Mastering Online Reputation Management: A Comprehensive Guide

In this Online Reputation Management (ORM) guide, I'll shed light on the pivotal role of ORM in addressing and preempting negative attention online. The strategies in this guide will arm you with a foundation of knowledge and actionable steps aimed at not only tackling any hurdles that may arise for you or your business, but also at proactively strengthening your online presence.

What Is Online Reputation Management?

Online reputation management (ORM) is the practice of influencing the narrative around you, your company, or your brand online. Depending on resources, target audience, short- and long-term goals, and the current state of your online reputation, a successful online reputation management strategy can take many forms, though most will incorporate SEO, content marketing, brand management, and PR in some capacity.

Generally speaking, there are two primary forms of ORM: proactive and reactive.

Proactive ORM refers to reputation management strategies implemented to improve your visibility in search results and create a cohesive, accurate, and strong online presence. Proactive ORM can be for longstanding companies that don’t have much of an online presence, newer companies trying to get off the ground, public figures who want a more established online brand, and much more.

Reactive ORM refers to reputation management strategies implemented in the wake of a reputation predicament or crisis. Usually, these strategies address a negative article or news cycle, a high volume of negative customer or client reviews, a scandal or lawsuit relating to your business or executive team, or other PR concerns in those veins. Unlike proactive ORM, reactive ORM is urgent and requires a quick, measured response to mitigate damage.

The Power of Online Reputation

How you appear online is not only your first impression, but leaves a lasting impression. As a result, managing your brand's online reputation has never been more crucial.

When it comes to your online reputation, showing up is one of the most crucial components. On average, it takes 5 to 7 impressions for people to remember a brand. emphasizing the significance of visibility and consistency in your online strategy. Search isn't the only platform to consider; presenting your brand consistently across all platforms (such as your website, blog, social media, etc.) can increase revenue by up to 23%, as highlighted in recent studies.

If you do show up in search results, how you show up is the next consideration. The implications of a bad online reputation are staggering, with 90% of consumers admitting they avoid businesses with poor reputations. Moreover, negative news or reviews online can sway purchase decisions for 87% of consumers, while nearly 70% of prospective employees would reject a job offer from a company with a bad reputation.

It isn't all bad. A positive reputation is powerful and can safeguard your business online. Consumers ranked a positive internet reputation as the number one factor when determining which business to frequent, even above the quality of products and services, and an overwhelming 95% of consumers trust corporations with positive reputations.

Maintaining a positive online reputation isn't just about safeguarding your business against criticism—it's about building trust, loyalty, and credibility in an increasingly competitive and meaningful digital landscape. In this article, I will delve into the intricacies of online reputation management and outline how you can navigate this critical aspect of modern business effectively.

How is ORM Different from SEO?

In the simplest terms, ORM campaigns target a branded keyword (such as your name, business name, or brand name) and aim to influence results specific to you to present a better online presence.

SEO is the inverse, and involves targeting a more general keyword that many other people or companies may be targeting to attempt to rank one property (usually your website) for a more general query.

Although an ORM strategy will leverage SEO, traditional SEO campaigns are not the same as reputation management.

What Makes up Your Online Reputation?

Your online reputation is made up of any and everything that can be found about you online. Your website, news articles, press releases, news coverage, reviews, forums, social media posts and comments…the list goes on and on.

Results about you online fall into three categories: 1) owned assets, 2) earned media, and 3) sponsored content.

Owned assets are anything that you control online. This can include:

  • Your website
  • Your blog, if not hosted on your website
  • Your social media profiles

Earned media is any media coverage you receive without exchanging compensation between parties. This can include:

  • News articles about you or your business
  • Features or mentions in publications
  • Interviews
  • Long-form reviews

Sponsored content is any content that you pay for another organization to publish. This can include:

  • Article collaborations with publications
  • Product placement in media
  • Collaborations with influencers

Other online assets, such as social media posts, comments, shorter reviews, and press releases don’t perfectly fall into these categories but also have an impact on your online reputation.

Of course, where results rank matters. The #1 result ranking for a particular query in Google earns an average click-through rate (CTR) of 27.6%, ten times higher than the clicks the #10 result receives. Results that aren’t on the first page of results receive even less - only 0.63% of people click on results past the first page of Google.

