What is Reputation Management?
We define reputation management as the practice of controlling how your name, your local business, or your brand appears on the web.
This can apply to search engines, news websites, social media, or anywhere on the web that users might find your brand. It’s important for individuals, local businesses, brands, and anyone that cares about their reputation.
Reputation management is becoming more and more important because people are spending more time doing research before making purchases and deciding who they’re going to work with.
Often, people will determine whether or not they want to work with you before they even go to your website. Not only that, they can actually figure this out before they even finish typing your name into a search engine. With Google autocomplete, as soon as a person starts typing in your brand name, Google makes suggestions such as lawsuits, complaints, negative reviews, etc.
When consumers start to see these things, they’re going to click on it, and they’re going to read up on you. When consumers research your name in Google or in another search engine, they’re going to see the reviews right in the search results. They don’t even need to go to Yelp, they don’t even need to go to these other review sites. They know right away what kind of company you are and what your history is.
So it’s becoming more and more important for brands to take control of their reputation so that anyone researching you online can see an honest and accurate representation of you, your company, or your brand.
Reputation Management and Marketing
So the next item we want to address is where ORM fits in the big picture of marketing. A lot of people will tell you that ORM is mostly PR or SEO. But that’s not actually true. The way we think about the relationship between reputation management, and all the other fields of marketing, is that your reputation really lies within search engines.
When someone starts to type in your brand, the first thing that they’re going to see is Google’s autocomplete. So that’s the first part of your reputation that’s important.The next part is the search results themselves, and the news component of Google search results. Those are the three areas that we focus on initially, and that’s why we see search results as the core of your online reputation.
Google autocomplete and the search results are SEO. Then you have the Google news section. That’s PR. Now social media, content marketing, business listings, and all other parts of marketing help to promote everything that you’re doing. These are the areas where you can control your personal or company’s brand image and message. They have a strong, direct effect on your online reputation.
So the main parts of online reputation management are SEO, PR and Social Media Management.
How ORM Helps SEO and Conversion Optimization
Reputation management, if done properly, will help both your search engine optimization efforts and your conversion optimization efforts. A lot of the work that’s done is building up your brand’s presence, compiling and adding to your assets, and strengthening your online representation.
So what we do is create lots of new content, build out all of our social profiles and stay active on all platforms. We’re getting you featured on authoritative websites, whether they’re news sites, industry specific websites or blogs. So we take your company or your name and turn you into an authority in your industry.
All of these efforts have a positive effect on search engine optimization because search engines love big brands and they give favor to them. So we take your business and turn it into a larger brand that has very strong assets online.
The other part is conversion optimization. We work with you to get reviews from your customers, which will help your conversion rate, because as we mentioned, more people are searching online to read these reviews. Before they even visit your website, many people have already read three or four reviews about your service, and that’s why it’s important for us to get good, positive reviews.
We also will consolidate all of your assets into a funnel that directs people who are searching for your name or brand to a specific place. Whether your goal is to get them to buy something, call for a consultation, or read your bio, controlling your assets and reputation allows you to control the flow of traffic when it comes to your ORM keywords.
Proactive vs. Reactive Reputation Management
Online reputation management typically can be split into two categories proactive and reactive reputation management. Let’s explore the difference between the two.
Proactive reputation management is building up your brand and your online assets from scratch. This way, when people search for your name, they’re going to find positive content that you control. They’ll find your website, microsites, articles that you’ve contributed to on industry websites, news articles and press releases, and all of your social media accounts. Proactive reputation management is the best way to control what everyone sees when they search for your name or brand online.
Now, reactive reputation management is a whole different ball game. Trying to improve or repair your reputation is a significantly different practice. Reactive reputation management is trying to overcome something that affected your reputation negatively.
For example: Someone tried to sue Jon Doe. The accusations were not accurate, and Jon Doe was acquitted. However the person suing Jon Doe left a trail of bad reviews and a news article was published about the charges. Even if the charges are dropped, this article and the negative reviews still show up on page 1 of a google search for “Jon Doe.” Now Jon Doe must work extra hard to overcome these negative URLs with positive content.
Reactive reputation management is trying to remove/suppress negative content from search results or convert negative content into positive or neutral content.
So reactive reputation management is a different type of practice because you’re going to be investing a lot more time and energy into repairing your problem. This process can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years.
