Reputation Management FAQ: Interview with Industry Expert Charlie Howell

Most people know that reputation management is something that they should be doing but aren’t sure what it is or where to start. There are a number of misunderstandings about the industry and its practices. Effective reputation management usually is a combination of content creation, SEO, and PR.

Many aspects that affect your reputation online will in one way or another also affect your offline life and vice versa. Putting your best foot forward and controlling as much page one real estate in search results is an essential part of reputation management.

It’s easy to be daunted in beginning your first steps with reputation management but don’t get overwhelmed. Like anything else, some basic principles apply that once you have a better understanding of, the less intimidating the field is.    

–Charlie Howell, Reputation Management Expert        

What is the Most Misunderstood Aspect of Reputation Management?

Many people seem to think that reputation management firms charge users to delete negative information they find on the internet. This is typically incorrect and methods that employ this technique are often ineffective and sometimes illegal. In most cases, positive content is promoted and created to push down the negative material from the first page, suppressing the negative search results. Since over 91% of all search traffic won’t venture past the first page of Google, having a “clean” first page is a good measure of success for a reputation management campaign.

In addition, there is also a good deal of misunderstanding when it comes to how positive/negative reviews are handled. Generating positive reviews is an altogether different approach than paying for fake reviews. For example, if you ask a customer that has had a positive experience with your brand to leave a review, they are 70% more likely to leave a positive review than if they are not asked. Fake reviews are also easy for both the platforms hosting the reviews and potential consumers to sniff out and are not a great way to promote your brand. What you are looking for are genuine positive reviews from real people that will balance out or exceed any negative reviews. A deletion is rarely an option unless you possess a court order or have a direct relationship and agreement with the site hosting the content. Be very cautious when dealing with companies that guarantee they “delete negative reviews.” This is usually a big red flag and some of these practices may be illegal. Creating new positive content, is the name of the game.

What is Online Reputation Management?

Online reputation management can most easily be defined as taking a proactive approach to positively affect what appears about a person or company online. If you aren’t managing your own reputation, someone else is. Online reputation management is like getting ready for a blind date. You want to put your best foot forward when you leave the house, you’ll most likely style your hair and wear nice clothes. Reputation management is the same idea; when someone looks you or your business up for the first time you want to appear in a positive light and have as much control over the narrative about YOU as possible. After all, you are the expert on yourself and your business. Don’t let your direct competitor, a disgruntled customer, or angry ex have the first word when someone wants to know about you or your business.

Why Do I Need Reputation Management?

For the most part, people come to us only when they have a problem. There is something that won’t “go away ” in search results or old news on the first page of Google that is hindering someone’s personal life or costing them business. Prospective clients are often surprised at the length of a campaign that is required in order for positive results to start populating in the top of search results. Usually, the prolonged nature of a campaign is due to the fact that there has been no reputation management before the bad results started appearing, so the work is more or less starting from scratch.

The best way to begin reputation management is to not wait until negative results start appearing, but to proactively begin taking control of your reputation when the proverbial weather is fair. Claiming ownership of your domain and social media profiles is always a great first step even if you don’t actively plan on using them just yet. Think of the first page of Google like a Monopoly board. You might not be building hotels on Park Place immediately, but controlling the real estate by strategically building out content in a pragmatic and organic manner is extremely valuable and essential to protecting your reputation in the long term.

Having negative articles in your search results can have a substantial negative effect on your business and personal life. A study by Moz has revealed that 67% of consumers are influenced by online reviews and if just one of those is negative a business can lose up to 22% of revenue. In addition, the first thing that most university admissions, prospective clients, business partners, and even new acquaintances do is a quick Google search for your name. If you are like 50% of most Americans you won’t be satisfied with what you find in your own search results.  

How Long Does Fixing a Reputation Take?

The natural reaction to fixing a reputation is to want immediate results. Especially, just after a negative review or article is published, people want it to go away immediately. Reputation management companies know this and advertise quick fixes like “Guaranteed Removals” or “Deletion” in hopes of catching people when they are most vulnerable to bite on a too-good-to-be-true option. If something seems too-good-to-be-true it almost always is. A cookie-cutter contract filled with vague half-promises and confusing legalese often ends with the customer dissatisfied and the reputation management company cashing your check without delivering on the quick fix they promised.

