Best Foot Forward: Online Reputation Management 101
|Michael Fertik, CEO of Reputation.com.|
The Internet can be a scary place. Especially if your business has been the subject of negative customer reviews or unfair attacks that are ranking high in search engine listings. That's where the newly emerging field of reputation management comes in.
Online reputation management (ORM) firms exists to help manipulate your search engine ranking so that negative information about your company gets pushed out of the way by more positive search engine results.
It's being used by businesses of all sizes.
[How to Manage Your Own Reputation Online]
Online reputation management (ORM) is all about search engine optimization. ORM companies, such as Reputation.com and ProfileDefenders.com, know that Internet content won't disappear. But by creating positive and neutral content, ORM companies can decrease visibility by pushing negative results lower on search engine results page.
"Our objectives are to give people control over what people see about them on the Web. Small businesses don't have the budget to do full marketing campaigns, but they are subject to the same negativity as Walmart and the big guys," said Michael Fertik, the founder and CEO of Reputation.com. His company ensures that the most favorable content appears near the top of the search results. "Businesses pay anywhere from a few hundred dollars a year to a few thousand dollars a year," he said.
A new 'part of business life'
Fertik said that ORM has become popular because many purchasing decisions start with the Internet.
"The companies that enlist reputation management tend to be those that get their business from the Internet. But it ranges from a one-person company to multinationals," Fertik said.
Fertik predicts that as the Internet continues to boom, every company will have to use some form of online reputation management. "It's just going to be a part of business life," he said.
And while you may think that the primary users of ORM are businesses with tarnished reputations, this is not the case.
"The No. 1 use is companies who want to proactively manage their reputation. It's a lot cheaper to avoid a problem before you have it. If you're not proactively managing, you're leaving yourself vulnerable to neutral or unhelpful information," Fertik told BusinessNewsDaily.
Neil Gehani, the CEO and founder of Eco Displayware, uses Reputation.com mostly to monitor his online presence and make sure that what has been attributed to him is in fact him. He has also been able to remove personal information that should not be on the Internet.
"It allows me to control what my presence online looks like. Right now, I am using the free version to test it out and see what it finds and notifies me about," Gehani said.
Kent Lewis, president of Anvil Media Inc., has been helping clients manage and improve their online reputations since 1998.
In one case, a client sued a financial planner and won an $11 million judgment against him, Lewis said. Beyond the penalties, the financial planner received a letter of admonition. The letter was published on one website and then syndicated on four others.
"If you did a search of his name, you would find five negative results in the top 10," Lewis said. The financial planner would meet with prospective clients and then lose the business once prospective customers researched him online.
The financial planner started with a personal blog.
"He was an interesting guy because he played major league baseball for two seasons. He was very well connected in the community," Lewis said. Then, Anvil built a charitable trust blog about the financial planner's giving. "That ranked very well, very quickly," he said.
Anvil followed up by creating business profiles linking to his website and other social platforms. They built up a presence on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter within three weeks.
"It moved the negative articles to page 50, and it stayed that way," he said. "For under $5,000, he didn't receive one more call for two years about people finding the negative sites."
Sometimes bad online feedback is the result of truly poor service or customer experiences. Fertik said he refuses to work with companies that have a pattern of reckless or fraudulent behavior.
"Most of our customers who have an accurate, negative review have no problem with it being there. They just don't want it to be the first or only thing," he said.
Lewis has a different take. "Individuals or corporations that need help with reputation management have a certain level of guilt," he said. His solution for companies? Do good.
"Social media and reputation management should only be utilized in those odd cases where the impossible crazy customer came out," Lewis said.
You should never have a lawyer or ORM agency on retainer just because you can. You should focus that investment on fixing the problem, he said.
- One Thing You Can Do to Improve Your Customers' Experience
- Best Online Marketing Services (SEO & Reputation Management)
- Consumer Reviews Carry More Search Weight Than Your Web Site