We hear it too often. “My friend paid an online reputation management firm $10,000 and it didn’t work. He feels burned by the experience.”
Online reputation management (ORM) is a young industry. It promises a multitude of results, many tied to the creation of “digital assets” and the “whitewashing of negative information.” As a consequence, consumers are often confused when seeking a solution appropriate for their goals.
Replacing information on Google is not a quick fix. Removing it may not be possible because of U.S. internet laws. Unwanted content must be replaced with new, high-ranking material…and lots of it. That takes time to rise high on online searches — three to six months in most cases, and up to a year in others. Then, the new information must be consistently refreshed to stay in place.
Online reputation firms that promise quick fixes can use methods that focus on quantity rather than quality. One method is to create as much information associated with a client’s name, “throw it online” using fake blogs, Facebook pages and other platforms created for that purpose, and hope a lot of it sticks. This approach often incorporates poorly-written information that contributes little to your brand. An example is a series of blog posts that use your name in each title and repeat your name several times within a paragraph. Or, a firm you speak with claims to have created a secretive system they have created that “runs circles around” Google’s algorithm. The details are a little murky, though.
The use of “fake news” sites is also a tool of the trade. In that system, an article or press release about you is posted dozens of times on sites that have been designed to look like news websites. Or, they may be actual blogs and websites used by various groups. (We have seen an article about a male CEO stuffed on the back page on a blog for new mothers, for example.) Such tactics can work until search engines lower the page rank of such content in favor of higher-quality, more credible material.
A better and more effective method is to develop a strategic content plan appropriate for you …not just a plethora of junk. High-quality content adds value to your brand while addressing your top concern: taking more control over what appears about you online. Here are tips to keep in mind when considering a reputation management firm:
When selecting a reputation management firm, check if they are experienced at servicing your sector. Review the design and content of their website and consider: Is it an appropriate fit? Would you trust them to create and publish online content about you or your organization?
Do they promise specific results? If so, are they transparent about how they will attain those results? Or is their language laden with so much technical jargon you don’t understand what they will be doing on your behalf?
Once you select a firm, ensure you have the right to review and approve all that will be published online about you before embarking on a campaign. Enter a contract that protects your privacy and gives you ownership of all material created on your behalf, including access to all platforms established for you during the entire period of your engagement once it is over.
Be wary of contracts that allow firms to penalize late payments with removal of all online content created so far about you. If their services include publishing a profile or website about you that is linked to their brand, consider the impact to your image of having such an association that may last for years.
Most important, educate yourself about this industry. Our You(Online) resources were created to contribute to the public body of knowledge that educates consumers, including our own client niche. Join readers worldwide who benefit from our articles, blog and expert commentary. It is the most comprehensive in the industry. Start with The Essentials: Online Reputation Management FAQs, our most widely-read article.