Ultimate Reputation Management Guide

You could be a well-established company or one that’s just starting: either way, your reputation matters.

It might seem like a mystical thing, this ‘unicorn’ of creating a good reputation. Luckily for you, though, there are strategies you can use to succeed.

With them, you can not only establish but nurture your reputation. These are also the sort of reputation management services that you should expect from an agency.

Reputation management is essential. In the digital age that we live in, selling has become a different thing entirely.

You need to look at how you appear to customers when you’re trying to sell them your product/service.

What Has Changed?

Well, the rise of social networks for one. And the ability for customer bases to be vocal.

These have both caused a significant shift in the way we view brands. We now expect them to be trustworthy and reputable as well as responsive.

Cartoon with 'online reputation management' with two people holding star and smiley emojis with a tick box next to them on a blue background

Reputation Defender

Curating and promoting content on social networks is a must for any business these days. This could mean user-generated content or even customer-interactions.

Remember, prospects, customers, and potential clients are all talking about you. And what are they saying?

In this guide, we’ll teach you how to manage your reputation. Then you can counter, weaken, or eliminate harmful material about your brand online.

We’ll discuss how to proactively and reactively manage your reputation. But before we get into that, let’s look at some key terms.

We’ll be using these throughout this guide on reputation management.

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.’
Warren Buffet

Circle on a turquoise background with a hand symbol pressing a 4/5 star system, a heart emoji in a text box and a thumbs up emoji in a text box

Lyfe Marketing

Key Terms

In this guide, we will dedicate sections to explaining these terms further. For now, let’s just nail down some standard definitions so that we have some idea of them.

  • Reputation – The beliefs or opinions that are generally held about you.
  • Online reputation management (ORM) – Influencing and controlling your online reputation. It could also mean concealing it (which we’ll get into in a bit!).
  • Internet trolls – People who post inflammatory content online for the sake of it.
  • Crisis management – The process of dealing with adverse or disruptive events. These could damage your brand and stakeholders.

Now that we understand some of the general terms we’ll be using, let’s go into more detail.

What Is Your Reputation?

We said that reputation means beliefs or opinions held about you. But we can split that down into two categories, depending on who you are.

Personal Reputation

Let’s think about an example. You’re at a party, and your friend is introducing you to some new people.

What might they say about you? Will it be true? How will you meet those expectations?

This is an excellent way to think about reputation. It’s useful because it highlights that reputation is formed by other people’s perceptions of you.

But that doesn’t mean to say that you can’t influence those views, and where people can see or hear them.

Cartoon on a pink background with 'Brand reputation' written on a balloon that's being protected by a shiled marked 'target, plan & time for action' from arrows with various titles

Geeks Chip

Brand Reputation

Think about which local restaurant you’d like to eat at tonight. Or you could even do a quick search for a new pair of headphones that you want.

What is it that makes you choose one place, or brand, over another?

Is it just aesthetic (because you like the way it looks)? Or, more likely, is it because people have been raving about something? Whether it’s a restaurant’s pizza or a company’s customer service.

A cartoon of a large phone on a green background with lots of text pop-ups with red cartoon thumbs down emojis

European CEO

Or have you read positive reviews about the sound quality of a certain pair of headphones? If it’s the latter, then it’s because their reputations precede them.

It’s also because we connect a positive reputation with a sense of trust. We’ll touch on this in a moment when we look at how and where reputation is formed.

For now, why don’t you go ahead and do a Google search for yourself or your brand? Make sure to do an image search also. We’ll wait.

Ask yourself this: do you like what you see?

Reputation Broken Down

To understand reputation, and everything that forms it, looks have a look at a video from Google.Video from Google about personal and brand reputation online

Youtube

In this video, they walk us through what contributes to your reputation.

Your online reputation is ‘like a published book’. It’s made up of all the information that you post on the internet, and it can affect how others perceive you.

Stop now to have a think. What public and private information do you want about yourself, or your brand, out there?

Make sure to establish your own boundaries about, for example, the kind of content you share. Is it on-brand?

Remember, your digital footprint can be easy to track. There’s a trail leading back to you with things like pictures, comments, and shares. Ask yourself what the long-term implications of those could be.

Bear in mind how they might look in the future. Could something that you’ve said be misconstrued or taken out of context?

There’s also the issue of trust with your online reputation. Do you trust others – are you geotagging photos that could be traced by people you don’t know?

Or has someone shared something with you that they don’t want to be passed on?

Some of these principles do differ when we think in business terms. But it’s a useful understanding to have.

When you think about online reputation from your brand’s point of view, remember to ‘be kind online’. Behind those usernames are real people who might be your customers or investors.

The great thing about ORM is that you can have a say in and actually create it yourself. If you’re wondering why it’s worth the effort, then just remember that your reputation is an economic asset.

Hexagons on a blue background with popular company icons like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google, Youtube, WordPress and LinkedIn in a semi-circle above a laptop with the title 'online reputation management'

SEO Company

Remember that it was brand reputation that made us choose in the earlier example. The brand’s reputation made up our mind about which restaurant to pick, or which brand of headphones to buy.

Your main takeaway should be: too much bad information on the internet is, well… not great. But then again, not enough information is just as bad!

To have a brand reputation, the world first has to know you exist. Then, they have to evaluate you.

How Is Reputation Formed?

So we know now that you have a reputation, both as a person and a brand. But how is that reputation formed?

Cartoon of thinly-drawn people wearing brightly coloured clothing holding up paddles with love heart and thumbs up or down emojis on them

E Endorsements

Certain things can have a direct impact on how your reputation is established. They can also affect how it’s maintained or even ruined. These might include:

  • You digital PR (public relations) efforts.
  • SEO and outreach campaigns.
  • Your social responsibility – Do customers see you as ‘green’ and ethical?
  • Customer’s opinions about your company.
  • Personalised b2c conversations.
  • Your engagement with local communities ad target audiences.

