From Basics to Best Practices: Online Reputation Management FAQs Answered

Where do you start with online reputation management? By now, we’ve all see the impacts of a bad - or good - online reputation. But creating an online reputation management strategy can feel daunting, and navigating the online world can take some expertise.

Here, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions so you can put your best foot forward online.

What is online reputation management?

Online reputation management, often called online reputation management or ORM, is the combination of strategies implemented to assess, improve, and maintain a positive perception of your business online. An ORM strategy can incorporate elements of SEO, PR, media monitoring, digital and brand marketing, and crisis communication.

In simple words, online reputation management is the process of influencing how you are presented and perceived online.

What are the two types of reputation management?

While every online reputation management strategy is different, each strategy generally falls into one of two categories: proactive and reactive.

Proactive ORM refers to strategies implemented preemptively in order to safeguard your reputation from a future reputation hit or crisis and to maintain a positive online reputation. A proactive strategy often focuses on assessing your current reputation, establishing a strong online brand and presence, identifying risk potential, and anticipating future reputation threats.

Reactive ORM refers to strategies implemented as a response to a negative hit to your reputation or a reputation crisis. A reactive strategy must move quickly and often focuses on monitoring conversations around you or your business, keeping up-to-date on the negative news, creating a response plan when necessary, and highlighting positive, relevant news about your or your business to offset the impact of the reputation hit.

Although reactive ORM strategies overlap with proactive ORM, urgency plays a significant role, and some more time-consuming or long-term strategies will need to go on the back burner while the crisis is being navigated to mitigate the long-term effects.

How can I monitor and assess my online reputation?

To get the best idea of how you appear online, Google yourself. Open an incognito browser and search for your or your company’s name. Consider what you see, and ask yourself:

  • Are these results even relevant?
  • Are the results positive, neutral, negative, or a combination?
  • How many of these assets do I own (such as social media accounts, personal or professional websites, blogs, etc.)?
  • Are there news articles, images, or videos populating in the relevant tabs?

You won’t be able to work on your reputation without knowing what you’re working with, so auditing your results will help ensure that you carry out a plan that is relevant to your specific reputation needs.

Once you have gotten an idea of how you appear online, continue to check in. Google results are ever-changing, and one update, new review, social media conversation, or news article can have a substantial impact on your results and, thus, your reputation.

Is online reputation management worth it?

Yes. In 2023, everyone needs some version of reputation management, and the value speaks for itself. Nearly 70% of online experiences begin with a search engine. The number of people getting news - or, really, any information - online is growing significantly and, for many people and businesses, how you appear online will be your first impression.

Put simply, if you are not working on your reputation, then it is entirely up to what other people say about you - and how Google wants to rank things in search. Even a basic online reputation management strategy can not only protect you from a reputation crisis, but can help you stand out from the competition, widen your audience, and build credibility in your industry.

Why is reputation management important for individuals?

You’ve probably been looked up online. Whether by a recruiter or a blind date, people are going online to learn more about other people. Roughly 50% of people don’t like what they find when they Google themselves, and if you don’t have a reputation management strategy in place, you could see the impact in your personal and professional life.

Around 90% of employers look at the social media presence of prospective employees, and roughly 80% have rejected a candidate based on what they found. Nearly 50% of people will search a person before going on a date, so if they don’t like what they find, you may be missing out on opportunities there as well.

Why is reputation management important for businesses?

The reputation of your business can be one of its greatest assets - or an insurmountable hindrance. In a survey conducted by Deloitte, nearly 90% of over 300 executive respondents cited reputation as the most significant risk area for companies, with 88% of respondents stating that their companies actively manage reputation risk.

To consumers, online reputation is a key factor in determining whether or not they will frequent a business. 95% of people go online to learn more about businesses. A TrustPilot consumer survey found that a positive internet reputation was the #1 most important factor to consumers, while having the best quality product or service offering was listed as the fourth most important factor.

While the impacts of a poor online reputation can be concerning for your business, the impacts of a positive online reputation can change the future of your business for the better. Nearly 90% of consumers report that they will remain loyal to brands that share their values. A positive reputation can benefit several aspects of your business, from marketing costs to audience reach to better relationships with employees and investors.

