review monitoring platform, like ReviewInc.com, that connects to review sites that are relevant to your business so you can manage and monitor your reviews in a central location. Oftentimes, ORM consultants will also work with businesses to brainstorm and implement the best ways to approach and solicit customers to give good ratings.
Another major ORM service is the removal and suppression of negative content that appears in search results. This typically includes creating websites, registering and filling out online social media profiles, and publishing content on existing web assets to make certain properties rank higher in search results. It can also include:
- Wikipedia page creation and management,
- Public relations,
- SEO, and
- Content marketing.
However, every business and individual typically has different ORM needs. Some businesses may need to identify vulnerabilities in their reputation and employ reputational crisis management to restore a damaged reputation. Businesses with well-established competitors often need to conduct keyword research and create content with high-quality links to rival their competitors’ search ranking.
It is important to work with an experience Online Reputation Management consultant to make sure you are getting a custom-tailored ORM plan that best fits your needs and budget.
If you would like to learn more about common ORM services and their average cost, check out our article, “How Much Does Online Reputation Management Cost?”.
What Factors Influence Your Online Reputation?
If you are wondering what your ORM strategies should include, it may help to know exactly what elements influence your online reputation. The following factors will influence your online reputation:
- Your reviews and overall ratings on review sites.
- What search results appear under your name (and what they say).
- What people are saying about you, your business, or your products on social media.
- How you respond to positive and negative reviews.
- Whether your online presence is active and accurate.
Each of these factors is quite broad. Managing just one factor, say reviews, requires a series of tasks and regular, ongoing maintenance. As you might imagine, the more control you exercise over each factor adds to your ORM time and costs.
As an individual, you may not need to worry about reviews and online ratings – instead, you might just focus on search results. Regardless, your online reputation management strategy and tools should revolve around your specific circumstances and goals.
Effective Tools Used for Online Reputation Management
While most ORM requires decision-making and cannot be left to software, there are some handy tools to make ORM tasks a bit easier.
On one end of the spectrum, there are free resources available to those who may be new to ORM or those who simply want to monitor their personal online reputation. However, more sophisticated and robust ORM tools, services, and software come with a price tag.
What Are the Most Common Online Reputation Management Tools?
Everyone will have different ORM needs, but the following list of tools can be used by virtually anyone:
Reputation Monitoring Tools
Google Alerts is a free and simple way to be notified of any search results that mention your name or a particular keyword. Other reputation and media monitoring tools include Awario and Talkwalker Alerts.
Social Media “Buzz” Tools
Tools like Mention and Sprout Social can be used to track and monitor social media mentions and sentiment.
Review Solicitation Tools
With services like ReviewInc and Birdeye, you can ask customers to review your business and collect valuable feedback.
Review Management Tools
If you would like to take things a step beyond review solicitation, tools like Swell and Podium will help you interact with customers and manage your reviews.
Tools like Ahrefs, Moz, and Website Grader by HubSpot can help you determine domain authority and link authority to improve your search rankings.
Social Media Management Tools
Hootsuite, Buffer, and Sprout can be used to schedule social media posts, cross-post between platforms, and even generate post ideas.
Web Content and Research Tools
Exploding Topics, Buzzsumo, and SEMrush can help you discover trends, so you are always creating topical, buzzworthy content.
Digital Risk Protection Tools
Digital and reputational risk protection platforms help you monitor, identify, prevent and respond to digital threats.
What Are the Common Features of Online Reputation Management Software?
There is a variety of online reputation management software on the market – each offering slightly different features. In general, most ORM software is geared toward the needs of businesses instead of individuals. Most software operates on a monthly subscription basis, with costs ranging between $8 and $250 per month.
The most common features of ORM software are:
- API. This is a programming code that syncs and communicates between two software products (i.e. syncing Facebook reviews, Yelp reviews, and your ORM software so you can see everything on one dashboard).
- White-Label Options. This means you can set up reviews with your own branding and produce reports that do not identify your ORM software provider.
- Review Widgets. Widgets let you pick your favorite reviews and publish them on your business’s website, to make a great first impression with your site’s visitors.
- Review Generation. Most ORM software enables you to create email, text messaging, and in-store campaigns to gather more reviews.
- Review Monitoring. Ability to monitor your reviews across multiple popular review sites.
