Have you Googled yourself lately?
If not, you may be surprised by what you find. In 2021, page 1 of your Google results is often your first impression to prospective customers – and if they don’t like what they see (or don’t see much about you at all), you run the risk of missing out on that business.
When it comes to managing your online reputation, SEO is your best tool. Understanding what goes into a strong SEO strategy – and how to implement it – can have a massive impact not only on where you show up in results, but what consumers will think of you when they find you online.
In this post, we will define SEO and ORM, how the two work together, and what you can do to leverage SEO for reputation management, to ensure your business is putting its best foot forward online.
SEO vs. ORM
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of implementing several strategies to improve the prominence and visibility of your website in search results for a particular keyword or search query. Generally, SEO is used for terms that are related to your business but may be more general and, as a result, more competitive. SEO can include improving your website, optimizing on-page content for target keywords, developing a social media presence, and much, much more.
Online Reputation Management (ORM) is the practice of influencing the narrative or reputation of your business online. ORM can be proactive or reactive, depending on the needs of your business and when you begin implementing an ORM strategy. Unlike SEO, ORM generally targets keywords specific to your brand or business, meaning that your business must be established enough to already be receiving targeted organic search traffic to benefit from an ORM strategy.
Perhaps the simplest way to differentiate SEO and ORM is that SEO is generally about targeting one website for a broad keyword, while ORM is generally about targeting multiple websites or properties for a more specific or branded keyword.
Both SEO and ORM have to do with how you appear in search results, and both practices involve influencing these results. While SEO and ORM are not synonymous, SEO is a foundational tool for ORM.
The Relationship Between SEO and Your Online Reputation
As we stated above, SEO is about increasing your visibility in search results by improving and strengthening your presence online. Improving your SEO can have a significant impact on how you appear in results – the average top-ranking page for a particular keyword or search query also ranks in the top 10 search results for nearly 1,000 other related keywords.
Many SEO best practices – such as optimizing your website’s performance, creating quality content, developing a social media presence, and defining a recognizable online brand – come together to create an online presence.
Establishing a strong online presence is also the foundation of an effective ORM strategy. In the wake of a reputation crisis – or just one negative news hit – your online presence will be your best line of defense. As a result, your SEO work can have a profound impact on your branded results and, thus, your reputation.
Why ORM Matters
ORM strategy is not optional in 2021. In a study conducted by Trustpilot, 90% of consumers reported not frequenting a business with a bad reputation.
But what constitutes a bad reputation online?
Nowadays, it doesn’t take much to hurt your reputation. Negative news has been reported to be three times more impactful than positive news, and even one prominent negative result in search can have a significant impact – on both your reputation and the success of your business.
Businesses that have just one negative result ranking on page 1 of search results – or even a result with a headline that appears negative – risk losing up to 22% of prospective customers. As the number of negative results increases, so does the likelihood of greater losses – businesses with four or more negative articles can experience a loss of up to 70% of prospective customers.
What populates in your search results will determine what prospective customers, employees, and investors think of your business. While you can’t control what people say about you, with an SEO and ORM strategy, you can impact your search results. And where things rank matters. Less than 5% of people go past the first page of Google, and the top 3 search results receive over 75% of all clicks.
By optimizing your owned assets and establishing yourself online, you can decrease the prominence of negative results, thus reducing the impact of those results on your overall reputation. As well as protecting yourself from negative news, implementing SEO strategies to improve your reputation online can help you put your best foot forward, present your brand accurately, and reach your target audience.
Here, we’ve outlined 10 SEO strategies that you can use to manage your online reputation.
10 SEO Strategies to Improve Your Online Reputation
- Know Your Results
The first step in taking control of your online reputation is taking stock of what others see when they search for you online. To do so, search your or your company’s name and take a look at what shows up.
Questions to consider when auditing your results:
- Is your website ranking? Is your website in position #1?
- Do you have any other owned assets on page 1? Where do they rank?
- Do you have a knowledge panel or a Google My Business listing populating?
- Do any third-party articles or websites rank for you? Are they positive, negative, or neutral?
Understanding what your search results look like will help guide your SEO and ORM strategy. If you see negative reviews or news dominating your results, or if your owned assets don’t show up for your keyword, it is important to know that before you get started. Different results will require different actions. What’s more, understanding what users are seeing when they see your results can help give you context for your overall online reputation.
- Conduct Keyword Research
Your company’s name will not be the only search query that leads prospective customers to your business. Once you have familiarized yourself with the search results for your most obvious keyword, start brainstorming the other keywords that could lead people to your business. Take a look at suggested and related search, and go from there. Consider keywords related to your work, your services, or your team, as well as terms related to negative news about your company.
