Reputation management consultants are professionals that can help you take charge of your online reputation in a world where search results dictate how people see you.
Do you need one? It depends.
If any part of your professional or personal life is being negatively impacted by the Internet, then you definitely do. If not, but you work in an industry where a negative online reputation would be a major problem, then you should also consider a reputation management consultant.
But what exactly is a reputation management consultant, and what do they do?
What reputation management consultants do
Very few reputation management consultants work solo. The resources needed to pull off a reputation management campaign make this challenging. However, you do have a choice between large, established reputation management companies versus small, boutique firms. Regardless of which you choose, good online reputation managers will provide a number of key services to help you tackle issues with your reputation.
You can’t monitor yourself on the Internet every single day, but good ORM consultants can. They’ll be able to find, summarize, and refer you to new search results based on terms you ask them to watch. ORM companies may even use real-time information and automatic alerts to remain on top of content that is being posted about you online. With consistent monitoring, these teams can respond to reputation problems at a moment’s notice.
A smear campaign, negative review, or unfair news article about you can rapidly rise to the top of your search results on many search engines. Search engines don’t validate the truthfulness of the content; just how often it’s linked to, how often it’s viewed, and other factors that indicate popularity. So if a link like this gets traction, it can be difficult for you to remove on your own.
Effective ORM companies can find, isolate, and help you remove these negative links, as well as other content about you or your business. More importantly, they can do this much more quickly than you could on your own and they will use tools to look in places that you may not have considered.
Reputation repair and management
Of course, repair and management are the most important services that a good ORM company can provide. Using all their tools and experience, these teams can help you begin rebuilding your reputation if it’s already been affected, regardless of the damage that’s already been done. Once they’ve helped fix your online reputation, an ORM firm will be able to help you keep an eye on any reputation problems that may arise in the future.
Signs of a quality reputation management firm
Your online reputation is important, so choosing the right ORM specialists to help with the task is crucial. Working with an experienced ORM company will provide you with the greatest amount of control over the content that others find about you when they search for you on the Web. Here are a few characteristics that you should look for in a good ORM firm.
Long history of success: Some of the biggest reputation management companies have been around for more than a decade, having proven the value of their services among thousands of clients. It’s this level of experience that you should be able to find in a well-established ORM firm.
Company culture surrounding R&D: The best ORM companies will develop their own reputation management technologies and patents to ensure that they have the best possible tools for the job.
Focused on value and results: Online reputation management is an extremely labor-intensive process. You should, therefore, look for specialists that will offer the highest quality results—an outcome that will be the result of the hardest work, not the cheapest services. Using “whitehat” techniques in their reputation management strategies, ORM companies elicit results that search engines recognize.
Doesn’t make over-the-top promises: There are some ORM consultants that make outlandish claims about their reputation management services—guaranteeing that they can remove negative search results or promising that they can fix your reputation within only a few months. A good ORM company will never overpromise or make unrealistic guarantees about what you should expect from them.
Provides services in-house: You should also look for am ORM company that’s big enough in size to offer all of their services in-house rather than outsourcing or requiring you to handle certain aspects of management on your own. These companies typically leverage entire teams of highly trained specialists to ensure that you’re receiving the best ORM services.
Common pitfalls to avoid
While you can find reputable professionals to help you take control of your online reputation, there are unfortunately others who will make big promises that they can’t keep. Here are some things to watch out for.
These consultants are typically at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to ORM, offering reputation management services at prices that seem too good to be true. Many reputation management offers on freelance sites like Fiverr fall under this category. If you search for the keywords “reputation management” on Fiverr, you’ll find a multitude of small-time, individual operators that offer to help you overhaul your online reputation for as little as $5. But if you’re willing to go with low-cost services such as these, you can be sure that you’ll receive exactly what you paid for. The cheaper the ORM, the more likely it is that your consultant will use problematic shortcuts to improve your reputation.
Small-time ORM consultants are also more likely to overpromise with their services, swearing up and down that they can alleviate your reputation problems in a matter of months. While they may help you see results on a short-term basis, their services can wind up causing even more damage to your online reputation down the line if they use blackhat SEO tactics that raise the suspicions of Google or Bing.
Developing too many web pages
It’s not uncommon for ORM specialists to help you develop a strong online presence by creating a mix of social media accounts, websites, and other Internet pages. Though this is usually an effective, trustworthy strategy, some ORM consultants will simply go overboard with it and create hundreds and hundreds of sites linked to your name. This can make you seem less reputable among those who are searching for you online. It also looks like spam or link-farming in the eyes of search engines, and can backfire on you.
Leveraging blackhat SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) involves developing your web presence so that your website comes up when specific terms are searched for online. For example, a well-optimized business website will appear at the top of search results when you look for it.