Conducting an ORM Audit
The first thing that we do when we try to improve someone’s online reputation is an in depth audit to assess the severity of the situation. Once we know your ORM keywords, we’ll go through each search result and flag it as a positive, negative, or neutral asset. For proactive reputation management, there are typically little to no negative URLs so we can start creating positive URLs right away. However for reactive ORM, once we know which search terms we really need to focus on, we look at the authority of the website that the negative content lives on.
This is where a basic knowledge of SEO is necessary. When analyzing the negative content we look at domain authority, page rank, traffic, social shares, etc. This analysis is important for us to determine what we’re up against. For example, if you have a negative article about you from CNN or a major authoritative website, that’s going to be very difficult to suppress, whereas a negative result on a local news site or small blog would be significantly less difficult to move.
Pulling all this data and looking at all the SEO metrics behind specific pages is important to determine if this content is able to be suppressed. In some cases it’s going to take some very strong efforts and a large budget to really push those things down. When trying to suppress URLs from an authoritative website, you’ll need to get content that ranks for the same search term on a website that has an authority level the same as or higher, and is also optimized well enough to suppress the negative articles.
So a good ORM audit consists of a detailed analysis of every ORM keyword. This is the foundation for any ORM campaign and will determine what keywords become a priority, and what we’ll need to do in order to overcome any negative content.
Prioritizing your Reputation Management Strategy
Now we’re going to explain how to prioritize your ORM efforts using the VSP framework. VSP framework stands for volume, sentiment and properties. The first step is to define your ORM keywords. These are the different words that people type into google in order to find you or your brand. We look at all of your ORM keywords, and we say which of these keywords have the highest Volume. That’s the V.
The next thing is do is look at the Sentiment of the search results for those keywords. We search for each of your branded keywords and give each keyword a sentiment score. We do this by analyzing the search results of each of your ORM keywords. If a search term has 7 positive and 3 negative URLs in the results, the sentiment score of that keyword would be 70%.
After we look at all of your branded keywords and assign a sentiment score, we’ll know your top ORM keywords based on the volume and the sentiment score. That’s our starting point for your campaign.
The next part is the P; Properties. We look at all of the search results from your branding keywords, and we identify all of the negative properties. Then we see which keywords have the highest exposure. For example, if all of your branded keywords combined had a total search volume of 10,000, and you had one negative property that showed up on all of those branded keywords, we would know that property had a 10,000 impression score.
We sort these negative properties from high to low, and prioritize our areas of focus in repairing your reputation. This type of data-driven approach allows us to identify, isolate and solve the problems of your online reputation.
Removing Content from Search Engine Results
Google offers a way for people to remove specific content from search engines for various reasons. There are two types of submissions:
- You have a case in which applicable laws are violated.
- You have a case in which Google’s Terms of Service or Product Policies
In most cases, for individuals and business owners who are interested in reputation management, they are going to be looking at online defamation.
If you have a legal case, your chances of getting this content removed are very high. It may take a couple weeks or even months for Google to review, approve and remove this content, but once they remove it from their index it becomes nearly impossible for anyone to find the content.
If you do not have legal documentation proving that the content removed violates laws, Google will review your case and make a judgement call. We’ve had content removal requests approved and denied for various reasons. But even if your first submission is denied, you can make another request using a different claim.
We’ve seen success and failure when it comes to removing content from search engines. But even if Google does not remove your content, you have other options. Content suppression is an effective way to control your search results.
Suppressing Negative Content in Search Engine Results
The next thing we’re going to discuss is how to suppress negative content in search engines using the KAPPER framework. KAPPER framework stands for Keywords, Audit, Production of content, Promotion of content, Evaluation and Restrategization.
For the Keyword section, what we do is we figure out all of your ORM keywords and design your ORM strategy around those keywords.
In the Audit, we determine how difficult it will be to suppress negative content for those specific keywords.
When it comes to Producing content, this is where really the heart of the ORM campaign lives. We’ve done the analysis and now we’re doing all the work. This is where we build microsites, business listings and social profiles. We then create positive content that is linguistically relevant to your ORM keywords. This is the most time consuming part of any campaign.