It sounds like a lot, right? The good news is that if you’re doing one thing positively, it tends to have a knock-on effect.

For example, let’s say that you use ‘white-hat’ (ethical) SEO practises. This has the desired result of improving your ranking while maintaining your integrity. But it can also positively affect your reputation.

This makes sense if we look at the opposite practise – ‘black hat’ SEO. This is where unscrupulous, usually spammy tactics, are employed to boost your rankings.

This can result in penalties. Also, it can make people perceive where and when they see you on the internet as spam. Then they might think negatively about your brand.

To learn what your reputation is like now think about conducting customer surveys.  Cartoon on a green background of a hand putting down a smiling star to make up a five star review

Digital Ready

Surveys are a double-edged sword – in a good way! Community engagement is a great way to boost your reputation. Plus, the feedback can give you insights on where your brand needs work.

You can also check if your brand means something different in different languages. Or whether your name is the same, for example, as an inflammatory celebrity or slang term!

Where Is Reputation Formed?

So you’ve cleared those hurdles, and your brand name itself isn’t going to cause any problems. Now you might be wondering where your reputation is actually created.

Positive Searches

Well, reviews are one of the most influential sources of reputation. After all, if a thousand people tell you that a movie sucks…it probably does. The same principles go for your brand.

Your reputation can be called into question, or celebrated every day on:

  • Search engines – Like Google and Bing
  • Yelp
  • Trustpilot
  • Google My Business (GMB)

Your reputation can be affected anywhere that people can talk about your business. When enough of these comments get amassed, it can have an impact on your online reputation.

Bear in mind that Google isn’t the only search engine. Your ORM efforts have to go beyond Google alone.

For example, Bing had 6 billion searches in 2019. Now, it’s improbable that they were all about your business and product reviews. Still, that’s a lot of chatter to be missing out on.

When we asked you to Google your brand earlier, were the top 5 on the SERPs even about your brand?

Have a look at the picture below. In it, one popular food delivery company had copy for a direct competitor on their1 ranked listing.

Picture from ahrefs showing that Hellofresh had copy for Blue Apron in their SERPs

Ahrefs

If the top 5 aren’t about you, can you locate gaps or searches with a lack of results that you can try to rank for?

Negative Searches

Unfortunately, ORM is not always about the good times.

Reputation can also be formed by more than negative reviews on Trustpilot and Google alone. Think about comments, forums posts, and videos that might hold your brand in a negative light.

Search for your brand again. Are there any hate sites referencing you? Are there ‘rip-off reports’ that name-drop your brand?

If so, and if they’re high up on the SERPs for your brand, you’ll need to act fast. Striped blue background with a box with pop-art style mouth whispering text boxes into someone's ear. A four out of five star rating and floating logos of a clock and a dollar sign.

ESM Digital

These places, from GMB to ‘rip-off reports’ are all places that people might look for your brand. Afterwards, they might change their opinion on your brand – for better, or worse.

Think about who these people might be. It could be prospective employees. They might be looking to see what sort of ethical reputation your company has.

Or investors might be checking to see that there aren’t any black marks on your brand’s history. It might even be journalists looking to write about you and your business.

These are the types of people that are likely to do a deep dive into your online reputation.

A diagram with 'online reputation management' in a circle in the middle with bubbles coming off it with labels like 'forums' and 'blog posts' in bright block colours

Edkent Media

These are also all the sorts of people who will do their due diligence and look past Google’s first page. Remember that we said Google isn’t the only search engine? Well, the world doesn’t end past page one either.

Make sure that your ORM efforts consider the good and the bad things that might occur about you online.

Great, so now we know where to look and what to look out for. With that locked down, let’s move on to how to actually manage all this information about you.

What Is Online Reputation Management (ORM)?

So reputation is other people’s perceptions of you. Brand reputation is how that applies to your business. And it can all be formed online by reviews, forums, and content etc.

So what is ORM? It can be affected by your SEO, but it’s different. It’s not quite PR, but it does involve some elements of communication (like b2c conversations).

And it does encompass things like crisis management (which, if you want to learn more about – check out this guide!)

SO WHAT IS IT ALREADY?

Well, Techopedia defines ORM as:

‘The practice of crafting strategies. Ones that shape or influence the public perception of an organisation or individual online.’

So ORM drives public opinion about your business and your products or services.

Reputation management services give you the ability to discover what those opinions are. They also allow you to monitor (and even control) what people see when they look for your business online.

A large silhouette of a head filled with cogs and labels with icons going in through the mouth and resulting in titles such as 'more reviews' and 'better rankings'

JSEO

By creating an ‘image’ for your brand, you can tailor, build and even re-build your online footprint. In turn, you can make sure that potential customers find the information that you want them to see.

But it’s about more than just social media monitoring.

So Who Needs It?

The short answer is, ‘everyone’. Whether you’re a personal brand or a business, you need to think about ORM.

Granted, each brand has different needs, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. But across this guide, we’ll point out some areas that everyone should be looking at.

Why is ORM Important?

Earlier, we used the example of how you pick a restaurant. In the example, we pointed out that people tend to look at reviews for your company.

In fact, 86% of people Google ‘{your business name} + {reviews}’ before they even each out.

So what do they find when they search for you? The results could be low-stakes (but still negative). This could be something like a user clicking on a competitor’s site instead.

On the other side of the coin, the result could be something as massive as an industry-wide boycott of your brand. Your online reputation can have legal and financial implications for your brand.

This can happen on a micro- or macro-scale!