To learn more about keyword research, and how to figure out what people are searching for in 2021, read more here.
- Secure Relevant Assets
Once you have audited your search results, it’s time to secure any relevant assets that you haven’t already created. This includes domain names relevant to your business, social media profiles, and automatically-generated profiles, such as AngelList and Google My Business listings or your knowledge panel.
- Relevant domains: unless you’re starting completely from scratch, you have probably already created a website for your business. While the most important domain you should secure for your business is your official website (if you do not have a website for your business, create one!) for some businesses, it may be worthwhile to secure additional domain names. Websites for your executives, organizations within your business, or for client testimonials can all be leveraged for your ORM strategy.
- Social media profiles: social media is a valuable asset for businesses, as it allows you to share content, updates, and connect directly with your audience. If you haven’t already, be sure to secure a Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Instagram account for your business. If you are not able to maintain these profiles and keep them active, simply secure the profile to claim the username and keep it private until you are ready to incorporate it into your online strategy, as a sparse or inactive social media profile can deter customers.
- Automatically-generated profiles: some platforms will automatically generate profiles for established businesses. These profiles can be claimed by someone associated with the business. Once you have claimed your profile, you will be able to fill it out and make sure that all information is accurate. To learn how to claim your Google My Business listing, read our step-by-step guide here.
- Optimize Your Owned Assets
With all of your owned assets secured, it’s time to optimize them. While optimization can be a bit different depending on the platform, user experience should be at the forefront of your optimization strategy. More and more, SEO best practices are determined by what is best for users (as opposed to search engines), so keeping users in mind is necessary when optimizing your properties.
For your website, you’ll want to ensure that your site is navigable, includes any pertinent information, and performs well for users. Improving your website is an iterative process, so try to address the most important issues first.
When we talk about a website performing well, there are several factors to consider. Target keywords, meta descriptions, alt text, and your site structure are only a handful of elements that influence the overall strength and performance of your site.
But you have to start somewhere. When initially assessing the user experience of your site, consider:
- Page speed: page speed, or loading speed, is a key element of user experience and rankability. Websites with pages that are slow to load often experience a higher bounce-rate (users leaving the site before clicking on another page) than those that load more quickly. What’s more, since Google rolled out the Page Experience update this summer, page speed has become an even greater factor in where your website will land in results. You can utilize Google Search Console (GSC) or Google’s PageSpeed tool to check your website’s performance.
- Mobile friendliness: in 2021, mobile users have accounted for over 50% of website traffic worldwide, and in 2021 alone, mobile devices are projected to influence more than $1.4 trillion in sales. As the number of unique smartphone users continues to rise, the importance of mobile user experience on your site does as well. Ensure your website performs well for mobile and desktop users alike. You can utilize Google’s Mobile-Friendliness tool to check your website’s performance.
- Website content: it may seem obvious, but what your website actually tells your customers is vital. If a customer cannot find the information they are looking for on your site, it is likely they won’t stick around for long. Consider what queries may send users to particular pages on your site, and make sure to include any pertinent information in easy-to-find places. FAQ pages can also be a valuable resource for current and prospective customers.
While optimizing your website can get a bit technical, optimizing your social media profiles is a bit simpler. To get the most out of your social media profiles, consider:
- Username: your username must include your target keyword (your brand or business name) and be consistent across platforms. If you use different usernames across platforms, you risk confusing or alienating customers, as well as not establishing a clear brand.
- Profile: build out every profile you own as much as you can. Include a profile photo, location, media, a description (optimized for your target keyword or keywords), and any other information that can be hosted on your profile. Any section that is not filled out on your profile is a missed opportunity, so make sure to complete your profile as thoroughly as possible.
- Activity: as we’ve said, an inactive profile will not do much for your SEO or ORM efforts. Create a posting schedule and stick to it. Make sure to prioritize quality over quantity, but don’t let your profiles go too long without a post, as more active profiles tend to perform better in results.
- Engagement: successful social media profiles do not only receive substantial engagement, but engage themselves. Find conversations relevant to your industry and weigh in. Respond to your employees, thought leaders in your industry, or your customers.
- Keep up with Google Updates
Google is constantly updating its algorithms, which determine what populates in search results. These updates, of which there are multiple a year, are aimed to improve user experience with the search engine. Keeping up with Google’s updates – and the reasons behind the updates – can keep you in the loop on SEO best practices, as well as provide explanations when you notice significant changes in your results.
In 2021, Google rolled out the aforementioned Page Experience update, which placed more emphasis on the functionality of a site regarding user experience. This particular update primarily focused on page loading speed, and introduced new features to GSC.
