Online Reputation Management FAQ: Interview with ORM Specialist Sal Villagomez

by Sal Villagomez, Director of Growth

The lines are becoming indistinguishable between your online reputation and simply, your reputation. The traditional practices of PR, have evolved with the digital age and effective communication to a target audience now employs elements of public relations, marketing, and search engine optimization to help shape the narrative surrounding an individual, entity, or business.

What others see about you or your business online is the new first impression. In most scenarios of personal vetting, business dealings, or consumer purchases– whether it be a date,  job candidacy, or consumers searching for a product or customer reviews– the first place that people look is online.

How would you define online reputation management?

Online reputation management (ORM) is how a company or an individual can derive value and influence from their digital footprint in search results. A company can take control of their own narrative by producing positive content about its history, along with products and services that are specifically catered to its target audience. Reputation management also amplifies brand awareness by producing insightful and relevant content that can be found in search results to generate leads and increase booked revenue.

In a digitally driven world, a company needs to do everything possible to stand out online. Online reputation management provides that solution.

How has social media influenced reputation management?

Social media has always been an integral part of reputation management but its true power and reach was never fully realized until recently. Without an active social media presence, a company will likely fall behind its competitors. B2C has always been one step ahead in terms of the adoption and development of new technologies and B2B tends to lag behind. This is especially true when it comes to the global success of social media platforms such Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Yelp, YouTube, Pinterest, etc. The percentage of the U.S. population currently using social media has seen exponential growth since 2008 when only 24% of the population used some form of social media. In 2017, that figure rose to 81%, resulting in a 237% increase.

It’s vital for a company to be active on their social media platforms so that they can tap into the overwhelming market of daily active users to increase and nurture their following. A company that puts themselves in front of their target audience on social media will have a competitive advantage that will result in the growth of new business opportunities.

What’s the biggest mistake that people make when trying to manage their own online reputations?

A majority of people believe that running a traditional public relations campaign, creating numerous social media properties, profiles, websites, and blogs is the ideal solution. Although these are all tools that are leveraged when undergoing a reputation management campaign, search engine algorithms are going to find it hard to believe that a new piece of content should rank on page one over the existing content that is holding prime real estate. It’s not simply enough to create new content and hope that it will prominently rank on page one of search results. A few key components are missing – search engine optimization (SEO), social signals, and engagement.

What is the first piece of advice that you would give someone when beginning to consider their online reputation?

My first piece of advice would be to perform a Google search of high-value keywords to visually see the current state of the search landscape. This will allow someone to see if there are any immediate issues or problems that need to be overcome. Next, write down the goals and outcomes that are to be achieved from online reputation management. It’s also important for a company to take note of the specialized knowledge they possess and how they can solve problems encountered by their target market which will provide a solid foundation for content development that can be promoted in search. For individuals, the foundation of content will come down to their personal knowledge and passions. Most importantly, speak to an online reputation management expert and research all of the options available.

What is the biggest misconception about online reputation management firms?

The biggest misconception is that negative reviews and articles can outright be deleted. There are a lot of legal issues that must be taken into consideration and the situation is rather complex. A media outlet that wrote an article that is factually correct and supported by reputable sources has the right to keep hosting the article. A company or individual may find themselves in hot water if they end up doing business with a company that claims they can permanently delete reviews and articles from search results.

Stay well away from companies that offer 100% guarantees of deletion from Google and deindexing.

How long does it take to fix a damaged reputation?

Every situation is different and requires its own approach. It’s important to consider if there is a negative news cycle in progress or if it has run its course. A typical news cycle takes about two months to die down and find its place in search engine indexing. However, it’s important to start securing high-quality content opportunities backed by SEO as soon as possible that will act as a buffer and counteract any unwanted press from finding itself at the very top of page one of search results.

It’s important to take a proactive approach to reputation management to prepare for any situation that may unfold in the future and to benefit from having a pristine image in search results.

How should businesses respond to negative reviews?

A business should respond to both positive and negative reviews. When responding to negative reviews, it’s important for a business to take ownership of the problem and not to blame the customer. The goal of a response should be to resolve the issue in a compassionate manner, which will help consumers believe that the business takes all complaints seriously. With 85% of consumers trusting online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, a business should start to garner as many positive reviews by simply asking its existing customer base to leave reviews by deploying an outreach campaign.

How can a company benefit from working with an Online Reputation Management Specialist?

A company will benefit from working with an online reputation management expert by improving their bottom line. However, it’s difficult for a company to determine how much business is being lost due to negative content on page one of Google. A study conducted by Moz revealed that a company risks losing up to 22% of new business when just one negative article is found in Google search by users considering their products and/or services. The potential for lost business increases to 70% if four or more negative pieces of content are found in Google search results.

For example, a company having a high-value keyword with an average monthly search volume of 100,000 will lose up to 22,000 of new customers each month if just one negative article is on page one of Google.

A company will also benefit from taking a proactive approach to online reputation management. An engaged approach allows a company to create their own narrative and take control of how they appear in search results by capitalizing on the presentation of their brand and image to consumers.

It’s safe to say that investing in online reputation management results in a high percentage of ROI when compared to other investments vehicles.

Who should be most concerned with Online Reputation Management?

Any company and individual looking to achieve peak performance should make it a priority to improve their online reputation. It provides a channel to build trust, brand awareness and a loyal customer following. According to Edelman’s Trust Barometer, 64% of users trust online search results the most when conducting research about a business. A company will benefit immensely by building their online image in Google search results to take advantage of Edelman’s findings.

In addition, 87% of people claim that their perception of a CEO affects their opinion of a company’s overall reputation. An action plan to benefit from this trend to establish the CEO and key executives as thought leaders in the industry by producing high-quality and contextually relevant content that appears in search results.

In the information age, it’s crucial to stand out from the competition and it’s a deciding factor in generating new business opportunities for continued growth.

Where do you see the reputation management industry headed into the future?

I believe that a few innovations will help reputation management to evolve and thrive – big data and machine learning, blockchain technology and augmented reality (AR).

Providing users with a tailored online experience will continue to improve from the accumulation of data and machine learning. New data is being created at an exponential rate and being able to use and understand that data for reputation management could provide a personal approach to reaching a target audience. Advanced machine learning would allow search results to make precise predictions using sophisticated algorithms based on each users tastes and preferences, more so than today. Companies would need to produce a steady stream of relevant content that speaks directly to their target market by answering common questions and problems encountered in their respective industries.

Blockchain technology could create a layer of trust by allowing the decentralization of reputation management. This would allow the authenticity of consumer reviews to be attributed to verifiable customers who might, for instance, be assigned a unique private key. Company products could also be able to be tracked with full transparency from start to finish which would ensure quality and prevent tampering. Consumers would no longer have to worry about dealing with fake reviews or products being tampered with. A company providing this experience to consumers would benefit from being a trusted entity.  

The internet of things (IoT) could act as the bridge to augmented reality and in turn, AR could change the way people interact with the world. It would add a layer of technology to daily lives that brings together the real world and the digital realm. The world could very well become one integrated platform for search, social media, news, advertising, reviews, and everything that is currently experienced online and has yet to be created.

When that time comes, it will be even more pressing for a company to put themselves in front of consumers in a way that allows them to stand out from all of the additional noise and competition.

Online reputation management will continue to change with time. It’s important to start building a digital footprint to be seen as a trusted industry leader with an established community consensus. It’s also important to work with reputation management companies that are constantly adapting, developing, and implementing new strategies to continue providing measurable results to their clients by amplifying their online presence to improve their bottom line.

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