Marketing infographic about sales and reputation with '25% of a comapny's market values coming directly from its reputation' in a bubble next to a $ sign and a picture of a shoe that looks like Converse

Web FX

But not having a bad reputation isn’t good enough. You need reviews and widely held views around your brand to be more than just indifferent.

Take this recent business survey, for example. 75% said that online reviews, comments and forum posts were essential to their reputation.

Not only that, they said the same of their impact on a company’s financial status!

So ask yourself how you’re winning people over. Is there a way that you can have more results surrounding your brand in your control?

We’ll explain this idea in more detail later in the guide. For now, just think about how:

  • Authoritative social profiles
  • Webpages
  • Interviews
  • High-quality news

Surrounding your brand can help you to control the results of SERPs and what people see about you.

If there’s one motto for ORM, it’s ‘control the top 5!’

Infographic to 'promote good reviews' and 'minimise bad reviews' with a dollar sign and up arrow on the left in green and a thumbs down sign in blue on the right

Vennage

ORM And Brand

ORM is important to promote your positives while drawing focus from your negatives.

By countering, weakening, and even eliminating negatives online; you control the narrative.

ORM is slightly different from what we call ‘brand’, however.

Your brand might be comprised of things like your logo. This is who you want to be seen as with a clear customer focus.

This is different in a sense to your online reputation (as we mentioned earlier). ORM takes into account everyone from stakeholders to employees.

‘Brand’ is more about the choice-based economy – saying to a customer: ‘Hey we’re better than X, try us’.

Whereas, online reputation is more trust and social currency.

In this case, it’d sound something more like, ‘Hey try us instead of X, because we have better ideals’.

By ‘social currency’ we mean your effect on online and offline communities. It also means if, and how, people share your business with others.

Remember, don’t let a bad online reputation undermine the positive buzz around your brand!

Even online ‘black marks’ can be minimised. These could be from disgruntled customers, malicious competitors, and even trolls.

ORM is your key strategy to maintain consistency across all touchpoints. By this, we mean making sure that the attributes and associations of your brand are constantly the same. They need to be consistent and positive in all your customer interactions.

If you need concrete reasons as to why you need to invest in ORM, then consider this. Companies with good reputations also bounce back better from market dips.

Facts and statistics about reputation and business in separate boxes with cartoons of piles of money, a shop with an awning and hands holding phones. Text includes things like 'business with poor online presence don't succeed'

Reputation Station

They also tend to see benefits such as retaining top-level employees. While you can’t stop a fire from ever happening, you can minimise the risk if it does happen.

That’s the driving idea behind ORM: control your brand.

Because if you don’t control your brand, someone else might.

Online Reputation Management In The Digital Era

So what can you do, or hire someone else to do, to manage your online reputation in today’s day and age?

On a broad scale, we might say something like ‘engage with your customers on social media’. Or ‘make sure that your business listing is accurate’.

But let’s look in-depth at some of the tactics you need to be using.

Social Media

It’s all very well and good having a GMB listing and positive review on Yelp. Realistically, though, that might not be the first place that consumers hear about you.

People get news, recommendations, and content from social media platforms these days.

Make sure that you have an active and positive presence on these platforms. Then you can increase your social currency with potential users.

Also, think about using monitoring tools (which we’ll list and explain in a bit). Tools like Google Alerts are handy. And, by checking, say, your Twitter mentions you can see what kind of engagement you’re getting.

Transparency

The thing about transparency is that it’s imperative to ORM. But it’s also a delicate balancing act.

You want employees and customers to talk about your products and services publicly. But all your b2c conversations need to be consistent and monitored continuously.

You might want to think about where your best 1-to-1 communication channel is. Is it responding to reviews on Trustpilot? Or is it answering queries and complaints on Twitter?

A great example of a company creating a clear channel is Nike’s Nikechat. They’ve got their own site dedicated entirely to customer questions and complaints.

Another important point about transparency is not to hide criticism. Sure, it’s ok (it’s great actually!) to drive down poor reviews with heaps of good ones. But don’t try to eliminate digital ‘black marks’ with questionable tactics.

We said that transparency is a case of balancing plates. And it does come with problems. Does your team have the time and innovate-enough employees to respond?

The internet is ‘always-on’ across the world. Tweets that could damage your reputation might come in at any time of day. Your team needs to be swift to act. And they need to act delicately.

Just think, if a customer complaint about your company goes viral, it’s tough to undo.

Being transparent and ‘present’ on social networks also comes with other potential problems. We’ll look at them in-depth later. A dartboard with a tag saying 'reputation' pinned to the bullseye with a dart

Design Rush

For now, consider this. Can competitors spam negative comments? Can they leverage negative reviews on the sites where you can be found? Are there going to be too many negative comments there from your customers?

And should you even respond at all? Don’t worry; we’ll answer this as well in just a couple of sections.

Reputation And Sales

If you don’t invest in your ORM, think about how you could be missing out where it matters – like sales!

Take this survey, for example. In it, 49% of consumers said they need at least a four-star rating before choosing to use a business.

As we said, a less-than-ideal reputation might be sending customers to your competitors. If so, you’re going to see a sub-par ROI for any marketing efforts you might have in place.

So you need to be looking at all of these areas concerning ORM in the digital age.

Sometimes, your reputation can be affected by things that are, to some extent, out of your control.

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Who Can Attack Your Reputation?

Your online reputation doesn’t always rely on your products and service alone, sadly. Below, we’ll list some of the groups who may, for whatever reason, attack your reputation.

Disgruntled Customers

Now, we’re aware that we said these aspects of ORM were out of your control. Disgruntled customers sort of are and aren’t out of your control.

Maybe your employees are failing to help a customer come to the desired conclusion. Or perhaps your services aren’t working. Then, customers have the right to voice their opinions.

