A Primer on Protecting and Repairing Your Online Reputation
Updated: Feb 15, 2019
In this Online Reputation Management (ORM) guide we will explore the ins and outs of corporate and personal online reputation and how to protect and repair your image.
Image and Reputation Management:
In the era before the Internet, people had limited access to information regarding the reputation of companies and individuals. Usually word of mouth was the only means available to determine the trustworthiness of a business or a person. If you met someone and wanted to know if they were good people or not, you had to either know someone that knows them or use your instinct to figure out if you could trust them or not.
When the Internet started to become an integral part of our lives, things changed dramatically. Now you had search engines that keep information, good and bad, about businesses and people. Wither the information is true or false, that is a totally different issue.
What is Online Reputation?
If you visit any search engine such as Google, and type a business or individual's name, you will be represented with search results by order. Some of these results are Ads and are marked accordingly. The none marked results are what we call organic search results. It is these results and their content, on search engine results pages (SERPS) that determine the business or individual's online reputation, bad or good.
Go ahead and Google your company's name, or yours. Visit each result and spend the time to read carefully what is written about you or your business. Make sure you visit and read each result on the first page. Now I think you will have a good idea if you have a good, bad or neutral reputation online.
Dynamism of Reputation Management:
You might wonder why I asked you to study the results of the first page and not the other pages. The majority of searchers will not go beyond the first page, but that does not imply that the second, third, and fourth pages are not important, they are.
If the searcher doesn't know you and wants to take a quick look at who you or your company are, usually they will not go beyond the first results page. It boils down to intent. If the searcher already knows about you and is on to something, such as proofing a point or doing research, they will dig deeper.
When it comes to one's reputation online, the search engine results is where it stands. What you see is what you get. What is Online Reputation?
Types of Search Results:
Depending on who you are and how famous the company is, each search result is different. Some of these results might be personal or corporate social profiles, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Others might be blog posts written by you or others. Maybe they are news articles. They could be comments at the bottom of posted online content. Sometimes they are online reviews by customers. They could also be related pictures or videos. Each search result carries a different weight. This weight we call Authority. The authority of a page or a domain is hidden but there are tools that can determine the authority score of each result. We will discuss the importance of page/domain authority later in this guide.
How Online Reputation affects a brand or an individual?
A recent TripAdvisor's Study reveals that 97% of Travel related business owners and managers believe that online reputation management is very important to their business. The fact that online reputation is never 100% controllable makes it trustworthy and believable. Reputational damage online is very costly and can make you loose money and even worst, go bankrupt.
What does this mean to you and your business?
Online reviews for example, could be false, biased, true or even made up by your competitors, stalkers or, rivals. If left un-monitored it can heart a business image or a person's reputation. Things you did when you were a teen, like post a stupid picture (nude for example) can seriously damage your relations with your peers years down the road. If you had a run-in with the law years ago and was covered by the media, and even if you received a pardon by a judge; you are in deep trouble. Such online media coverage will stay there for a long time.
First impressions are lasting impressions. We have dealt with customers that had legal issues a decade ago and they remained passive about their online reputation since then. Then suddenly they were involved in a business deal where the potential partners searched for their names on Google. The deal was lost, and they turned to us in an attempt to fix their negative reputation. Being passive about your online reputation is a no no as it will cost you and your business dearly. The first question that they ask us over the phone is " How do I fix my bad reputation online?".
How To Fix and Repair your Negative Online Reputation?
1) Suppress negative search engine results:
While removing bad reviews & PR and negative social media posts from the web is ultimately the best solution to fix and repair your online reputation, not many companies or individuals have the budget nor the patience to do so; besides, it is not 100% guaranteed. The best and fairly the quickest way is by suppressing the negative results on the Internet. Suppressing negative results is a reputation management strategy that depends on SEO and content development and marketing to attempt and rank positive content about your brand or you personally higher on the search engines than the negative results, especially on Page one. How to Repair your bad Online Reputation?
Own Page One of Google:
Your first goal when it comes to fixing a damaged online reputation is to use the suppression strategy to own the first results page on the search engines. This way when someone searches on Google for your company or personal name, they will only find positive results that enhance your online image and reputation. 95% of search engine visitors don't go beyond the first page of results! Once you own the first page of Google and other search engines, move on to page 2 and 3.
Some searchers might know you already and are digging deeper via more specific queries, in that case you have to try and predict these keywords ahead of time and use them in your positive content to rank higher. For example some one could search for :
- "your name + bad reviews"
- "your name + negative reviews"
- "your name + fraud"
- "your name + scam"
- "your name + not recommended"
The list goes on and on. Build a list of such keyword phrases and intelligently integrate these keywords in your positive content so when they are being used in a search engine you will suppress the negative results if any.
2) Remove Negative and damaging web search Results
To the average person or business, removing negative results from Google altogether is almost impossible. Most customers we talked to were under the impression that these results are immortal and impossible to remove or contain. In a way this is true. While it is possible to remove some of the negative results from search engines, it is a hard, expensive and not a guaranteed endeavor. When Online Reputation Management Companies claim that they can remove the bad search results quickly and cheaply, that's when you should be certain it is a scam.
Google does have a removal policy, which states that they will remove results containing sensitive personal information such as bank account numbers, personal signatures, nude pictures or videos, etc. But removing online reviews, court orders, news articles about you or your business or even simple online defamation content is a much harder task.
Reputation Management with Google:
Usually, Google will deny requests to remove bad press altogether. If you are a EU citizen or from other countries including Canada and USA, this becomes much easier because the courts already ruled the right of a person to be forgotten by search engines. The problem with this approach is it rarely works without going to court. We at Swiftly Labs have developed a technique that increases the chances of removing these results from search engines, but we never guarantee the outcome.
In couple of cases our customers shared the same exact names as criminals. When they searched their names online the results were mostly about the criminals not themselves. As you can imagine such situations ruined their lives, literally. We have since developed a strategy that helped in such unfortunate situations, but this belongs to a different post.
Choosing and Selecting an Online Reputation Management Service:
These days Most businesses, CEOs & corporate individuals, celebrities and regular people understand the value of a great online reputation. Few negative search engine results can easily spell the end of a business and make someone's life miserable!
While some have the experience and the time to do it themselves, most will not be able to achieve the results a professional online reputation management company can. So how do you choose the right online reputation management company?
First of all, a successful reputation repair campaign must include the following services:
- Content development.
- Content marketing, and Marketing content.
- Social Media profiling and management
- Review monitoring and management
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Second, if the online reputation management company promises quick results, then steer away from them. Fixing your reputation online is a process that takes time and effort.
Third, from the first call you will get feeling if these guys are professional and caring or not. If you feel they are not giving you enough attention and care about your situation, move on. You have to understand that reputation management is a booming business right now, and some companies have too much load; more than they can handle, hence the degraded customer service.
Fourth and most important, steer away from the online reputation management companies that use black-hat SEO or unethical practices to repair your online reputation. These companies will heart your brand on the long run. Some reputation companies might claim that they have a relationship with an insider at the search engines like Google, again, stay away from such providers.
Swiftly Labs Team