Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not Online Reputation Management (ORM). Yet they are related, and ORM incorporates SEO principles. But they’re not the same.
Same Yet Different
SEO tactics are used so people can find your company when they’re searching online. ORM influences what they think about your company after they find you.
Use SEO to get your business into the search results in the first place. Then ORM works to help a customer decide between the different available companies.
SEO works to increase traffic to your website using keywords, like “kitchen design” or “kitchen remodeling”. Once someone has searched using your keyword and your business appears in the search results, ORM influences searches for your business related to those keywords, like “Jim’s Kitchens and Baths”.
If you think your business doesn’t need ORM, or if you think you can make it without taking into account people’s opinions and reviews, you’re wrong.
Your online reputation is your reputation. Period.
What Do People See When They Google You?
What do people see when they Google your business? Are the results positive? negative? non-existent?
Your business’s online reputation starts with Google. When a potential customer first hears your business name, what do they do? They Google you. What they find could be what decides them to buy from you or not.
Online Reputation Management is Proactive
Most companies only consider Online Reputation Management when damage is already done and negative reviews are out there. But ORM is not about damage control, it’s about establishing a solid, positive foundation for your brand in the digital universe.
ORM is proactive. By being proactive, small businesses that actively work at their online reputation can have a positive presence online, while also protecting against negative results that may appear.
Here are some general tips to manage your reputation online proactively:
• Write and Distribute Press Releases that address the negative comment(s).
• Start A Positive Review Campaign. Ask happy customers to write a review for you. Make it easy for them to do it.
• Manage Online Reviews. If you got a bad review, address it right away to show you’re paying attention and that you care.
• Have A Page On Your Website that includes links to positive mentions of your company online.
• Get A Blog. Search engines love blogs. For reputation purposes, a blog can rank for your ame, and it gives you a way to respond directly to any negative comments made about your company.
• Create A Presence On Any And All Relevant Websites. If you’re in a highly competitive market, you need to be active on social media sites that are specific to your industry.
• Monitor Your Company’s Online Image. You have to stay tuned into what’s happening, know the latest news about it, and know what people think about it.
Two tools you can use to monitor your brand online are Google Alerts and Yahoo Alerts. They let you track mentions of your company in the news, on blogs, in videos, and mentions in groups. Set up accounts and use them.
• Be Active in Your Online Community. This means posting on forums that are in the same category as yours and offer positive feedback to others. The more positive interactions you have with others on their sites, the better off your reputation will be.
• Build Out Your Social Media Accounts. Merely having a social media account for your business is not enough — you need to be active with posts and shares, too.
At a minimum you should be on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (if your business is B2B). If your products are visually-oriented, get busy on Pinterest and Instagram. Businesses that are active on Instagram appear high up in Google search results.
When your social media accounts are interlinked with each other and linked to / from your blog and /or website, they should rank really well in the search engines. Facebook and Twitter carry a lot of SEO power.
• Pay Attention to Social Media. Today, Facebook and Twitter provide an open and live platform for users to write reviews. These reviews may be negative or positive, so it is important to monitor and reply to all reviews.
• Use the Principles of SEO. Actively work on your SEO by having a website that appears “trustworthy” to search engines, one that loads quickly and is easy to navigate, that’s loaded with keywords and phrases for search engines to pick up, that gets new and interesting content regularly.
• Build your links. Search engines don’t only look at what’s on your page, they also look at who’s linking back to it. You can build links to your page by getting linked to and from third-party websites, especially your local press. You can sponsor a local event and get your name on the event’s website. You can participate in contests that get promoted online. And many more.
Link building can seem like hard work -- and it is -- but it’s worth it. Backlinks are still one of the top ranking factors for search.
Many of these actions influence search engine results. For example, a positive presence on Yelp reflects well for your business in Google results.
How Do You Get Started?
The first step is to find out what’s out there right now. Google yourself or your business. Is there negative information anywhere you can see? Perform a search with “/reviews” or “/complaints” at the end of your business name to see if there’s anything you need to address.
Here’s a few “rules” that will get you started with ORM.
1. Become well respected. Trust is difficult to gain and easy to lose. Getting people to respect you is the most important ORM principle.
2. Be transparent. Ask for feedback and don’t hide criticism, even address it politely and promptly.
3. Monitor what is being said about you on social media. Good ORM is about reacting positively to what people are saying about you and your business. Social media monitoring is an easy D-I-Y. Google and Yahoo both have free alerts you can sign up for that monitor the web for mention of your business.
4. React quickly and politely. People ask questions via Twitter and Facebook when they are evaluating whether they should buy from you. If you’re paying attention and answer these questions promptly, it can bring in business.
5. Address criticism. The way you handle social media complaints says a lot more about your company than any kind of advertisement.
6. Learn from your mistakes. Criticism can be an opportunity to learn more about your audience and what they value. Then use that info and incorporate their opinions into your future messages.
7. Ask for help if necessary. ORM is not for the faint hearted. It takes commitment, diligence and hard work. If you’re busy busy busy, where will the time to work on your ORM come from? The team at DigitalMX is available to either get you started or do it for you.
An efficient ORM plan involves constant monitoring for mentions of your business and the products you sell.
If your online reputation isn’t what you’d like, you can’t have negatives removed, but you can do some damage control. Lessening the harm of negative search results is a big part of ORM.
The best method to reduce the impact of negatives is to use SEO tactics, such as the following:
• Contribute to other websites as a guest writer using your company name in the headline and in the content.
• Create business profiles on multiple social media sites.
• Refresh your content. New web content is a big indicator to Google of the quality of your website. Also important are posts on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
• Work on your SEO so that positive content appears first in search results. This means having content that extends beyond your own website. (See #1 and #2 above)
• Get your business listed on your industry’s pages.
• Encourage others to write about you by asking industry experts and influencers.
• Ask satisfied customers to leave reviews about you by showing them where to leave reviews and make it easy for them to do so.
• Overwhelm the bad with the good. You’re never going to control what is written about you online, but you can show your business the way you want it shown. Focus your efforts on making sure there are lots of positive results when people search for you.
Remember: You can’t opt out of reputation management.
Suppress Negative Comments
Is it possible to quash negative content? The only way to remove negative search results is to have the owner of the website do it. That’s probably not going to happen.
If you can’t get it removed, the next tactic for lessening the effect of negatives is to suppress the bad things.
When an embarrassing result appears on your SERP (search engine results page), you can try to suppress it by pulling up more positive search results for your pages, products, press, and social media, using the steps we’ve outlined above.
The tough part about improving ORM by suppressing bad articles is that to push a negative mention off the first page of search results, there must be at least 10 better pieces of content.
This requires a lot of work and is a job best left to professionals, like the pros at DigitalMX.
Don't Let This Happen to You
For many small businesses, the lack of proactive online reputation management makes them an easy target. If your website is your only online presence, you’re in a bad position if someone posts negative things about your business on social media, as those negative comments can show up when someone searches for you.
If your business doesn’t invest in developing its online presence and reputation proactively, you will more than likely pay later in terms of lost sales and profits and having to pay to repair damage.
Don’t let this happen to you.