How do I build a positive online reputation?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to online reputation management. Each individual and organization has different factors to consider: where you’re starting, what resources you can allocate, your areas of opportunity and vulnerability, and what your short- and long-term goals are are just a few.

That said, there are ORM best practices you can take into consideration. Here are 4 tips to build an online presence:

  1. Create a website. Personal, professional, or for your business, you should create a website. If you are not able to get an exact match domain name, consider domains that will still be clear to your audience. Don’t forget to consider best practices when it comes to helping your website rank.
  2. Claim your social media profiles. Even if you do not want to carry out a social media strategy now, having these social media profiles secured will ensure that you 1) have them for later, and 2) that no one else will take them. If you aren’t ready to keep these profiles active, you can set them to private.
  3. Make sure important information is findable online. While you may not be ready to carry out a multi-platform social media strategy, you want to be sure that anyone looking for information about you can find it easily. If you’re an individual, this means maintaining your personal website and/or Linkedin profile. For businesses, this means maintaining your business website and relevant profiles, as well as Google My Business listing.
  4. Regularly audit your reputation. If I haven’t said it enough, your online reputation is not a static thing. Keeping up-to-date on your reputation can help you refine your ORM strategy and respond to reputation risks before they grow into a reputation crisis.

How long does online reputation management take?

An effective online reputation management plan will take time. Google results shift, new stories come out, and fresh reviews will be written. As a result, your ORM strategy will be iterative and ongoing.

That isn’t to say that it should take forever. While your approach to your online reputation should always be evolving, specific goals - such as decreasing the prominence of a negative news article or improving your review rating - can be achievable on realistic timelines.

Generally speaking, an online reputation management campaign addressing a specific reputation concern should take between six months and a year, though some campaigns can exceed these timelines. This depends on factors such as monthly search volume, the number of negative articles or reviews, the potential for additional news coverage, etc.

If you work with an online reputation management firm on your reputation, you should be skeptical of any firms that suggest quick fixes or shorter timelines, as the longer timeline does not only ensure that white hat strategies are being used, but also that results will last long term.

How can I measure the effectiveness of my reputation management efforts?

Once your reputation is fixed! In all seriousness, the efficacy of your strategy can be measured based on the goals you set at the beginning of your ORM strategy. If your goal was to improve your overall review rating, clean up page 1, or rank more relevant properties, your measure of success will be how close you are to achieving those goals.

Some larger goals require smaller benchmarks. If you are trying to improve your online presence, some benchmarks may be launching your website, hitting a certain follower count on social media, or ranking four owned assets on page 1.

Consider your overarching goals, the steps you will need to take to get there, and define the benchmarks you want to hit so you can adjust if you are not getting there.

How do you maintain your reputation?

In a way, reputation management never ends. But that can be comforting as well as frustrating - once you have established an effective reputation management strategy, that is how you can maintain your reputation. Pay attention to what has worked for you and stay consistent. Do not sacrifice quantity for quality, but don’t lose your momentum.

What are some common mistakes to avoid in reputation management?

Working on your reputation can be sensitive, and making too many mistakes can actually harm your reputation in the long run.

While there are considerations that may be specific to your own goals or industry, there are certain “worst practices” that everyone should avoid:

  • Clearly ignoring the problem. A common strategy in ORM is to offset negative content by highlighting positive elements of you or your business. But in some cases, this can come off as tone-deaf or too conspicuous, thus worsening the problem.
  • Poor responses to negative feedback. A particularly scathing, or even untrue, review would frustrate anything, but you want to avoid responding if you are angry or otherwise likely to respond poorly. Many online users take responses just as seriously as the original content, so how you respond can make a situation much worse if you don’t have a plan in place.
  • Doing nothing. Particularly in the wake of a reputation crisis, it can be tempting to just put your head down and wait for it to be over; however, time is very valuable when it comes to ORM, and the internet is forever - if you don’t respond, the problem may define your online image.

Can I remove negative reviews?

Any business owner knows the sting of receiving a negative review. Whether the customer is being honest, or the review is falsified/exaggerated, negative reviews online tarnish your business’s image. Ideally, you’d be able to prove which reviews are falsified or exaggerated and have them removed, but this isn’t always the case.