The next part is Promoting content. We’ve created great content pieces that are going to get lots of traffic to your website and build your brand. And now we’ve got to promote it. We do this with social media and community outreach. We promote content on your most visited social platforms, reach out to journalists, bloggers and authoritative websites in your industry. We focus our energy on driving as much traffic as possible to your website and assets that we’ve built for you.
So the next part is Evaluate. In ORM, especially with brands that have ongoing online reputation issues, it’s important to evaluate the work that is being done. We have a strategy that we’ve set up and put into operation, and now you need to measure and see how that campaign is performing. We look to see if the negative content has moved, and how our new content promotion is working. Using these results we ask ourselves, do we need more content, more links, more social signals, more traffic, etc. And we figure out if what we’re doing is actually going to take things to the next level and clean up your reputation or if we need to restrategize and figure out a different avenue.
So that’s where the R, restrategize, comes into play. In most cases, the strategy that we establish at first will provide good results, but sometimes it doesn’t fix the entire problem. Then we do another audit using your new assets and restrategize to ensure that your reputation is protected.
Building an Online Reputation Foundation
When building a foundation for your online reputation, keep in mind that it’s all about the content, and during your content efforts, you need to keep your ORM keywords in mind. Every piece of content that you create should be linguistically relevant to your ORM keywords.
The most important part of online reputation management is your domain. The .com version of your site is the best version to publish on, but you also want to own the .org, the .nets, and also get some other domains that have variations of your brand name in them as well. In Google’s effort to diversify the search engines, they came up with something called the domain crowding update.
Essentially, Google doesn’t want to show search results from the same website more than two times. They also want to know who is managing specific websites. So, for example, if you buy 50 domains with the brand name in it and put it on the same hosting account and build websites with the same CMS, you should only expect two results in Google searches all through your brand name. That’s because they know that one person’s managing all of those domains.
However if a competitor or someone looking to defame you buys one, they can use that domain to attack your reputation.
Domain management is very important and what we want to stress to you is that it’s good to have your main domain as well as a few variations of your brand name.
The next part of building your foundation is to optimize your website. You really need to understand your ORM keywords and find opportunities for introducing those ORM keywords into your site. A very common example of this is if you have bad reviews that are showing when people search for your brand name plus reviews, you can build a review page on your site or sub-domain and that could help you take up one more position in the search results.
The next part is social accounts. We take control of all your social handles, all of your shared media accounts, and create as many profiles as we possibly can so that your brand name begins to appear in all corners of the internet. We then consolidate all of your profiles into a list so that you can publish content on any platform at any time.
The last part is listing management. You want to claim all of your business listings, your map listings, and your data aggregator accounts, review accounts, review sites, etc. If someone else were to take a Yelp page or Google+ page, claim it and verify it, they could control how you appear online.
So making sure that you claim your Google+ page and your Yelp page and all the other top listings is very important to your online reputation management campaign. You want to make sure that you own them all so that no one else can seize them.
As we already stated, it’s important to keep in mind your ORM keywords for all content efforts. In your reputation management campaign it’s crucial to produce as much content as possible. It should all be unique content and it can come in any form. It can be videos, it can be articles, press releases, slideshare presentations, images, infographics, blog posts, etc. The more positive content you have out there, the better.
Some easy moves you can take for your own website is to create an architecture that can house a ton of content. Build a blog, build a news portal, build out services and product descriptions, always keeping your ORM keywords in mind.
The other part that’s really important is guest blogging. As we mentioned, the domain crowding update will only allow you to get one or two results in Google search results from a specific domain. So getting your name on other people’s well-established websites is very important for online reputation management. Some of these guest blogs will rank for your name if the site has a high enough domain authority. This works for individuals as well as brands. You’re going to get your name as well as your brand name in the article as well.
One thing that we do is we look at your competitors or individuals, people that are in the same industries, and we look at all the content that ranks for their names and reverse engineer their successes into our strategy.
Microsites are also important because they can be used for a wide variety of reasons. The great thing about a microsite is that it’s easy to create a very linguistically relevant architecture, so you should be able to get them to rank on page 1 relatively easily. But with the domain crowding update there is a limit to the number of effective microsites you can have. So you’d want to get your name on microsites and other people’s websites as well.
Content Production is a huge undertaking. We create a minimum of five to ten articles per month to take your content to the next level and your reputation to the next level. The more content you create, the more results you’re going to see.
