Your Guide To Online Reputation Management

Photo by Adam Jang on Unsplash

If you think online reputation management is only for big brands, think again. With the rise in use of social media, and the popularity of user-generated review sites like Yelp, SiteJabber, Amazon reviews and even employer review sites like Glassdoor, monitoring and managing your online reputation is more important than ever.

What is online reputation management (ORM)?

Simply put, reputation management is the process of influencing a company or individual’s reputation. In recent years, reputation management has become synonymous with online reputation management; when the term is used now, it’s mainly used to refer to managing search results for brand queries and negative reviews on social media.

Reputation management and social media

Power has shifted away from businesses and toward consumers when it comes to voicing a company’s marketing message. While companies used to be able to carefully craft their message and then promote it using traditional advertising methods (billboards, radio and TV spots, etc.), social media means has largely transferred that power to consumers.

This, of course, has made reputation management far more difficult for companies. The sheer number of voices involved, and the diffuse nature of comments, complaints and negative feedback make damage control much more difficult than it ever used to be.

How to manage your reputation on social media

A critical first step in social media reputation management is knowing what’s being said about your brand online. To do this, you’ll need to identify and monitor keywords and hashtags related to your brand, products, employees and competitors to monitor conversations that are taking place on social networking sites.

There are a number of tools you can use to monitor these keywords: Tagboard,, SocialMention and TweetBinder are some of my favorites. These tools allow you to search various social networks for keywords and hashtags related to your business; you can even set up alerts so that you’re notified when your brand is mentioned. Google Alerts is another great, free tool for receiving regular notifications of new brand and keyword mentions right in your inbox.

Once you’re aware of what’s being said about your brand online, you’ll need to respond appropriately. That said, this is where you’ll want to tread very carefully. Sometimes, just knowing what people are saying will be enough to help guide and inform your customer service-based decisions.

There will be times, however, when a response is prudent and even necessary. For instance, if your company is being slandered or defamed, not taking immediate action can have serious repercussions. Some good general rules for responding to negative feedback on social media include:

1. Respond quickly: Negative reviews or comments — particularly when left unchecked — can spread like wildfire on social media. For instance, a particularly scandalous comment on your Facebook Page may be seen by thousands of people within the first couple hours. Responding quickly is the best way to minimize the damage caused by these comments, as it helps to ensure that your point of view is also seen by anyone reading the original review.

2. Don’t delete comments unless absolutely necessary: Unless a comment is racist, offensive, or otherwise in very poor taste, deleting a negative comment or review is usually a bad idea. Deleting negative comments can be perceived as covering up an issue or admitting guilt. There are also proven benefits to responding to comments, rather than deleting them. According to research by CRM software company RightNow, 1 out of every 3 consumers who receive a retailer response to their online complaint end up reposting a positive review. In addition, 34% end up deleting their negative review altogether.

3. Respond professionally, and take it offline if necessary: Generally speaking, this will not mean defending yourself against attacks or criticisms. Your best course of action is to instead take the conversation offline as quickly as possible, and deal with the issue one-on-one. A great example of how defending yourself on social media can go terriblly wrong is what happened with restaurant chain Applebee’s last year. When a server took to Reddit to post a customer receipt containing negative remarks, the company fired her for violating ‘customer privacy’.

In a Facebook status update following the Reddit post, the company defended their actions, stating: “We wish this situation didn’t happen…Our franchisee has apologized to the Guest and has taken disciplinary action with the Team Member for violating their Guest’s right to privacy.” In a short amount of time, the post accumulated over 10K comments — the majority of which criticized the company’s response to the situation. Applebee’s response to these comments? Delete comments, block users and post a generic response to all the rest. This is definitely a case study of what not to do.

Reputation management and search results

Another serious issue for business owners in recent years has been managing negative, slanderous or unflattering reviews in Google’s search results. Negative customer reviews or sites that have been set up to defame or criticize a business can be a serious problem for brands; when a customer performs a search for your business, the last thing you want is for the first several search results to be negative or defamatory.

How to manage your reputation in Google’s search results

First, let me be clear that you can’t directly control which websites show up in the search results. There are, however, some steps you can take that may help.

1. Contact the source of the negative content. According to Google, your best first course of action is to directly contact the owner of the site where the negative content is published, and ask them to remove the content from their website. In reality however, this rarely works. If negative reviews or opinions have been published (for whatever reason), it’s unlikely the webmaster will be keen to remove it just because you asked. Still, it doesn’t hurt to try. There’s also nothing wrong with offering payment to the publisher to remove the content.

2. Maximize your social media presence. Social media profiles, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Youtube, Pinterest, Instagram, etc., typically rank well for branded search queries. If you want to push a negative search result off the first page of Google’s search results, ensure your company has social media profiles setup at as many social media channels as possible, and encourage Google to rank them highly in search results by linking to them from your website, filling them out thoroughly with your company information, and posting to them regularly with quality content.

3. Publish high-quality content that will rank naturally. The more high-quality content you publish, the better your chances of outranking the negative sites or articles. Google states, “If you can get stuff that you want people to see to outperform the stuff you don’t want them to see, you’ll be able to reduce the amount of harm that that negative or embarrassing content can do to your reputation.”

4. Publish guest blogs. Contacting publishers in your industry for guest blogging opportunities has many benefits, particularly for online reputation management. Whenever you have an author profile that mentions your brand, that profile has a good chance of ranking for your brand name. And if it’s on a strong industry publisher, its chances are even better. For a full walkthrough on how to conduct a guest blogging campaign, see my article, “The Ultimate, Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your Business by Guest Blogging.”

5. Register in high-quality local business directories. Local business directories such as Crunchbase, Yelp, and tend to rank very well, and registering your business within as many of these directories as possible (excluding low-quality ones) will give you a better shot at pushing down negative or embarrassing search results. I recommend Yext for quickly and easily creating business listings at all the relevant, quality local business directories.

Online reputation management isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a very real, necessary part of protecting your brand’s reputation. If you’re going to be investing time and money into establishing and growing your influence online, ORM will lessen the chances of your reputation being marred by negative reviews or attacks against your brand.

Do you monitor and manage your online reputation? What steps do you take to ensure your reputation is protected on social media and in the search results? Share below!

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