Nowadays, these complaints might surface first on social networks. While they’re unlikely to hurt your actual business, they shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Especially because this is the only group we’ll look at that your company will have a vested interest in.

Trolls

On the other hand, there are internet trolls.

There’s a big difference between someone who has a genuine grievance and someone who’s just doing it for the sake of it.

Cartoon of an 'internet troll' with a real green troll grinning as it types on a laptop

Aruma

When (hopefully you won’t have to!) dealing with trolls, though, some of the points in this guide stand true:

  • Just like potentially harmful reviews, don’t delete their comments – Do bury them though, if possible.
  • If you have a strong enough social community – Usually they’ll take care of the problem for you.
  • Don’t feed them – Or react without thought.
  • Kill them with kindness – Just like with negative reviews, take the comments on board and ‘be kind online’.

Malicious Rivals

Earlier, we said that your competitors might use negative reviews against you.

They might even create fake accounts to post reviews or Tweets.

But what are the actual ways in which these groups can impact your online reputation?

How Can Your Reputation Be Negatively Affected?

Firstly, there’s inflammatory content (which we’ll explain). Then there are two main areas where your online reputation might be affected.

Poor Product Reviews

Poor product (or service) reviews could come from trolls, customers, or competitors.

If you’re selling anything, then there’s a good chance that someone is writing a review of your business.

The odd unfavourable review won’t be too likely to damage you or your business. In fact, the odd sub-5 star review can be useful for your business. It highlights areas for improvement and makes you look ‘human’!

A mindmap of 'corporate social responsibility' with arrows of to cartoons of hands shaking and a hand holding the internet symbol with tags like 'market', 'ethics' and 'resources'

The Scott Partnership

But, if you’ve got one highly disgruntled customer with a vengeance on their mind, they can do some damage. They might canvas reviews sites with statements about your goods or services. Or about you and your business in general.

We’ll explain how to react later in this guide. Just remember, though, you still need to work on your product/service. If a customer has a bad review, use it as an opportunity to review your product/service.

When we get around to responding, we’ll explain how you can turn a positive into a negative with proper ORM.

Negative Press

A more general way that your online reputation can be damaged is with negative press.

Most of the time, people don’t pay too much attention to bad reviews (and hopefully get pushed down by good reviews). On the other hand, the lousy press can stick around.

Earlier in this guide, we talked about due diligence. We told you to think about everything available online about your business.

Are there past lawsuits? Or are there personal controversies that potential investors of customers might uncover?

These sort of reputation bombs can damage your reputation and sales long-term. Other sites that can do this might look a bit like:

  • ‘Truth about’ sites.
  • Hate sites.
  • ‘Ripoff report’.
  • ‘{your company name} scam’.

These are the sort of things you don’t want to see when you search for your brand online.

Cartoon of a man crouching down under an umbrella with red arrows pressing down on it that look like falling stocks on a graph

Board Member

In another useful guide, we said that we disagreed with the idea that there’s no such thing as bad press.

Remember, your business doesn’t work in the same way that we view celebrity crisis management.

Being labelled as a ripoff or a scam tends to stick around. It leaves an impression for longer than ‘Celebrity X’ getting photographed drunk!

Now this all might sound a bit scary but don’t worry, below we’ve listed some solutions to these problems.

Solutions To Negative Press

It can be overwhelming (and hurtful) to get negative reviews about your product or service. So we’ve come up with some tried-and-tested ways of combating this issue.

Demote Negative Content

Is negative content the first thing people see when searching for your brand?

Not exactly the best way to create the first impression is it?. So what do you do if you can’t ‘control the top 5’ just yet?

Usually, it’s unlikely that you’ll simply be able to remove harmful content about your brand.

What an ORM service can do, however, is create a plan to push that content down in SERPs. If it’s past the end of the world on Google page 2, it’s a lot less likely to be seen!

Cartoon drawing on a red background in black and white with a man's face in a picture frame with his eyes and mouth covered by hands reaching out from the edges of the frame

Patently

Suppress Content

We’ve touched upon the ethics of content demotion and suppression.

You shouldn’t necessarily bury bad reviews, for example, just because they’re bad. Remember that good ORM includes your business being seen as transparent.

But you can suppress the content that you control. For personal brands, this could be anything from drunk pictures of you to mugshots.

For a business, it might look more like editing or deleting 404 not found pages. Or pages with out-of-date pricing information.

Monitor

Much like anything worth doing to promote your business, ORM needs constant care.

You’ve got more than just social listening and checking your review sites in your ORM arsenal.

Think about checking your link profile. Then you can reach out to sites with incorrect mentions and information about you.

Maybe potential leads are getting frustrated because they can’t get to your business. Or because listed information is outdated. If so, you could be losing out on sales!

Review Management

We said that we’d tell you what to do about reviews and we weren’t lying. We’ll put this in bold so that it sticks in your mind.

DO RESPOND TO REVIEWS!

But wait, you might be asking, even the bad ones? Well, yes, actually. Ultimately, the defence is the best offence.

So making sure that your product/service is going to get good reviews anyway is where we’d start.

'Online reviews' written on a piece of paper with a cup of coffee and post-it notes on a table next to a phone with 'online reviews' and a star rating visible on the screen

Start Small Media

But, if people do have issues with your business, respond to them. Professionally and objectively make your consumers feel cared for.

Try to mitigate their anger first. And only talk about the facts. Then, encourage others who do love your product/service to share their opinion also.

Don’t leave negative reviews to fester and show your company as either uncaring or unaware!

But don’t worry yourself with fake or anonymous reviews. You can usually spot these as making wild or unfounded claims. Chances are, they could be from trolls or competitors.

Now you might be thinking it’s all doom and gloom at this point. Just stick with it. We’re going to move on to how you can proactively influence your online reputation positively.

