Need to fix your online reputation but don’t have a lot of time? Here is a quick n’ dirty ORM plan most brands can use (OK, not so dirty). It’s a massively abbreviated version of the one we use at Reputation X.
What is Online Reputation Management?
What is ORM? Online reputation management is the act of curating what people see about your business online to achieve a desired outcome. It’s also called “SERM” for search engine reputation management. For businesses, the goal of a reputation management plan is usually to look better online, get more customers, or reduce the number of lost opportunities.
Getting Your Plan Started
The first step of a reputation management plan is research, then comes strategy, content, development, promotion and other steps. To keep things simple, you can look at brand reputation as being composed of four key components: reviews, negative content, positive content, and content promotion. Before you start any brand reputation plan you’ll want to know what people are seeing online. To do that, find your best and worst search results.
Find Your Best and Worst Search Results
The first step in a reputation management plan is to find out what search results people are finding your brand with. Here is a primer on finding the right search terms by exploring how prospective customers find you. The short version of the primer is:
- Start with a search of your brand name
- Search again appending “reviews”, “complaints”, or your product names
- While viewing results, click on People Also Ask if it’s available
- Click on Related Searches at the bottom of most Google search results pages
- Try voice queries (Google Home, or on your phone) as they’re conversational
- Do the same for your competitors, their results may give you ideas
Again, the primer mentioned above will get you started.
Audit Branded Search Results
Once you have an idea of what prospective customers are using to find your brand online, you’ll be able to see what they see in search results. By now you’ll have tried over a dozen variations of your brand online and learned quite a bit -some of it may have even been shocking. This is really important because you need to understand your brands landscape before you create a plan.
Break Out Branded Search Results
From those search results break out the following content types: online reviews, negative content, positive content, and content further back in search results (less visible) that would benefit your brand if they were more visible. They’re outlined below:
Bad reviews can kill a business deader than a cat on its tenth life. People really trust the reviews of strangers. So improving the reputation reflected in reviews is often the starting point of any campaign. Businesses that didn’t start a review management process early on are most susceptible to negative reviews online. The first question to ask is: Are there any negative reviews to address?
Managing online reviews is an ongoing process. This may involve removing negative reviews for Terms of Service violations (for an example, google “yelp tos”), improving existing reviews, garnering additional reviews, or a combination. While there are many online review platforms, they all do pretty much the same thing – catch a reviewer before they write a review and either fix the problem, or get them to write a positive one on the right site.
Do you need to remove any of your search results? Many brands contend with negative online content beyond customer reviews. A YouTube video, a critical blogger, or a viral news story can resonate in search results for months, years, or probably even decades. Under certain circumstances, this content can be removed using techniques like DMCA take-down requests and other means. In other cases, it can only be suppressed.
A big part of a brand reputation program is to create relevant positive content on a regular basis and distribute it to more than just your website. Here is a partial list of options you should consider developing on a regular basis. Tip: use your brand name in the headline of anything you create if you can – generally, it’ll perform better in search results:
- Content on your main website
- A new website about an aspect of your brand, like a product, or a charity
- A guest post on someone else’s site
- A press release
- A third-party review blog
- Social media posts like Facebook or LinkedIn sponsored posts
- Shared infographics
- White papers
- Video interviews with the CEO, or product demonstrations
All companies have web content languishing on page two or three of search results that would make the brand look better if it were only more visible. Ask yourself: What existing positive content should be promoted for higher visibility?
One of the most frustrating things about creating online content is to work hard on it only to see it falter in search rank and not be seen. Having excellent content is important, but in a very cluttered cyberspace, it will usually get somewhat lost without promotion. In other words, you can build it but they won’t come (usually) without promotion.
Whether you are working with existing or new content, it needs to be promoted in search results. For this, you’ll use search engine optimization (SEO). SEO works to promote all kinds of online content, even if you don’t own it. Here is a blog post on the top ten things you can do to learn search engine optimization for reputation management.
Now Divide Into Owned or Earned Content Categories
Reviews are usually earned content, your website is usually owned and so is Facebook content even though you don’t own Facebook (at least, not all of it). Paid content is another category, but we’re keeping things simple with this plan and won’t mention it here.
Divide the results of your reputation search result audit into two categories.
Owned Web Content
Owned content is anything that you have direct control over, like a blog post on your website, or a video you posted.
Earned Web Content
Earned content generally comes from an outside source; perhaps a positive news article was written about you, or you’ve achieved a five star rating on Yelp.
What to Do With Owned Content
Since you control it, refresh it. Dont’ just write about anything, make sure it’s relevant to your brand and helpful to consumers. If it isn’t good content people will come to the content, and then immediately leave. If they do, Google will notice and treat it as second-class content. So do a good job.
You can also promote content your brand owns and controls using other media.
What to Do With Earned Content
You cannot edit earned content because someone else created it. But you can promote someone else’s content by sharing it on your social media with your followers. You can also cause links to be built to it both from sites you control, and by third-party sites using a technique called “outreach”. You can read more about outreach here. Outreach builds links. Google counts links as votes. A few really good links are better than a lot of really bad ones, so don’t go to some offshore company and buy a thousand links. They’ll hurt you more often than not.
What to Do With Reviews
Review sites are often where people go to out-gas. Existing reviews should be left alone for a simple reputation management plan. It’s usually better to just get new positive ones added. To do this, contact every new client as soon as you have done business with them. If they have a good experience, thank them and send them to the review site you think needs the most work. If they had a bad experience, fix it. If they are overjoyed with your awesomeness, send them to the review site that needs the most work. There are many software companies offering online review management, but you can also do it for free this way.
A Simple Reputation Plan is a Good Start for Most Businesses
The above simple reputation plan steps are a good start. You should be doing the above even if you don’t have a brand sentiment problem. But if you have a reputation problem to fix, you will almost certainly need a more aggressive program. That cannot be covered in a single short blog post, but root around in our blog to find specific answers to sticky brand reputation problems.