The truth is, it’s more a triathlon than a foot race when it comes to reputation management — not only does it require stamina and commitment, but also multiple different specialized techniques. Search engines are frequently changing their approaches on how to sort the most relevant information and it takes time to rank for a keyword. The more negative information about a person there is out there, generally, the longer it will take to clear it. There isn’t a silver bullet that will fix a damaged reputation. It takes time and a concert by synced methodologies. Warren Buffet said it best when he said:

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

While it may not take 20 years to fix your reputation, the point isn’t lost. All of your actions contribute to either building or damaging your reputation and that which is difficult to build, is easy to tear down.

Why Are Reputation Management Services So Expensive?

It’s no secret that good reputation management can easily cost thousands of dollars. If a company is offering a solution within the hundreds of dollars range, this typically just means they are trying for some quick and easy money and don’t have your best interests in mind. For this price range you can expect them to create a few social media profiles you could have created for yourself and with little to no thought or direction behind these efforts you will notice the lack of impact on your overall search results.

In order to achieve lasting results with keyword movement on the first page of Google, a few things need to happen. You need a well thought out strategy and implementation in order to achieve the goals you wish to accomplish. This will mean a dedicated account manager who will look into the specifics of your situation (i.e., search volume, existing online content, related keywords, etc.) in order to tailor an approach that will be effective because it’s unique to your situation. Once a strategy and timeline are figured out you need the implements to deliver on the project which means an operations team and often a PR package that parallels the creation of new positive content while seeking press opportunities and cultivating your personal or company’s branding. In order to be successful, while all of this other work is being executed, you also need SEO specialists to optimize the new positive content being earned and created for clients so it can challenge the negative content, push it down, and appear more prevalently in search results. The key to a successful reputation management campaign is combining a great campaign manager and strategy along with the resources and implementation to see the campaign through, including a great operation, SEO, and PR team working together to achieve a larger goal.

Why Does Reputation Management Take So Long?

Clients are sometimes surprised when they hear a quote for a timeline spanning months rather than days to positively influence and impact online search results. It’s important to keep in mind that the vast majority of people have done little to no reputation management up to the point where they contact a company to help them. That’s what we’re here for! It’s probably a good idea to schedule anywhere from 3-6 months to deal with each negative result. Remember, your online reputation is the sum of everything that appears about you on the internet up until this point, which is in most cases… a lifetime. Relatively speaking, the amount of time to positively impact your reputation is very short in comparison to the time that it has taken to form someone’s current reputation, as well as the time it would take to clear that reputation if no efforts were taken to right it. It’s always important to keep in mind that positive results will take time but patience and diligence is rewarded with an improved online presence which usually means more dollars in your pocket, fewer headaches, and explanations.

How Do You Protect Yourself From Reputation Attacks?

The easiest way to protect yourself from an attack on your reputation is to limit what is available online that can be used against you. For example, you might not think much of a poorly conceived tweet you hit send on five years ago, but those are exactly the sort of missteps that can and do come back to haunt you. The first step to controlling your online reputation is basic good-housekeeping. Go through all of your social media profiles and make sure that no offensive or embarrassing photos or posts are public. Delete anything from the past which could be taken the wrong way or can be taken as offensive. It’s 2019, and the times are changing. Something that might have felt socially acceptable in 2009 is viewed under a different lens today. Make your personal accounts private so that only friends and loved ones can view them. If there are sites which are still hosting old material which you have deleted it’s worth writing to the domain host and personally asking them to remove the photos or posts.

Claim all of the big social media sites with your name or company if you haven’t done so already. Even if you plan on making the sites private or don’t plan to be active on social media, claiming these sites will ensure that you are the person controlling them. The same goes for personal websites such as “”.

It happens more often than you would expect that someone that shares your name, or worse,  someone who wants to destroy your name will simply buy the domain and post derogatory or negative content. Claiming your social media profiles and web domain is an easy way to prevent an unwanted reputation attack from a competitor or someone interested in extorting you.

Why is Online Reputation Management Important?