How Can Your Reputation Be Positively Affected?

There are a lot of keys to effective ORM which rely on you growing your business’ profile online.

Authority Management

Posing yourself as a thought leader in your field can influence views about your brand.

This can work for both a personal brand and a business. You need to ask yourself – ‘what are your credentials?’.

By highlighting these, you can add to perceptions about your social responsibility.

For your business, perhaps you could display awards or badges. These could be of associations and charities that you’re partnered with on your landing page.

In this sense, we can call this CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). CSR not only positively raises your profile but builds trust with customers.

Examples of association and trust badges like Norton and McAfee

Econsultancy

Content Creation And Management

We spoke earlier in this guide about content suppression. Content suppression is a reactive tactic for ORM. In contrast, content management is a proactive one.

By creating meaningful, on-brand content, you can positively push your product/service.

We keep returning to this point about ‘what do people see when they search for your business?’.

Contribute to your profile with high-quality content and ‘control the top 5’.

On the other hand, no content at all or poorly created, ‘thin’ content can be as bad for your image as malicious content.

You need to inform, target, and engage your audience with relevant content that has some value.

Online Visibility

This point ties into content creation. We said before that a lack of information about your business could also be harmful.

How is your company going to be transparent online if they’re not even visible? Where do people get directed when they search for you?

When customers search for you, they should find information that excites them. Make sure you not only create but curate positive online information.

On-brand Messages

In regards to all of these points, you need to have some consistency.

You might already have an excellent online reputation. Still, it doesn’t mean that customers are going to associate it with your message or brand.

A large part of ORM is about helping you build your brand. You need to do this in such a way that consumers are satisfied with what they encounter.

Another aspect is that they are attracted to your brand in the first place.

Think about where those ‘b2c conversations’ take place. You need to make sure that your communications are:

  • On-brand.
  • Clear.
  • Concise.

And make sure that they’re not:

  • Reactionary.
  • Poorly thought out.
  • Poorly written.

You need to be professional and recognisable at every touchpoint with customers. This means using the same tone in ads as well as emails.

It could also mean using the same stock of digital assets for websites and billboards.

Have a clear voice and aesthetic.

Brand Promotion

If you’ve taken our advice about content creation, then it’s time to think about brand promotion.

Anything from:

  • A shoutout on a popular podcast
  • A link from a trendy niche related blog
  • A mention in the news

can work small wonders for your ORM. It can also make potential customers who weren’t aware of sit up and take notice.

One great way to promote your brand is through writing guest posts for relevant blogs. But it get more interesting; let’s have a look at one tactic from ahrefs.

Chalkboard with a hand holding chalk and 'brand' written in the middle with arrows off to titles like 'name', 'logo', and 'identity'

Fibre2fashion

In their example, you can use guest blogging to do a bit of authority management and get a link.

What’s interesting is how you can leverage guest blogging to counter a negative review. You can do this by writing a guest post in your niche about a topic relating to keywords with links to your product.

That all sounds a bit complicated. Let’s break it down.

  1. Let’s say that you sell furniture.
  2. Recently you got a bad review about your sectional sofas.
  3. You want to direct potential customers away from this review.
  4. You find and contact a popular blog in your niche.
  5. You write a post about ‘10 different types of sofa’.
  6. In that post, you have an embedded link in the ‘sectional sofas’ part.
  7. But the link doesn’t take customers straight to a product page.
  8. Instead, it takes them to a positive review of your sectional sofas.

In this (pretty cool) example, you’ve boosted your SEO with a link and posed yourself as an authority in your niche.

You’ve also directed potential customers away from a negative review. That might have been the first thing they saw when searching for your brand and ‘sectional sofas’.

If you can rank your guest post to appear above the negative review in a SERP, then you can effectively redirect the narrative!

Now that’s a lot to take in. So let’s just recap how to build a reputation and some tips for ORM that you can use today!

Recap – How Can You Build An Online Reputation?

Building a positive online reputation is about creating and curating. This refers to what people see, and think when they search for your brand.

You want to centralise your public ‘image’ and tone. You also want to monitor the type of content that people associate with you.

A few areas to start might be:

  1. Your name – Are your usernames and domains the same and professional? Is this true across all social media networks?
  2. What are your privacy settings? – How might you appear to users or investors outside your network?
  3. Authority building – Create content, and be active on forums and with Q&As. Think about doing interviews, podcasts, and speaking engagements. Display those 4-star reviews!
  4. Own your negatives – What PAAs (people also asked) appear when searching for your brand? Are there hate sites about your brand? Could you purchase the domains? Then they’d be inactive at least.
  5. Build credibility – Display your customer testimonials and promote them. Engage communities and display your social trust. Do you have industry or charity associations? Do you have logos and badges that you can display on your site?

Statistics of how consumers find local businesses in blue circles at the bottom of a blue banner on a yellow background

User Worthy Media

Recap: Tips For ORM

Now let’s have a look at some tips for managing that reputation that you’ve built.

Send An Email Blast

You could think about funnelling traffic with regards to reviews. Try sending out an email blast for reviews from existing/past customers. Within the email, you could have two CTAs (calls to action).

One with ‘leave a positive review’ could take customers to your GMB, Trustpilot, or Yelp page. Whereas ‘leave a negative review’ could redirect customers to a feedback form.

By funnelling this process, you can minimise the negative reviews that are displayed. At the same time, you can add to positive ones and get feedback!

Automate Your Review Capture

If you want to run a review acquisition campaign, think about automating it.

Why not update b2b or b2c templates (like invoices or order confirmation) with a CTA?

Invite people to take a second to give some feedback. Then you can capture more reviews along the journey rather than after the fact.