Some ORM consultants will attempt to trick online search engines by using shady SEO tactics. Keyword stuffing is a common method used to this end, as is link-farming or faking web traffic or Facebook “likes”. It’s easy to see how dubious these tactics can be—and even risky. If your ORM specialist uses blackhat SEO, then search engines could ban your websites from appearing in online results.
This is another disreputable method that fly-by-night ORM consultants may use to bolster your reputation. A more modern take on “false advertising,” this tactic involves the purchase of fake positive reviews as a way to improve the star rankings and scores that appear in search results about you. Some have even turned to sites like Craigslist, putting up advertisements promising small cash rewards for those who write fraudulent five-star reviews for restaurants on Yelp.
Not only is astroturfing a good way to mislead those searching for you online, but it also violates laws that serve to protect consumers from false information. In cases such as these, astroturfing can even result in fines or other trouble with the law. More than a dozen companies have gotten caught up in astroturfing controversies in the past. Samsung was one of the most high-profile defendants, receiving fines that exceeded $340,000 after eliciting reviews that lauded its devices while bad-mouthing those of its competitors. You could possibly face the same repercussions by working with an ORM consultant who uses these tactics.
Underqualified business consultants
Slick business consultants may offer to help you with ORM but don’t always have the qualifications to succeed. They may also expect you to have your own social media, marketing, public relations, and editorial teams to implement their ORM plan. If the consultant downplays the difficulties of reputation management, or includes it as a sub-item in a larger list of marketing or PR tasks, then you are probably dealing with someone who doesn’t have the expertise to solve your problem.
How can I choose the right reputation management specialist?
As with any service provider, you’ll want to make sure that you choose the right ORM specialist to help you. There are a few things that you should consider when trying to decide which route to take with reputation management:
1. Look for ORM specialists whose techniques really work
When selecting a reputation consultant, you should take their experience into account. How long have they been working in reputation management? What types of clients have they served? What is their track record like?
Talk to potential ORM consultants about their strategies and techniques to get a sense of what they do and how they engage in it. You can even ask them to provide samples of their work or case studies, which will allow you to look at their past work and gauge how they’ve used their techniques to elicit results for their clients. This can also give you a glimpse at how long your own reputation overhaul will take.
2. Evaluate their communication
Good reputation management consultants will be open with communication. You’ll know that a specialist is reliable if they are consistent about answering your phone calls and emails. If your ORM consultant won’t communicate with you, they’ll never be able to help you address your issues with your reputation.
The most reliable ORM specialists know that strong communication is the cornerstone of effective reputation management, since a person’s reputation is a very personal thing that has to be dealt with carefully and in a customized manner.
3. Choose those that employ relevant ORM strategies
ORM is an ever-evolving field, and specialists must constantly alter their strategies to keep up with emerging trends and changing search engine requirements. ORM tactics that worked in the past don’t necessarily have the same effect today. High-quality consultants should have R&D high on the list of their priorities.
4. Review the service contract
Both independent ORM consultants and well-established firms will draw up a service contract that details the responsibilities of both parties, since most ORM work requires some feedback on your part in order to succeed.
In this proposal, you should also see information that clarifies how much of the intellectual property (i.e. written content and websites) you will own after your consultant develops it for you. A reputable specialist will give you the rights to most of the content created for you. The last thing you want is a company that solves your problems only to hold your reputation hostage with threats of unpublishing everything if you stop subscribing.
You should also avoid consultants that use their contracts to stipulate that they will deliver reputation management services only until they are finished suppressing negative content. Look instead for those that will help reinforce their own work and prevent future issues. Good ORM firms will optimize your content and produce more materials to safeguard your reputation over the long term.
5. Determine who has the best resources
When looking to tackle reputation problems on the Internet, you’ll want to work with the professionals that have the most resources at their disposal. The experts at established reputation management firms have access to the technologies and specialists that make their strategies more consistently effective in the long run. Many small-time consultants rely too much on third-party vendors or underqualified freelancers that produce variable, unpredictable results.
6. Look at their costs and hidden fees
All ORM consultants should outline their cost of services, but what may not be as initially clear is their hidden fees. This is most common among individual consultants, who may charge you extra to travel to your location. Some may even add fees based on their internet and telephone usage. As a result, you could end up paying much more than originally anticipated.
More experienced ORM specialists, such as well-established companies, will be far more transparent when it comes to their pricing. Depending on the level of reputation management that you need, you’ll pay a monthly or yearly fee with no hidden costs involved.
Finding a reputation management advisor may sound like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. ReputationDefender has been working in the field of online reputation repair since 2006. We’ve got experienced Reputation Advisors backed by field-tested technology that helps put bad news firmly in the past and bolsters good, positive news about you or your company. Contact us today for a free consultation.