One of the underlying reasons that reputation management is so important today is that a select few companies have worked their way to the front of the pack and are the gatekeepers who control how the world’s information is processed and organized. Search results are immediately discoverable on the internet for better or worse. The internet is relatively brand new and as information technology companies learn and optimize how to populate the most relevant results with associated searches, people will always be working to keep up with the best way to get their side of the story out there.

The internet is truly a great upheaval. It has affected all aspects of our lives and perhaps most interestingly, how we consume information and make real-life decisions based on online search results. Trust is shifting from government to brands and from brands to personalities and purchasers.

News is almost immediate. Everyone with a cell phone has in a sense the same lens as a journalist. Consumer and product reviews can either cripple or make a business and most importantly, people are judged and evaluated with various life impacting decisions based on how the information about them is organized in search results.

What are some examples of Online Reputation Management Services?

Personal and Company Reputation Audit: By perusing the first few pages of Google you should be able to get a pretty good sense of where you stand with your reputation but there may be things that you miss that can positively or negatively affect your business. For most online reputation management companies this is a free service and is used to open the dialogue between what you want to accomplish and how a reputation management company can help you both identify pain points and achieve goals. For instance, what content would be positive, negative, and neutral in relation to your keywords? What additional long-tail keywords may be relevant and are receiving significant traffic? Which geolocations are providing which results and where in SERPs?

Content Creation: In most reputation management campaigns there is typically some form of content creation that will be part of the strategy. Remember that negative content needs to be pushed down by positive content that you control. Whether it be blog posts from relevant sites to help build your brand or well-informed content to populate social media profiles or all of the above, usually the cornerstone to a successful reputation management campaign will be creating new positive content to counterbalance negative search results.

SEO: Where most potential clients begin to feel the most intimidated in a reputation management proposal is by the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) portion of a campaign. After relevant and positive content is created it needs to speak the language of the search crawlers that will decide whether the content is meaningful and relevant enough to appear on the first page of search results. This includes optimizing for keywords within the content and populating the correct metatags to be sure that when the information is crawled that it is easily discoverable and formatted in a way that is search result friendly.

Review Management: If your reputation management goals stem from negative reviews that are impacting your business, then a good review management plan will include a strategy to mitigate negative reviews by generating more positive reviews. In addition, responding to dissatisfied customers in an understanding and professional way can go a long way to shift the perception of a business. Also, it’s a great idea to outsource and monitor brand mentions and reviews as they come in, so sentiment can be gauged and you are able to respond quickly to any negative reviews or issues that may pop-up.

Website Audit: One of the more powerful reputation management tools is a person’s personal or business website. These websites generally rank very well in search results and can be extremely useful in both constructing a positive narrative surrounding your keywords as well as occupying valuable first-page real estate in search results. A common pain point for clients is the SEO and technical aspects of reputation management. A full website audit will identify areas of improvement that will optimize your search results.

Public Relations: Another piece of the content creation component can come through earned media and thought leadership pieces that are relevant to your industry. Having skilled PR professionals in your corner to help garner interest, and tell your story can help shape new, and positive news cycles about you which can be very useful. This is particularly helpful if the content you are trying to suppress comes from a large news publication. If you can get the same, or an equally prominent news publication to host positive news about you then it will have a good chance of outranking the negative information in your results.

Can I Do Reputation Management Myself?

There are certainly some aspects of reputation management that people can and should be doing themselves if they have the time for it. Having a general lay of the land is important when discovering where you stand with your reputation. Easily actionable items such as auditing the first few pages of search results and categorizing keyword results as positive, negative, or neutral is usually a great place to start. Also, claiming and posting to LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and any other relevant social media sites is easy for anyone to accomplish even without a tech-focused background. Reading blogs and updates about the reputation management industry is also a great way to gain a better understanding of the processes involved and what it takes to accomplish a successful reputation management campaign. For the SEO and PR aspects of your campaign these are probably best left to the experts as these are more specialized areas of the repair process. At the end of the day, it’s up to you how much time and effort you want to take on yourself in building and repairing your reputation. A free consultation is a great way to get a feel for the landscape surrounding your reputation.

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