Talk To Customers

This should be drilled into you by now as we’ve been talking about listening, monitoring, and touchpoints.

But remember to talk to customers not only when they have to come to you. Monitor your Twitter feed and be proactive.

Ask customers as you’re working with them. This could be face-to-face or over the phone. Ask your employees in-office even.

If you sell a product or service in a physical location, make the review process easy for customers.

A man in an orange shirt with a lanyard pointing to monitors in a store with a woman listening with her head resting on her hand

FluentU

Have a process ready with an iPad, for example. This is also a great way to scale reviews as people tend to leave more positive comments face to face!

By now we’ve given you a lead on most of the secrets of ORM. But you might still be wondering, how can I set this all up on my own?

Well, below we’ve listed a few tools and software that can help you get started on some of the points in this guide.

Software For Reputation Management

We all know by now that you need to monitor your reviews and social mentions. But, you need to do more than just keeping an eye on review sites and check Twitter occasionally.

Otherwise, your ORM efforts will fall short. Or you’ll just waste all your time.

Instead, think about using some of these tools that we’ve listed below. With them, you can build and maintain your brand.

knowem logo

G2

Knowem

Earlier, we spoke about centralising all your online usernames and social handles.

Usually, this can be quite a slog. And you don’t want to be late to the party and end up with a corporate profile with the handle ‘mybrand_72!’.

With Knowem, all the legwork is taken out of the equation. You can secure your URLs and usernames across all your networks.

It even informs you where your brand name is being misused. This could have a direct impact on your online reputation.

Hootsuite logo with an owl

PC Mag

Hootsuite

Hootsuite is probably the king when it comes to social media management.

It’s great for not only social listening but scheduling. With it, you can monitor the conversations that people are having about you online.

With Hootsuite, you can identity thought leaders and potential brand advocates. These are the sort of people who you can approach to boost your profile.

What’s also really cool is that you can set up alerts about brand sentiment. Is a customer complaint going viral? Be the first to hear about it.

Google alerts logo with Google logo and a bell

SEO Lab

Google Alerts and Feed

Another great tool for alerts and to ensure the real-time reaction of your brand is Google alerts.

Like Hootsuite, you can monitor the web for new content and mentions about your brand. That way, you’re never caught off-guard.

Much like tools like Feedly, Google feed can also help you stay on top of news in your niche.

Know what’s being talked about. Then you can start thinking about creating content to boost your reputation positively.

backtweets logo with 'back' in blue and 'tweets' in black

Zazzle Media

Backtweets

Backtweets (formerly BackType) lets you search through a Tweet’s archive. You can search for links and shortened URLs that were sent on Twitter.

With Backtweets, you can monitor links that are sending people to your site. Or you can even monitor potentially harmful sites defaming you.

This is especially useful if there’s a specific thread or hashtag that you need to investigate.

ahrefs logo with 'a' in orange and 'hrefs' in blue with a cursor symbol made up of blue squares

Shane Barker

Ahrefs

Earlier in this guide, we talked about a great tactic from ahrefs to promote positive reviews.

Well, apart from great ideas, ahrefs also has a great tool. With it, you can search for popular branded search terms. You can then take this information to contact blog or website authors.

Reach out to people that have links back to your site, or information about your business. Then you can keep information about your brand up to date.

Or, you could even look at those branded search terms and create and rank your own content. Then you can own the top results for your brand.

These are also just a few of the tools that an agency offering ORM services will be looking at.

Another great place to look at that you can do yourself would be social media. In this digital age, a lot of negative reviews and complaints might not appear on review sites.

Monitoring your mentions on social media, with or without a tool like Hootsuite, is key to ORM. It’s also a great place to boost your reputation with real-time b2c conversations and action.

Just take a look at the picture below. In it, Oxfam turned a potentially disastrous situation into a positive. They listened and responded to a customer grievance and boosted their CSR.

Tweet chain between Oxfam and Twitter account I support Israel

Social Media For Development

So, you’re thinking about using all those tools or maybe even outsourcing these efforts to an agency. Now you might be wondering, though, what does brand reputation look like in real life?

Let’s highlight some of the lessons from this guide with a couple of case studies.

Good Reputation Management: BP Oil

It’s safe to say that BP Oil’s Deepwater Horizon spill could have ruined their company. Negative press, customer sentiment, and their reputation were at an all-time low in 2010.

If you need to refresh yourself on the incident, check out this news article.

Image of BP Oil's Deepwater Horizon spill with a rig on fire at sea and shits spraying water onto the fire and black smoke

Britannica

However, in the light of a PR storm (with no little degree of crisis management!) BP pivoted their business.

By focusing on lowering carbon investment and emissions, BP weathered the storm. We’re not saying it’s quite as easy as pushing down some bad reviews. Or that the incident has been forgotten. But they are still here.

Instead of focusing on the negative connotations, they decided to pivot altogether. The result was an invigorated brand that is still a market leader today.

Bad Reputation Management: Applebee’s

And then we have the flip side of the coin. For this example, we’ll be looking at how a simple note on an Applebee’s receipt caused a PR nightmare.

Let’s head to Applebee’s St Louis, in January 2013. There, a pastor hosting a party refused to pay the 18% service charge. Instead, she crossed it out on the receipt and wrote ‘I give God 10%, why do you get 18?’.
Receipt from customer at Applebee's that went viral for refusing to pay 18% service charge
Larissa Ott

What might have been an innocuous comment turned into something much larger. And not for the reason that you might think. We’ll try and give you the short version.

The waitress who posted a picture of the receipt in question was then fired. This was on the grounds of sharing a customer’s personal information.

This resulted in posts to Applebees’ social media pages calling for her to be re-hired. Users then splintered off and created boycott groups.