Of course, the more robust the software and its features, the greater the cost. Nearly every service offers some variety of online review generation and monitoring. Some also integrate with other services and applications so you can link as many ORM tasks as possible (and track your success).
What Are Some Examples of Reputation Management Software?
Some of the most popular online reputation management (ORM) software programs are Birdeye, Podium, Swell, NiceJob, Yext, and Rize Reviews. Before settling on a particular software, it is wise to determine your goals. Each program comes with its own advantages and disadvantages, so you will want to know what is most important to you.
For instance, if you are just starting a business, positive review generation may be slightly more important than responding to or suppressing negative reviews. Your return on investment will revolve around how well your goals are aligned with the features of your chosen ORM software.
Some ORM software, like Reputation.com, is best suited to businesses with multiple locations because you can stream reviews to the appropriate location’s website and gather data that shows which locations’ reputations are performing better than others.
Swell, on the other hand, is great for local businesses because it helps brick-and-mortar locations generate reviews through text campaigns. It also provides ready-to-use templates for busy small business owners.
Fortunately, most ORM software services offer a free trial. You can take advantage of free trials to try multiple programs and discover which works best for you.
Why Can’t I Handle My Own Online Reputation By Myself?
You can and should handle at least some online reputation management tasks on your own. If you are just starting a business or looking to improve your personal reputation as affordably as possible, some ORM strategies are suited to “Do it yourself.”
For instance, asking your existing customers for reviews is a simple strategy that most business owners can handle on their own. However, there are situations where you will likely need to enlist help and utilize an online reputation management firm or agency.
For example, if your business is dealing with a PR crisis or there is already negative content hurting your online reputation, there is no time to waste trying to learn how to fix things yourself. You will need the expertise of seasoned professionals who can devote time to resolving the issue as quickly as possible. If you own a business, chances are you will not have the time to handle the type of response that is needed to get your reputation back on track.
Moreover, it takes a lot of time to create the type of brand-centric content that can suppress negative results or bring positive attention to your business. If you are trying to grow your business, the time involved in boosting your online reputation combined with the time it takes to run a growing business can be staggering. It is wise to hire professionals to focus on your business’s reputation so you can focus on managing your business.
Ultimately, it is best to hire ORM professionals if you want more robust, faster results, or you do not have the time to do it yourself.
What Online Reputation Management Typically Involves
Online reputation management merges marketing, public relations, SEO, and customer engagement. At a minimum, ORM entails monitoring one’s online presence and trying to exercise control over what appears in search results.
This can range from a job candidate setting up a Google Alert for their name and tweaking their LinkedIn profile to businesses running sophisticated campaigns to generate reviews across several online platforms.
Below, we take a look at some typical strategies for managing and improving one’s online reputation.
What Are Some Typical Strategies for Online Reputation Management?
Whether you are looking to fortify your personal reputation or run a successful business, there are several things you can do to manage your online reputation.
Below are some examples of common online reputation management strategies:
Evaluate Your Current Online Reputation
The first step in managing or repairing your online reputation is determining where your online reputation currently stands. Google yourself (using the four strategies I provided earlier) and look for any vulnerabilities. If you do not have any negative content, that is a great start. However, if you are having a hard time finding any results linked to your name, it might be worthwhile to start creating positive content.
Set Up Google Alerts
The internet is a place of constant change, so you will need to continuously monitor for updated search results. Set up a Google Alert for your name, business’s name, or relevant trademarks and keywords that others may associate with you. This way you can stay ahead of the curve and respond to changes in your online reputation as they occur.
Adjust Your Social Media Privacy Settings
Whether you own a business or not, you should keep your personal social media accounts private. What you post on personal social media accounts can cause considerable damage to both your personal and professional life. We recommend maximizing social media privacy settings on all of your personal accounts if you are concerned about your online reputation.
Get Active on Social Media
While we suggest keeping personal social media private, your business or professional social media accounts should be active! Curate and share content that reflects the image you wish to convey. If you own a business, your business should definitely take advantage of social media accounts as an additional way to generate positive, brand-centric content.
Create Positive Content
Businesses should be creating as much content as possible to establish and fortify their online presence. The creation of a website, blog, and Wikipedia pages can help enhance your visibility and potentially suppress negative content. Individuals can also create their own content to strengthen their online reputations. Personal websites, blogs, and portfolios are popular ways to show off your skills and professionalism.