This update is only one of several significant updates in the last few years that have influenced what are considered to be SEO best practices. Strategies that used to be foundational in SEO – such as keyword stuffing – have been rendered obsolete by these changes to Google’s algorithm, so understanding these updates can ensure that your SEO strategy is as effective as possible.
To learn more about the Page Experience update and other significant Google updates over the last decade, read our article here.
- Remember Reviews
Reviews can have a huge impact on your online reputation and your SEO strategy. Over 85% of consumers report reading online reviews to learn more about a business. And not only are consumers reading reviews, but they’re taking them to heart – nearly 80% of consumers report trusting online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family.
If you don’t have the best reviews, this can have a detrimental effect on your business. Less than 50% of consumers report that they would frequent a business with an average rating of less than four stars, and as stars go down, these numbers do too – only 19% of prospective customers would consider a business with fewer than 3 stars.
To improve your reviews online, the best thing to do is to solicit feedback. Reach out to customers to increase reviews on platforms such as Google My Business or Yelp, and employees to increase reviews on platforms such as Glassdoor and Indeed. If your business has received a substantial amount of negative reviews, it may be worth responding to those reviews.
Although reviews can present challenges to businesses, they can also have a positive impact on your SEO efforts. Product pages that feature customer reviews convert 58% more visitors than those without, and businesses that feature customer reviews and feedback on their site can increase transparency, credibility, and trustworthiness with current and prospective customers.
- Utilize Local SEO
97% of people learn more about local companies online than from any other resource. 46% of all Google searches are looking for local information, and “near me” or “close by” type searches are growing exponentially. For businesses that have brick and mortar locations or serve particular communities or regions, incorporating local search into your SEO reputation management strategy can have a huge impact.
To make sure you’re getting the most out of local results, you must first and foremost claim or create your Google My Business listing, as you will not show up in local pack featured results without a verified listing. What’s more, this listing will provide users with valuable information about your business in an easily-accessible format.
Though the Google My Business listing should be the first step you take in improving your local results, you shouldn’t stop there. Include your business address or addresses and contact information on your website, social media profiles, and any directory websites, and ensure that the information is accurate and promptly updated when necessary.
- Leverage Content in all Forms
Content is one of the best ways to define and establish your brand online, provide answers and information to your audience, and influence the narrative around your business. An intentional content strategy is foundational to your SEO reputation management strategy.
When it comes to content, it’s all about quality. High-quality content is content that is unique, informative, and answers a question or gives value to your readers. When developing your content strategy, ask yourself:
- What can I educate about? What questions can I answer?
- What makes my perspective unique, and how can I communicate that?
- What are my customers curious about? What problems are they facing? How can I help?
- What isn’t being talked about in my industry or field?
As you answer these questions, identify three or four themes for your content to fit in. Create a content calendar to ensure that you are publishing content regularly, but don’t sacrifice regular posting for quality. Search for the keyword you are targeting with a specific piece of content and see how you can set yourself apart or say something different while still providing your audience with content that is helpful and valuable.
And remember: content is not only written. While written content is undeniably valuable, leveraging all kinds of media will result in a stronger content strategy. In fact, video is the #1 performing form of media, and images and infographics aren’t far beyond. Create a comprehensive content strategy, including different forms of media, to make the biggest impression in search results.
To learn more about creating content that ranks, read here.
- Boost Positive Results
To improve your online reputation with SEO, you will want to increase the prominence of positive results over negative results. Optimizing your website, social media profiles, and any other earned content will help with these efforts, but ideally you have positive results that you do not own (such as positive earned media) that you will want to boost as well.
Sharing a new blog post on your social channels will give it a boost, and the same goes for positive press. Whenever you receive positive press coverage about your company, an employee, and event, or anything related to your business, share the article on your social profiles and feature it on the press page of your website. Include positive press on your newsletter, and highlight notable press in a blog post. The more clicks a piece receives, the more likely it is to rank well in results, so do what you can to increase the reach of positive articles and coverage that you would like to rank well for your business.
- Know When to Hire a Professional
Sometimes, negative results can define your company’s reputation. When this is the case, the impact of the negative results can be more destructive, and can go beyond your own SEO capabilities. What’s more, in the wake of a PR crisis, one misstep can actually make the situation worse.
In these cases, it may be time to consult a professional. If negative news is dominating your search or defining your reputation, you may want to reach out to an SEO and ORM firm. At Status Labs, we will audit your search results and work with you to develop a digital reputation strategy to help you take back your narrative online.
Whether you need help navigating a reputation crisis, or simply want to improve how you look online, consider reaching out to Status Labs for a free consultation.