But just because something doesn’t rank in the top 10 results for you or your company’s name doesn’t mean people won’t find it. Google features such as suggested and related search may guide people to topics relevant to your business, bringing up results that may not be prominent in more general results.

Why Does Online Reputation Management Matter?

Our world is going digital. People are going online to learn more about people, businesses, events, products and services - anything that they may want to know more about. And what they find matters.

In a recent survey conducted by Deloitte, roughly 90% of over 300 executives surveyed ranked reputation as the most significant risk area for companies.

If your business is contending with a bad reputation, the consequences will be tangible. In a study conducted by TrustPilot, consumers ranked a positive internet reputation as the #1 most important factor when determining which business to frequent. 90% of consumers report not frequenting a business with a bad reputation, and 87% of consumers report that they will even reverse a purchase decision after reading negative news or reviews about a business online. A bad reputation won’t only impact your customers, either - nearly 70% of prospective employees report that they would reject a job offer from a company with a bad reputation, even if they were unemployed.

For individuals, a poor online reputation can affect your personal and professional life. Roughly 90% of employers look at the social media presence of prospective employees and 80% of employers have rejected a candidate based on what they found. If you’re a public figure, a negative online reputation can reflect on your company, leading to not only repercussions for you but for your business.

Your reputation doesn’t even have to be negative to have a negative impact. If you have a sparse online presence or information about you or your business is out-of-date, you can experience a hit to your reputation.

Without an online reputation management strategy, your online reputation is made up entirely of what others say about you - and because the internet is forever, this can include old mistakes or missteps continuing to haunt you in the present and even looking ahead. Even one off headline can have a lasting impact on your reputation.

What’s more, if you aren’t managing your reputation, you may be falling behind. In the same survey by Deloitte, 88% of executives said that their companies were actively managing reputation risk.

Although the ramifications of a poor online reputation are substantial, the opportunities that come with a positive online reputation cannot be overstated. 95% of consumers report trusting a corporation with a positive reputation and approximately 90% of consumers report that they will remain loyal to brands that share their values.

A positive reputation doesn’t only increase brand loyalty, audience reach, and customer retention, but will help you weather the storm if you experience a hit to your reputation. Reputation management doesn’t only mitigate the impact of reputation threats. Reputation management can also give you opportunities to grow your audience, increase audience loyalty, and set yourself apart from the competition.

Who Needs Online Reputation Management?

Nearly everyone can benefit from online reputation management. Whether you are a prospective employee looking to grow in your profession, a public figure heading a company, or a business looking to grow, taking control of your online presence is worthwhile.

If you are online, either because you have some sort of online presence or because others expect to find information about you online, you need reputation management. For some, reputation management can be as simple as making personal social media profiles private and beefing up your Linkedin resume. For others, it may require a more involved approach. But either way, if you are not taking time to actively manage your online presence, you could be missing out on opportunities.

How to Assess Your Own Online Reputation

The first step in managing your online reputation is to figure out where you’re starting. To do so, open an incognito browser, make sure your cache is cleared, and Google you or your business name.

Google Search results for keyword "Bill Gates" on February 20, 2024

Consider what you see. What elements are on the page? Do you see any questions about you or your business, or potentially even a Google Knowledge Panel? Are the search results relevant to you or your business? Do other people or businesses rank? Does your website rank? What about social media profiles? How do the image and news tabs look? How are the reviews? Are the results generally positive, negative, or neutral? Be sure to explore, and search any other terms that may bring people to your search results or results about your business.

If there are news articles in your results, you will want to understand the overall narrative. Are the articles positive, negative, or neutral? What is the nature of your news coverage? Are the publications local, national, or international? If you aren’t being featured in many publications, are your competitors?

Once you feel you have a good understanding of how you appear online, you can begin to define the short- and long-term goals of your online reputation management strategy. Reputation management is an iterative process, and knowing where you stand can give you valuable insight into where you want to go.

How to Do Online Reputation Management

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to ORM. Depending on your current online presence, news coverage, and the time and resources you have to dedicate to it, you will have a different strategy.