When responding, Applebee’s allegedly deleted users’ comments and blocked people. They then ignored the issue altogether. They reverted to posting food pictures unrelated to the incident on their socials.

These were overrun with negative comments until the event gradually passed over. In their first quarterly report of 2013, however, the company reported a 42% decline in profit.

We’re not saying the two things were related but…the two things were related.

If only someone at Applebee’s had read this guide! Instead, they got landed with what we call the ‘Streisand effect’.

This is when attempting to hide, remove, or censor information; it has the opposite effect of publicising it. (It’s named after the actress who tried to suppress certain photos of her home but only drew more attention to them).

Gif of Barbara Streisand looking aruond confused

Giphy

They unethically buried and hid comments. Plus, they didn’t listen to consumers. They responded, but reactively. All in all, Applebee’s ORM tactics blew up in their face.

The result? We can see the clear effect that your reputation can have on your sales and customer sentiment.

If you don’t want to make the same mistakes as Applebee’s, you might want to consider hiring some professionals.

Before you do, however, let’s have a look at what you should expect from a reputation management service.

What to Expect From A Reputation Management Agency

If you want to build and maintain a good reputation online, you might want to outsource your efforts.

ORM is a constant process which requires your brand to be always ‘on’. After all, who can tell when a product review might go viral?

Once the damage is done, it’s hard to go back.

With an agency that offers reputation management, you should be asking specific questions. You should be looking to see if they can create, restore and/or elevate your brand’s online image and reputation.

You need to ask questions like

  • When managing my reviews – Are they going to do so ethically?
  • Do they have the right software and tools to monitor my brand constantly?
  • What are their measures of success? And what metrics do they use?
  • Can they offer me anything else in conjunction with ORM? Like crisis management?

You want to find a service that answers all these questions. You want an agency that promises to promote your brand across all platforms in a positive light.

Yellow sheet on a wooden table saying 'Online Reputation Management' listed below one another with the first letter of each word in red. Glasses and a pen on a white notepad with a coffee and someone's hands visible on a latop keyboard

Inreads

Conclusion

So there we have it. Your ultimate guide to reputation management. Well done for making it this far!

Before we hand you over to some frequently asked questions, let’s just recap what we’ve learned.

We know now what a reputation is and how and where it’s formed. This can be anywhere from blogs to your social media channels.

We also know now that rivals and even trolls can affect your online reputation. These are all groups that can mess indirectly with your sales and general success.

So how can you manage them?

Well, there are two ways. The first would be reactive – by pushing down negative reviews and content.

Cartoon of 'reputation management' where 'your brand' is a lightbulb with bullets coming towards it protected only by a green shield on a red background

Pixelergy

Here at Pearl Lemon, however, we prefer to do this only as a necessity. Instead, we champion tactics like authority marketing and content creation and management. Then we can make sure that you’re building a reputation proactively.

Promote the positive press, content, and reviews surrounding your product/service online. Then no one will remember a few less-than gleaming comments. Make sure that you’re doing your best to ‘control the top 5!’.

When conducting ORM, however, it can be time-consuming and hard to be objective. If it’s your own brand or image, it might be challenging to know what content to cut and how to handle poor reviews.

These are all things that an agency like Pearl Lemon, can handle for you.

So why not jump on a call with us? At Pearl Lemon, we can help you to establish and grow your online reputation. We’ll do this safely and in-line with your brand.

Until then, check out these FAQs below if you have any further questions.

FAQs

What Is An Online Reputation?

Online reputation is the reputation of a company on the Internet. It could also be of a person, product, or service.

This is affected by what individuals see as they search online for someone or something. It also includes their response to it and interactions with it.

Together, these search results/links are known as online content. Of course, online content takes multiple forms.

What Does Online Content Look Like?

It could be your website and your blogs. Or it could be social media posts made by you or others about you. These could include pictures, videos or ads. Or even online PR, news or press reports.

It could even be lists of business or directories. It could also be feedback, reviews and forum comments.

All this data relates to your reputation online. This is important because it affects your credibility, recognition, and influence. A good online reputation is also paramount to consumer trust.

Creating and sustaining a positive online image is critical for individuals and companies. It can damage your business goals if people say negative things about you or your business.

It can be even worse if people read or share those views.

What is Online Reputation Management (ORM)?

ORM stands for Online Reputation Management. It’s the intentional practice of planning and implementing tactics. Namely, tactics that impact your online reputation positively.

Who Needs ORM?

Earlier in the guide, we answered ‘everyone’. It doesn’t matter if you’re a personal brand or a big corporation. Either way, you need to stay on top of what people say and think about you online.

What Are The Best Techniques For Online Reputation Management?

ORM is an ongoing process, but some great techniques that we’ve highlighted in this guide are:

  • Brand visibility.
  • Brand transparency.
  • Content creation.
  • Authority marketing.
  • Responding to reviews.

Is Online Reputation Management Ethical?

At Pearl Lemon, the answer is yes! Some ORM services might offer to bury or delete bad reviews for you. Most of the time, this isn’t possible.

A lot of the time, it wouldn’t be ethical either. Negative reviews are an opportunity to reflect on your product/service. And they’re a chance to rise to the challenge.

An ethical way to deal with this is to overwhelm SERPs with results that you control. At the root of this issue, though, you need a product/service which gets good reviews anyway.

Then you can positively manage your online reputation.

What is the Benefit of ORM to Me Personally/Professionally?

People Google people. They also Google companies, products and services. Your online reputation, in the form of search results pages (SERPS), is often what they see first.

Online reputation can be seen before your CV (personal) or mission statement (business) – the more impressive your reputation, the better.

How Does Online Reputation Management Actually Work?

Speaking for Pearl Lemon, it differs depending on each organisation or individual. ORM needs to be tailored to your goals and the issues that you face.