The next topic we’re going to discuss is content promotion. Basically, the more successful a content piece is, the more likely it is to rank for your name. For example, if you go and leave a guest blog on some website where anyone can post a guest blog, it’s probably not going to do anything. It’s not going to get any traffic. It’s not going to get any social shares. It’s just going to sit there.
But if you created a great piece of content, published it on a microsite that had a beautiful design and a lot of in-depth content and you shared it across your social media platforms and you drove visitors to this content piece, that content is significantly more likely to rank for your name. It’s also going to result in links in, and with the right manual outreach, it can directly result in links in and shares from influencers around the web.
So content promotion can play a huge role, especially if you’re in a very tough position with your reputation management and you have some huge hurdles to overcome. You want to make sure you’re taking a lot of time to promote your content, especially if it’s share-worthy.
It’s important to keep in mind what social media platform you’re looking to get shares on. For example, if you’re trying to get your LinkedIn to rank, infographics will help you immensely. However people on Facebook love videos. Instagram is all about HD photos. And these trends are changing continually. With any ORM you have to have a good foundation of content and then you want to have a few standout pieces that are built for specific platforms.
Reputation Monitoring Overview
The next topic we’re going to be discussing is reputation monitoring. The areas that we’re going to be monitoring will depend on type of categories and industries you operate in. Are you a person, a local business, or a larger brand. Do you offer products or services? Do you have one location or multiple?
For most people and for most local businesses, there are only certain things that you need to monitor. For example, you’ll want to monitor Google autocomplete, Google search results, and the news section of Google. These are the three areas that you’re going to be focusing on.
Big brands should focus on these as well as anything that’s mentioned on social media, or anything that’s mentioned on competitors’ sites.
There is software that allows us to do all of these things, but keeping your ORM monitoring focused is important, because you don’t want to be overloaded with information.
In the next section we’re going to be going through and discussing the details of each of these various areas.
How To Monitor Your Reputation in Search Engines
Let’s discuss how to monitor your online reputation specifically in search engines. The first place we need to look at is when the user starts to type in your brand name and Google makes a few suggestions. Monitoring Google autocomplete is the first and one of the most important areas to keep an eye on. Autocomplete doesn’t change very often, unless there is a huge push in content and massive search result changes, but when it does change, it can have a significant impact on how people are searching your brand.
For example, if your company gets sued, and the next autocomplete that pops up is “my company lawsuit,” you can rest assured that people are going to search more and more for “my company lawsuit.” Google autocomplete will play a big part in your ORM keywords, so we always track that data and evaluate the increases and decreases in search traffic over time.
The next area that you’ll want to focus on is the search results themselves. There is software that allows you to track your ranking in search engines, as well as everything that shows up on the first two pages of Google search results for any specific keyword. This is very useful for our ORM campaigns because you can actually track the movement of all these search results. This constant monitoring and evaluation is crucial to the way we run our ORM campaigns, because we can track negative URLs as well as the new assets we’ve created.
The other area that you’ll want to monitor is the news section. It’s possible for anyone to appear in the news section. All you need to do is follow specific guidelines and submit a press release, and if you follow the instructions properly, your press release will show up in the news section of Google for keywords related to your brand. This will also show up right in Google search results, not just the news section of Google. However any negative mention of your name in the Google news section will also show up in all of these places. Monitoring the news section for any mention of your name will help you identify any positive or negative assets that show up.
These three areas are the first places to focus on. As we mentioned before, the areas you focus most of your attention on are going to depend on whether you’re a person, a local business, or a brand.
Advanced SEO Monitoring
Anything that can positively benefit your search rankings for your website or for your microsite, can also negatively affect your search rankings if done improperly. This is where advanced SEO monitoring comes into play.
For example, duplicate content will get your website flagged and could cause you to lose rankings. In our audit, we take your entire site and make sure that that content that is on your site is not being replicated anywhere else on the web. After the initial benchmark analysis, we set up a monitoring system that will detect if there are any other instances of that content on the web.
This is important in order to detect any efforts of a competitor or anyone who’s making efforts to hurt your brand or your online reputation.
We also monitor backlinks, so we know exactly who is referencing your website around the web. Usually backlinks are a good thing, but if the site is a scam site, we want to be alerted to that sort of negative publicity.
