7 Steps to Choosing the Right Online Reputation Management Company
Businesses survive and grow because of good reputation. In the past, reputation was spread through word of mouth or through traditional media like television and newspapers. In the advent of the internet, one’s business reputation comes down to search engines and social media results.
If your customer types your company’s name, what comes up in the first few pages of search engines like Google? Would the first few pages lead them to your company’s website or would they be exposed to sites that gave your company negative reviews or to your company’s past legal woes?
What is Online Reputation Management
Online Reputation Management (ORM) is the practice of implementing online strategies that influence public perception of an individual or organization. Online campaigns are implemented by an online reputation management firm in order to increase the visibility of a business brand, while at the same time, making the negative publicity of the business brand less visible in search engines or social media results.
In the past decade, search engine and social media results have changed how people get and share information. According to StatCounter, from April 2016 to April 2017, Google controlled 92.31% of the search engine traffic, followed by Bing (2.74%) and Yahoo (2.41%).
Based on Pew Research Center’s 2005-2015 Social Media Usage report, nearly two-thirds of American adults (65%) use social media sites – a nearly ten times jump in the past decade – affecting how people get and share information about health, civic life, news consumption and communities. Pew Research Center’s Social Media Update 2016, showed that 68% of all U.S. adults are Facebook users, while 28% use Instagram, 26% use Pinterest, 25% use LinkedIn and 21% use Twitter.
Increasing the positive visibility of your business brand on Google, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Twitter is a challenge. Wading through search engines and social media sites is a complicated and a time-consuming task. This gives rise to a number of firms offering online reputation management service.
Here are 7 steps to choosing the right online reputation management company for your brand:
1. Conduct an Online Research about the Company
Similar to what your audience and customers are doing when looking for information about your company, the task of choosing the right online reputation management firm for your brand also requires you to do the same: search online.
What comes up when you search the online reputation management company’s name? Be wary of companies with negative search engine results. How can they help build your brand a positive online reputation if they can’t even help themselves? On the other hand, be equally wary with companies with glowing reviews as this could mean that they have spent a lot of time and money on this, but giving less attention to actually helping clients build a better online reputation.
2. Get to Know the People Behind the Company
Knowing the people behind the management firm is essential. Who are the firm’s founders? Who are the current members of the management team? While an online search about the people behind the company helps, it’s important as well to directly contact the people who will be working on giving your brand a better online exposure.
3. Ask Them about Their Strategy
Ask the management team how they will go about giving your brand a better visibility online. Ask them about their specific SEO strategies. SEO stands for search engine optimization. There are many legitimate SEO ways called “whitehat SEO” to optimize a brand for search engines. Some ORM companies are, however, employing deceptive techniques called “blackhat SEO” to try and trick search engines and users.
“It’s important to distinguish between the two methods (whitehat SEO and blackhat SEO) since blackhat SEO actually damages your site and reputation, instead of improving its ranking in organic search results,” Google said in a statement.
Google has issued its own guidelines for the search engine giant to find, index and rank your brand. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have also issued their own guidelines. It’s, therefore, important to stay away from companies that employ blackhat SEO, and to see to it that the management team working for your brand’s online reputation adheres to Google and other social media sites’ guidelines.
4. Ask for Case Studies
One of the effective ways to see to it that the ORM team is the right fit for your brand is to look into their past and current clients. Conduct an online search on these supposed clients and see their past and current reputation in search engines and social media sites.
5. Ask for the Time-Frame
The time-frame for improving an online reputation is different for every client. Consider it as red flags when an online reputation management firm promises quick suppression of negative search results or promises that it will work for your brand until such time that the negative results are suppressed.
6. Ask for Cost
Similar to time-frame, the cost of improving an online reputation depends on a case by case basis. Consider it a red flag when an online reputation management firm won’t give you a rough estimate of the project cost. In the absence of an agreed price, the cost of your online reputation project may skyrocket without you knowing it, and this may cause further misunderstanding. After getting all the details about your online problems, the firm should be able to give you a rough estimate of the total cost.
7. Understand the Contract
Before committing to a particular online reputation management firm, ask that a contract should be signed between you and the management firm. The contract should stipulate that the management firm should adhere to the guidelines set by search engines and social media organizations. The contract should also include the time-frame of the project, the total cost, and a non-disclosure clause. Equally important to be included in the contract is the provision that your company will have full access and ownership of all the websites and social media pages that will be created by the ORM firm. After all, it's your intellectual property.
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