Purchase Domains That Match Your Name
Both individuals and businesses can benefit from purchasing any domain names associated with their name. Domain names are often affordable and owning your own can prevent other parties from cybersquatting or spreading negative content under your name.
Encourage Positive Reviews
If you have a business, positive reviews can directly impact your profitability. Potential customers want to see that your product or service has positive reviews before making a buying decision. Reviews also contribute to your visibility online and can help generate traffic for your business’s website.
Manage Negative Reviews
Negative reviews happen. While the best review management strategy is stellar customer service, some poor reviews cannot be avoided. If you are actively tracking your business’s reviews (and you should be) you can promptly respond to unhappy customers. Sometimes customers just want to be heard – and will voluntarily retract their review if you attempt to make things right.
Remove or Suppress Negative Content
If you discover negative or unwanted content, you may be able to get it removed entirely (if it is a fake review or an explicit image, for instance). If negative content cannot be removed, like an unflattering news article, you can suppress the content by creating other positive content.
What Do You Need to Get Started with Online Reputation Management?
This first step toward solving any challenge in life is almost always the same: make a plan. Identify where your online reputation infrastructure and needs stand right now. Your online reputation might be negative, so-so, or nearly non-existent. If your online reputation is already positive, that is excellent – although you will need to make sure you are maintaining that positive reputation.
If you decide there is room for improvement, take stock of what is most important to you, and what is most likely to yield results. For instance, positive reviews are important, but if your business does not even have a Google My Business listing, it might be wise to start claiming your business listings first.
Once you decide on your ORM goals and needs, you will need to consider the amount of time you have to contribute to ORM strategies and tasks as well as your budget. As you might imagine, there is often an inverse relationship between time and budget.
If you have a lot of time, but a small budget, you may be able to handle many of your own ORM tasks. If you are lacking time, on the other hand, you might need to allocate a greater portion of your budget to ORM software and services that can take on the lion’s share of responsibilities.
Do Online Reputation Management Services Work?
Online reputation management services and software work, but nothing is ever 100% guaranteed and your results will depend entirely on how much time, effort, and resources you put into having a good reputation, including just making good and positive decisions in business and personal life that attract positive attention.
As it relates to online reputation management software, it is important to remember that there is no such thing as a 100% automated online reputation management plan. To date, there is no online reputation management service or software on the market that can handle the human decision-making required to create and maintain a positive online reputation. ORM software and services can save you time and make reputation management tasks easier, but it will still require your input.
On a similar note, there is no substitute for quality products and services. You might have a stellar ORM plan, but you will struggle with negative reviews if your business’s customer service is lacking. Likewise, only Google controls where things rank in its search results. Search results can always be improved and manipulated to some extent, however, no one can guarantee rankings.
There is no proven or sustainable way to “cheat” one’s way into a positive online reputation. ORM services provide the tools you need to share and amplify a positive business reputation online but cannot create a reputation out of thin air. This is true for individuals and businesses alike.
How Do You Test Online Reputation Management Strategies?
One of the most popular components of today’s internet is its proclivity to be measured. In years past a business may have placed a billboard on the side of the road but would have little way of knowing how many individuals saw their advertisement.
Internet advertisements, or any content for that matter, can be tracked and measured via an array of analytics tools. This means you can actually monitor your ORM activities and see what is (and is not) working. You should also be able to track your return on investment with a high degree of accuracy.
Granted, tools like Google analytics, while informative, can be hard to decipher if you do not know what you are looking for. This is where professionals can help. Online reputation management service providers should be able to provide data and analyses on ORM activities and how much of an impact they are making.
The only thing worth noting is that results do take time. It can be at least 3 months to see the impact of a particular reputation management campaign because ORM is not an overnight process. With consistency, ORM is a measurable way to boost your personal, professional, and business reputation.
Protect Your Online Reputation With Experienced ORM Attorneys Today
If you are ready to improve your online reputation or would simply like to learn more about ORM, the attorneys at Minc Law can help. We offer online reputation management services, as well as a Digital Risk Protection platform to help individuals and businesses monitor their online reputation and protect digital assets. We have also helped clients remove more than 50,000 pieces of unwanted online content so they can restore their reputations.
“Minc handled my reputation issue quickly and professionally. Would recommend their services to anyone.”
JP, February 27, 2020
Call us at (216) 373-7706 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation and find out how your business can grow with online reputation management.