Some reviews can be removed from the internet in select cases, but the better option is to begin collecting positive reviews and establishing steady customer communication. Review management systems, like those employed by our team, help you respond to reviews in a timely manner, turn negative reviews into positive reviews with good customer service and otherwise address the situation from within.

The most important factor with negative reviews is that you should never respond with emotion or defensiveness. If you cannot control your emotions regarding a review, do not respond to it until you have calmed down or leave it up to a neutral, professional party.

How do I handle negative online reviews or feedback?

As I touched on earlier, a bad response to negative feedback online can create a bigger problem. Having a response plan in place is vital, not only to mitigate the impacts of negative reviews or news coverage, but, in some cases, to turn a negative into a positive.

When crafting a response or response plan, consider:

  • Is the criticism legitimate?
  • Can you take accountability?
  • Can you offer a solution?
  • Does this require a private follow-up?

In addition, you should always ask yourself: should I respond? Not everything warrants a response, and being able to differentiate between what does and does not can save you time and greater headaches later on.

How can social media impact my business reputation?

Social media can be a valuable tool when it comes to improving and maintaining your online reputation. Social media platforms tend to rank well in search results, and your audience will be familiar with the platform, making it easier for you to connect with them. What’s more, depending on your industry and audience, they may expect you to be on the platform, and take your absence as a deterrent.

To use social media to your advantage, be sure to have consistent usernames and profile pictures across platforms. While you want to match the tone of the platform, your brand should be identifiable across all of them to ensure recognizability.

Additionally, be sure you are ready to use social media before integrating it into your strategy. Sparse or inactive social media profiles can actually have the opposite of your desired effect, deterring your audience.

Do I need to take a legal route to fix my reputation?

When you see negative things about you or your business online, it’s understandable to consider legal action; however, when it comes to your online reputation, legal action is rarely relevant.

Legal action online is generally only relevant when, no surprise, someone is breaking the law. Mugshots, court records, personal opinions, rants, and opinionated reviews are not against the law. Generally, sharing of private information (account information, social security numbers, etc.) or sexual images can result in a successful legal battle, but the vast majority of negative content online is not protected in this way.

What’s more, involving a lawyer can sometimes exacerbate the issue, as many websites that publish unsavory content are aware of what they’re doing and will double down once they know they’ve gotten your attention.

While other types of posts may violate Google’s guidelines, this is still not a legal issue - that said, there are steps you can take to report the violation to Google and potentially get the page removed from results.

Can’t I just stay off the internet and avoid this whole thing?

It’s a common misconception that you can avoid the internet, so you don’t have to worry about your online reputation. Business owners might talk about removing their companies from review sites, and professionals might delete their social media accounts in hopes of making everything go away, but this doesn’t work.

Almost everyone, whether they like it or not, has an online reputation. By avoiding the internet, you can ignore this fact, but no one else will. In a world where 84% of people trust the information they find online more than they trust what they hear in person, you don’t have a choice but to address your reputation online. Your coworkers, bosses, college professors, friends, family, and romantic partners can all type your name into a Google search and check out the readily-available information, whether you like it or not.

You have two options – you can leave your online reputation in the hands of whoever cares to post about you, or you can take charge of it and guide your reputation in the direction you’d like to see it move in.

Can you get over a bad reputation?

The first step in fixing your online reputation – much like your credit score or retirement plans – is understanding it. Once you know where your reputation is at, you can begin to repair it by positively branding yourself, establishing yourself as an expert in the field, creating quality content, claiming web domains and executing an SEO strategy.

In the meantime, you’ll also want to be careful about how you present yourself online going forward. Refrain from making comments or social media posts that represent you poorly and do not add fuel to the fire. Once you do something online, it’s immortalized. Consider this before you click the submit button.

Some people choose to fix their online reputation on their own – which can require upwards of 20 hours per week – while others choose to work with a team of trained experts to get results. The former option requires extensive self-education and the building of new skills, in addition to hours of work per week, while the latter requires minimal involvement but does, of course, entail paying for expert services.

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