That said, there are general steps you can take to begin to manage your online reputation.

1. Claim All Necessary Owned Assets

Owned assets are one of the most valuable pieces of your online presence. In addition to your website, claim any relevant social media profiles. Ensure that these profiles have a consistent username across platforms, preferably one that includes your name or business name, or that is clearly recognizable. Although different platforms may differ when it comes to the kind of content and the tone that you use to communicate with your audience, you’ll want to maintain some consistency, as presenting your brand consistently across all platforms can increase revenue by up to 23%.

If you do not have the capacity to maintain a full social media presence, or you aren’t sure how to incorporate certain profiles into your strategy, claim the profiles and set them to private until that time comes. An inactive or sparse profile will not do you any favors and is likely to not rank well in search results.

2. Identify Potential Threats and Opportunities

Proactive ORM tends to be much easier than reactive ORM. As such, identifying areas of potential threat can help you get ahead of negative news and feedback so you can mitigate the impact of those things should they come up. Threats are generally very specific to you. They could be related to your industry, employee and customer satisfaction, impending lawsuits, executive scandals, poor reception of a product - anything that could have an impact on your reputation should be considered.

Opportunities can present themselves, too. Partnering with relevant nonprofit organizations, highlighting high-performing employees, setting new industry standards, or the launch of a long-awaited product are all opportunities to highlight you and your company and show your audience more about you. These opportunities can also allow you to create a more in-depth narrative around your company online, devaluing negative narratives in the longterm.

3. Create a Content Strategy

Content is king in SEO (will I ever stop saying it?). If you want to establish yourself online and rank competitively, you will need to leverage some kind of content. This could come in the form of blogs, sponsored articles, videos, podcasts, etc. Content marketing gets three times more leads than paid search advertising, which can help you grow your audience and create a more established brand online.

To make sure your content is working for you, pick three to five themes that are relevant to your expertise or your company’s industry. Brainstorm topics that fall in these categories that could appeal to your audience, and create high-quality, informative content. While you want to maintain some consistency when it comes to publishing content, never sacrifice quality for quantity. 7.5 million blog posts are published every single day on WordPress sites alone, and you have to remember that when it comes to SEO and ORM, if you’re not first (or right near the top), you may as well be last.

4. Monitor Your Online Presence

Once you have conducted your initial audit of your online presence and reputation, you’ll need to stay up-to-date. As I said earlier, reputation management is an iterative process, and you can’t do it effectively if you don’t know what you’re working with.

To actively monitor your reputation, check your Google search results regularly to look for shifts and new ranking properties. To stay up-to-date on news coverage, you can set up Google Alerts for relevant keywords. Be sure to also be aware of new reviews, social media comments, and posts in relevant forums such as Reddit. The closer to real-time you can monitor your online presence, the more easily you can respond and adjust as necessary.

5. Draft a Response Plan

Although some things are better left alone, some exchanges can warrant a response. Whether it is an inaccurate article or a frustrated customer review, knowing how to respond and having a plan in place can help you turn a negative into a positive and avoid exacerbating the problem.

Your planned response should be calm and informative, but should not be canned or repetitive. Make sure that any language you use is respectful and that you offer solutions or alternatives whenever relevant. You can learn more about how to respond online here.

6. Establish a Crisis Response

Though the scope of the crisis will vary, nearly everyone will experience some kind of reputation crisis. How much that crisis impacts you or your business depends on how you respond and how you’ve prepared.

If you have already identified reputation threats, you can use these as a springboard for crisis response. If you have anticipated an upcoming crisis, consider everything that would be valuable to have on-hand to help you through it.

7. Know When to Hire an ORM Firm

In some cases, taking on your own reputation management is too much. Either due to a lack of resources, understanding, or in the wake of a reputation crisis, you may find yourself needing additional support.

That is where firms like Status Labs can help. Status Labs is an established online reputation management company with experienced teams that will listen to your concerns and create a custom reputation management strategy to help you repair your online reputation.

If you’re interested in working with Status Labs, you can schedule a free consultation with us through our website. We look forward to talking with you.

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