For a long time, online reputation management (ORM) has been seen as an obscure niche within digital marketing, and unlike other disciplines like PPC, SEO, and content marketing, it can be hard for marketers to pin down proven, actionable advice for approaching ORM.
Some sources will tell you it’s a simple matter of monitoring your social media profiles, whereas others will cite long-standing PR principles that are becoming obsolete in the current marketing landscape.
With all this low resolution information on ORM, it can be hard for business owners and marketers to know how to get started when protecting and managing their brand integrity online.
In today’s post, we’ll look at what ORM is, why you should practice it, and some of the key things to bear in mind when managing your business’s reputation online.
What is SEO online reputation management (ORM)?
As the name suggests, the crux of SEO online reputation management is to nurture and maximise positive feelings, opinions and responses about your brand, while mitigating the effect of any negative attention.
In today’s digital-first landscape, this generally takes the form of responding to negative comments or media attention via social media channels, and publicly reacting to news stories that paint your business in a negative light.
Why is ORM so important for your business?
There’s a common misconception that active reputation management is something that’s reserved for huge scandals that require a large scale PR campaign to remedy, and something that the majority of businesses don’t have to worry about. In reality, ORM is an essential practice for businesses of all sizes and niches.
The kind of negative publicity that can undermine your brand is usually short-form; negative comments, low review ratings, etc. Though they may not seem like much by themselves, their effects can build up over time, and have a pernicious, though very serious effect on the way you’re viewed by your target market.
By having an active ORM strategy in place, you’ll be able to keep things like this from affecting the perception of your brand (and your bottom line!) as much as possible.
What is the role of SEO in ORM?
Like many aspects of digital marketing, SEO has a key role to play in online reputation management.
Google is a primary source of news for countless people around the world, and as such, it can act as a platform for bad press. If you were to search “P&O Ferries” shortly after writing this post, you’d see exactly what we mean.
Standardise an ORM strategy
Now that you’re monitoring your online brand effectively, the next step is to standardise your ORM strategy.
This should include clear definitions of when an urgent and a non-urgent response is required from your marketing team, using what you’ve learned from monitoring your online brand to separate minor issues like negative comments from larger, serious occurrences that could have a lasting effect on your brand’s reputation.
There should also be detailed standard operating procedures covering as many scenarios as possible, with response templates for each one. This ensures that no matter who’s available at the time, someone will be able to make a prompt and effective response to any negative attention. There should also be a clear chain of command in place, so that in the event of a PR crisis, everyone knows whose responsibility the response is.
Encourage positive interaction
In the age of social media, social proof has a bigger impact on the success or failure of a business than ever before.
Publicised experiences with a brand, whether positive or negative, will always have a major impact on people’s buying decisions, and with this in mind, you can’t afford not to encourage positive reviews and other interactions from people in your target market.
It may be nerve-wracking when you’ve never taken this kind of hands-on approach with your customers before, but there’s nothing wrong with asking customers for a review when you know you’ve provided a great experience for them.
The trick is to find the stages of your customer journey where you know the customer is likely to be happy with you (e.g. a certain amount of time after they’ve received your product), then make it easy for them to sing your praises with a link to a review page, a social share link, etc. By the same token, make sure you’re coming off as open and accessible, and let the customer know that if there was anything negative about their experience, then you’d like them to let you know!
SEO contributes to online reputation management by increasing the rankings of positive media attention, thereby reducing the rank of negative press, and giving those negative elements a lower market share of the SERPs people will see when they search for your brand name.
What are the three phases of reputation management?
Though individual scenarios that call for active ORM can all require a slightly different approach, all SEO reputation management can generally be divided into three phases…
Phase 1: Track & monitor
Before taking any specific actions to monitor your brand’s reputation, you first need to put your ear to the ground and get an idea of what the existing sentiment around your brand is. This means actively monitoring Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, and any other platforms where your brand has a profile.
For example, if we were looking for mentions of Hive19, we would use the following advanced search operators in Google:
- site:twitter.com + “hive19”
- site:linkedin.com + “hive19”
- site:instagram.com + “hive19”
Phase 2: Assess & interpret
This phase can be hard to approach in a logical, objective way, but provides an essential base of understanding for your ORM efforts. In phase 2, you’ll gather specific mentions of your brand that seem to be having an impact on their respective platforms, (whether positive or negative) then interpreting them to identify the common pain points which give rise to negative mentions of your brand.
From there, you’ll be able to work out a system of categorising mentions of your brand, based on how they originate, and what kind of problems are causing them.
Categories such as personnel, branding, pricing, logistical, and industry-wide are a few examples you might find useful, but your own system will depend on the particulars of your business. You may also find mentions of the brand which can be later claimed as backlinks to build the authority of the website.
Phase 3: Engage and mitigate
Finally, phase 3 covers the practical actions you’ll take maintain your brand’s positive image as much as possible. For each of the categories in phase 2, you should have a corresponding group of actions you can deploy in an editorial and outreach calendar that will help to neutralise any issues at their source.
An example of reputation management done right
If there’s one brand you can rely on for examples of online reputation management done right, it’s Innocent Drinks.
Innocent’s long been the envy of every social media team in the food & drinks sector, not least of all for their proactive and on-the-money approach to ORM.
Scroll through any of the brand’s social media channels, and you’ll notice that they’re excellent at looking out for mentions of their brand, whether positive or negative, and reacting to them in a way that exudes customer care, a distinctive tone of voice, and an ever-present sense of humour.
Just recently, Innocent recovered from a gaffe where a senior member of the marketing team accidentally changed the company’s Instagram account picture to one of their wedding photos. Though a fairly minor slip-up, the way the brand embraced it and turned it into their own meme shows a quick and on-brand response that got a great response from Twitter users.
GUESS WHAT EVERYONE
Our boss has accidentally changed our Instagram profile picture to one of their wedding photos.
FINALLY A MISTAKE THAT WASN'T US. We've been waiting years for this. pic.twitter.com/7cnCWsthao
— innocent drinks (@innocent) March 11, 2022
How to manage your brand’s online reputation
Now that we’ve gone through our overview of what online reputation management is, here’s how you can work to manage your brand’s online reputation…
Standardise methods for regular auditing and monitoring of your online brand
As we discussed earlier, managing your brand effectively requires tracking and monitoring, and in order for you to do this effectively, you need to have a standardised method of auditing your brand in place. Schedule regular audits that will answer the important questions relating to your brand reputation, such as:
- What are people saying about your business, and what kind of events stimulate those conversations?
- What do Google’s SERPs look like when you search for your brand name, and do the negative results seem to be moving up or down?
- Are there any ongoing developments in your industry which might affect the perception of your brand?
It’s also essential to have systems in place to track and monitor brand mentions in real-time. There are a variety of tools out there designed for just that, so start shopping around.
We hope you’ve found this guide to online reputation management insightful and useful. Though an online brand is a dynamic, and often unpredictable thing, by taking a hands-on approach to monitoring changes in sentiment, and having systems in place to deal with negative attention, you’ll soon learn how to maximise positive mentions.
If you are looking to review your online reputation, or are an agency interesting in white labelling or offering this service to your clients Hive19 can help. To find out more about how we monitor mentions and build campaigns get in touch with Hive19 today.
You can find more useful guides like this one in our Marketing hub.