To meet the needs of you, your business, your goals and audiences; we tailor our approach.

We begin by auditing your online credibility. We take our research approach and apply it to all your platforms and presences.

Based on what is uncovered in the audit, we then make recommendations. By working on those, we can get you the results you are looking for.

What Does Online Reputation Management Involve?

Many projects will require any or all of the following after an audit:

  • Creating and improving social media profiles and directory entries so that they rank.
  • Developing engaging and appropriate content.
  • Developing social media strategies. Then providing your target audience and market with useful content regularly.
  • Building positive PR about you and your experience. Or around your business and brand. This includes digging deep to find interesting stories to pitch to journalists.
  • Positive profiling on pages that we know is going to rank.
  • Challenging negative material with search engines/review sites where appropriate.
  • Online review management.
  • Online mention tracking.
  • Reporting and performance assessment.
  • Proactive ORM consulting.

How Long Will Improving My Online Reputation Take?

Each case and solution is unique, but we can tell you that it won’t happen overnight.

There’s no clear-cut answer to this question, and anyone who promises you one is not being honest.

The time it takes to repair a damaged reputation and/or build a positive one depends on factors like:

  1. How hard it is to push down or delete any negative content.
  2. How long it takes to rank a sufficient amount of positive content in Google and other search engines.

You should see ORM ventures as a 6-month+ timeline prospect at the least.

What Types of PR Can Be Used to Boost My Online Reputation?

We typically work to get you/your business considerable media attention. This attention is from sources that we know will get ranked so that it occupies a spot on Google’s Page 1.

An ‘exclusive’ with one title, like an online publication/3rd party blog, is a good example. We can even build them if there are no current opportunities. For example, we might conduct surveys on your behalf and publish the results.

Why Can’t I Just Have Things Deleted From the Internet?

In some instances, the content may be deleted at the source. This can happen if the content violates the terms and conditions of the website.

Or if it violates the guidelines of Google itself. If this appears to be possible, we will help you through the deletion request process.

Most of the time, however, third party content cannot simply be deleted. This is especially true if it comes from a legal source.

This could be court records, newspaper reports etc. We have to work to ‘push it down’ in the search results instead.

Why Do People Say It’s Important to Control Page 1 Of Google?

They usually say Page 1 and 2, actually. When individuals search for something online, they usually Google them. What they’re looking for is validation on a company or person.

About half of these searches might go straight to your main website. The rest go to Pages 1 and 2 for the majority of the search results.

So, by ‘owning’ as many of these as you can, you can control your reputation more effectively. Control the top 5 and where people click to find out more about you.

Why Is It So Important That Online Content About Me And My Business Builds Trust?

Research reveals that 90% of individuals only look at the first page of SERPs. From Page 1, they create their impression of a person, business, or product.

64% of customers trust search engines while performing this research. 85% of customers claim to trust online reviews as much as recommendations from friends and family.

This all means that your online reputation must build trust.

Can A Better Online Reputation Really Help Me/My Business Make More Money?

Companies that have favourable feedback online attract more business.

For example, every 1* rise in your Yelp rating means a sales increase of 5-9%. 68% of customers claim, with a better experience, they are willing to pay up to 15% more for the same service.

Never underestimate how much customer experience (CX) matters to your bottom line.

Do You Only Work with Google Results?

No. We work across search engines and other sites that make use of their own search algorithms, like Yelp.

Remember, we said that Google isn’t the only search engine!

What is the Right to Be Forgotten?

In Europe, there is a limited ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ statute. Google and other search engines must subscribe to it.

It refers to a case raised by Mario Costeja González to the European Court (2010). The case was mainly concerned with data security.

This created a precedent that contributed to the creation of 2013’s “Right to be forgotten.” ruling. For further information, please refer to this link.

What Are the Requirements to Make a Right To Be Forgotten Request?

You need to be a citizen of the EU to apply, and the link that appears in a Google search must appear in a search for your name.

To confirm your citizenship, you may need to have a copy of your passport or driving licence. Post- Brexit, UK residents can no longer apply.

How Do I Start Working With Pearl Lemon on Reputation Management?

Start off by contacting us here. Then you can decide if you want to work with us on your ORM. If so, we can get to know you and your priorities. Then we will schedule a meeting or call and discuss what we need to build a work plan.

Will This Take Up a Lot of My Time?

No, but we will need some minimal input from you. We recommend that you set aside time for an update/call/ once per week. Then we can check and discuss anything that requires your approval.

What Will You Need From Me to Get Started?

  • Access to all websites, blogs, social media and listings that you own online.
  • Brand guidelines for your business.
  • Information of any other entities with which we need to interact or liaise.

There could be other items that are necessary/useful depending on the scope of work involved. Either way, we will agree with you on this as and when needed.

Who Will Create Content and Arrange PR?

Our experienced content creation team can write the majority of your online content. It may also be helpful for you to create content occasionally. This is useful if you are already doing so or operate in an industry that is regulated.

How Will You Monitor and Measure My Online Reputation?

We capture various metrics, including mentions, followers and opinions of influencers. We evaluate conversations and make it easier for you to understand them. Then we help you develop a proactive online strategy.

We also use a load of specialist tools. With these, we can track and report on conversations and backlinks. We can also look at content, shares, and social interactions. We can even track keywords and your competitors.

To track improvement over time, we benchmark decided on KPIs on a monthly basis.

Will an Improved Online Reputation Last Forever?

Well, maybe not. You’ll need your good image to be sustained. You’ll need to keep monitoring and sometimes changing stuff.

On review sites, people can leave negative comments at any time. Search engines can find those new results for indexing. Maintain a positive online reputation by constantly monitoring and working on it. This will keep it healthy.

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