Internet Reputation Management: Protecting Your Online Image

In 2023, your reputation is defined by how you appear online. With the number of online users growing quickly year to year, maintaining a strong reputation requires an active strategy. In this article, I’ll define internet reputation management, why it matters, how to assess your own online reputation, and where to start to ensure you’re putting your best foot forward online.

What is internet reputation management?

Internet reputation management - more commonly known as online reputation management or ORM - is the combination of strategies a business uses to influence perception and shape its online image.

While ORM overlaps with PR and SEO, it differs from both; it is more focused on online results than PR and tends to be more focused on branded keywords (as opposed to general keywords) than SEO.

How does internet reputation management differ from traditional reputation management?

Although internet reputation management employs many strategies and considerations that traditional reputation management does, there are key factors that distinguish internet reputation management:

1. The Popularity of the Internet: first and foremost, internet reputation management differs in that it is a quickly growing and changing industry, due largely to the growing influence of the Internet. According to a Pew Research Center study, roughly 80% of Americans receive their news from digital devices. Of those, over 50% get their news from social media. Over 95% of people go online to learn more about businesses, and 93% of people read reviews before making a purchase. As more people go online for information, how you appear online matters more and more.

2. Access to Information: the internet has made information about your business much more accessible to users - be it good or bad. While positive information can increase your visibility, appeal, and audience reach, any negative information about your business - be it a lawsuit, a recall, a scandal, or something similar - can just as easily be found by anyone online.

3. Greater Staying Power: prior to the internet, and the increased popularity of the internet, if you missed a news cycle about a particular company, it was possible you would never be caught up unless you were close to that industry or it happened to come up in conversation. Now, when you Google a company, any information about that company can be found online, and negative or out-of-date articles can rank for your business. Negative news coverage, one bad Google review, or a critical conversation on social media can have a significant impact on your business’s reputation.

Why does internet reputation management matter?

The impact of a poor internet reputation cannot be overstated. While a bad reputation can be hard to delineate, it becomes much easier online; businesses with only one negative article ranking online risk losing up to nearly a quarter of prospective customers. Businesses with four or more negative articles can experience a loss of up to 70%. 90% of consumers report not frequenting a business with a bad reputation, and 87% report that they will even reverse a purchase decision after reading negative news or reviews about a business online.

Reviews matter, too: less than 50% of consumers report frequenting a business with a rating under 4 stars.

With the bad comes the good. While 90% of consumers report that they would not frequent a business with a bad reputation, 95% of consumers report trusting a corporation with a positive reputation.

In a study conducted by TrustPilot, a positive internet reputation was the #1 most important factor to consumers. Additionally, over 90% of consumers report that positive reviews make them more likely to frequent a business.

Not only can a strong online presence safeguard your business from reputation hits, but the intersection of SEO and ORM means that companies that invest in their online reputation will often perform better in search results, which can increase brand recognition, audience reach, and contribute to the overall success of your business.

How to Assess Your Reputation Online

In order to formulate and execute an effective internet reputation management strategy, you need to know where you stand. To get a comprehensive overview of your online reputation, consider:

  • Google results: Google your business and take note of what you see. Does your business appear in search results, or do other businesses rank? Where do assets rank on page one of search results? Are the results generally positive, negative, or neutral? How do the image and news tabs look? Are there other keywords related to your branded keyword that bring up negative news or reviews?
  • News coverage: if news coverage shows up in your Google search results, you will want to understand the overall narrative. Are these articles generally positive, negative, or neutral? What aspects of your business are being written? Are the publications local, national, or international? If you aren’t being featured heavily, are your competitors? To stay on top of news coverage about your business, you can set up Google Alerts.
  • Reviews: consider reviews on any platform related to your business. While most businesses will have reviews populate on Google and sites like TrustPilot, depending on your industry or reputational focus, you may need to consider other sites, such as Yelp!, Glassdoor, or product pages if you sell physical products. What is your overall rating on these sites? Do you have a high number of reviews? Do these reviews have responses? Are there themes across reviews?
  • Online conversations: in addition to reviews, many conversations may arise about your business on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and forum websites such as Reddit or Quora. Are these conversations generally positive, negative, or neutral? Do certain elements of your business tend to garner attention? What kind of communities bring up your business?

What makes an effective internet reputation management strategy?

An effective internet reputation management strategy is comprehensive and incorporates elements of marketing, branding, social media, SEO, and PR. While every company will have different objectives and considerations when it comes to formulating an online reputation management strategy, there are elements of internet reputation management that should be present in every strategy.

1. A Well-Built Website

Your website is often your first result in Google search results and your first impression on prospective customers. In order to make sure your website represents your business well, ranks well in search, and doesn’t deter users, it needs to be optimized.

Generally speaking, this means considering the more technical aspects for search engines, such as page speed, site structure, keyword targeting, etc.

But perhaps more important is the user experience of your website. Ensure that your website loads quickly and is formatted for both desktop and mobile users (particularly mobile users, as Google rolled out a mobile-first update a few years ago). Your website should be intuitive, easily navigated, and have any information that your customers may expect to find on the site.

To learn more about building a stronger site, read here.

2. Active Social Media Profiles

Social media is key to the online success of your business. Over 200 million social media users visit at least one business profile on a daily basis, and 130 million social media users engage with shopping posts each month.

To start, if you haven’t already, you will want to secure profiles on social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Ensure that your usernames, profile picture, and general tone are consistent across platforms, as consistency across profiles can increase revenue by over 20% (though you can shift tones slightly across platforms - for example, Linkedin may call for a more professional tone than Twitter).

It’s important to note that social media profiles that are not active or up-to-date can actually deter users, so you will need to make any profiles that you don’t have a strategy for private until you are ready to actively maintain them.

3. Intentional Content Management Strategy

Content is king in SEO. Content can help you define your brand and brand voice, highlight key aspects of your business, and create a safeguard against reputation hits.

But an effective content strategy has to be thoughtful and, while both are important, quality far outweighs quantity when it comes to online content. There are over 6 million blogs published online every day, so understanding how you can set your business apart and truly give value to your readers will be what provides real value.

Google recently updated its guidelines on what factors inform quality content - you can read more here.

4. Formulated Response Plan

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when it comes to reputation management is assuming that a hit to your reputation will never happen. No matter your industry, your business, or your approach, you can expect some sort of negative feedback at some point.

One of the best ways you can combat the impact of negative hits on your online reputation - whether it’s a negative news cycle, bad reviews, or a larger scandal - is to have a response plan in place for when these things happen.

Consider different kinds of responses: a negative review will require a different response than a hard-hitting journalistic piece. While you may not want to consider the worst, having a plan in place can keep your business protected when something like this happens.

Consider a Reputation Management Firm

In 2023, your internet reputation is one of your greatest assets - and areas of risk. In a recent survey conducted by Deloitte, the majority of executives surveyed named corporate reputation as the greatest risk area for businesses.

If your company is experiencing a reputation crisis, a negative news cycle, or does not have the internal resources to effectively formulate and implement an internet reputation management strategy, you should consider working with an online reputation management firm. ORM firms bring expertise and experience to your organization’s specific concerns and can take most of the heavy lifting off of your plate while maintaining a collaborative relationship.

If you are curious to learn more about reputation management, or think a reputation management firm may be right for you, reach out to schedule a free consultation with Status Labs.

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