We also monitor business listings and citations. If someone wanted to hurt your online rankings or to hurt your brand, they could potentially go out and create business listings with inaccurate information that drives your potential customers to the wrong places.
Another area of advanced monitoring is user signals. User activity, behavior and server load monitoring. This tracks the behavior of users on your website through analytics, heat mapping and visitor recording tools and alerts us to suspicious activity. For example, if a thousand visitors came to your website at once, did the same mouse movement, and then left, we know that someone is sending bot traffic to your site.
All of these systems work as a preventative measure for brands or individuals that want to take their reputation monitoring to the highest level, so that any time their reputation is possibly threatened, they know about it right away.
Monitoring Online Mentions around the Web and Social Media
Web mention monitoring is the practice of monitoring any mention of your name or brand on the web. This includes social media, news sites, forums, Google search results, anything that is crawlable by a standard crawler.
Some of the things that may not be crawlable include Facebook groups and communities that require a login.
Web mentions are important because anything that starts with a web mention can turn into a press issue, it can show up in Google news, and it can also show up for your brand name in Google search.
For example, if someone were to mention your brand name in a blog article, it’s possible that that blog article could rank for your Google search results on the first page. This could easily turn into news, or create a series of posts about your brand that you have no control over.
Social media monitoring has a lot of overlap with web mention monitoring and business listing management. Many mention tools and trackers will find mentions of your name or brand around the web as well as on social media platforms. This is a great way to track both of those frontiers, the deep web and also social media.
The main thing that we focus on is where these mentions show up in search results for your ORM keywords. But it’s also important to cast a very wide net throughout the whole internet to monitor what people are saying about you, because anything has the chance to show up in search results, and the earlier you can find potential threats, the easier it is to deal with them.
Reputation Management Ethics
So the next thing we’re going to discuss is reputation management ethics.
With any ORM campaign, the goal is to suppress or remove false, negative, or unjust content and take control over a person or brand’s reputation across the web.
This can be a huge responsibility because in a way, we are shaping public opinion about a specific person or a brand.
At Rank K.O., we have a code of ethics that we use as a basis for accepting or refusing to work on a campaign. Every situation undergoes an internal evaluation in which all the members of our team that would be working on the campaign sits down and analyzes the problem and proposal. If anyone on our teams feels uncomfortable about the client’s situation, we do will not accept the case.
Any potential campaign in which we believe the subject to be breaking applicable laws, avoiding justice, or promoting unethical practices we will refuse to work on, and if appropriate, we may report any illegal acts we become aware of to the relevant authorities.
For example, if a restaurant has 8 negative reviews about unsanitary conditions that rank on page 1 of their branded search results, they may come to us to try and fix that. In this situation we would go to the site, talk to the bosses, employees and customers to see whether these conditions still exist or whether they had been corrected.
We believe that if someone works hard to correct a mistake, they deserve the same chance to correct their reputation. However if someone is merely trying to hide their illicit activities, by paying to have them covered up, they deserve no such chance.
The Future of Reputation Management
In the past, reputation management has been included in the SEO industry. That’s because, as we mentioned, the core of reputation management lives in the search engine. But as we move forward and new technologies come about, the search engine may not necessarily be the core of a brand anymore. Social media, mobile search, Siri and Google Assistant are changing the ways people use the internet. As these industries evolve, and users start to find information in different ways, so must any ORM campaign strategy. Often, people will determine whether or not they want to work with you before they even go to your website. Not only that, they can actually figure this out before they even finish typing your name into a search engine. With Google autocomplete, as soon as a person starts typing in your brand name, Google makes suggestions such as lawsuits, complaints, negative reviews, etc.
Google’s algorithms are constantly being updated to allow users to find information no matter how they search for it. Staying on top of these changes is crucial to protecting your online reputation.
Now the majority of Google searches come from cell phones. This allows google to track gps locations and habits of consumers, meaning Google Maps is becoming more and more important when it comes to finding out information. This is why Google My Business has become a crucial parts of our campaigns.
As more and more people join social media communities, the more authority these websites have. We are constantly monitoring new apps and platforms that people are downloading and sharing on. This way we are able to update all of our ORM campaigns to reflect the current trends among internet users.
As you can see, there are many different factors that go into building a successful ORM campaign. There is no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” package that can guarantee positive results. That’s why every one of our campaigns is custom built to address each individual client’s situation.