Online reputation is the way in which a business or individuals brand is viewed and represented in today’s online landscape. Negative online content can inaccurately define your reputation to the public and cause a multitude of problems both personally and financially.
In an age where customers have on-demand online access to products and services, and the freedom to comparison shop, the need for a positive online presence has become more urgent than ever.
Searchers will often come to conclusions on people and businesses based on what resides under their Google Search Terms. If negative content shows up when you are searched, it is harming your online reputation and, in turn, other areas of your life or business. Unfortunately, negative content can have very high ranking authority on Google due to the search quality guidelines they follow to determine relevant content for users.
However, proactive businesses and individuals can mitigate the damage of harmful content and preserve their brand image by actively managing their online presence. When businesses and individuals choose not to manage their reputation, they become vulnerable to defamation, fake reviews, emotionally charged social media posts, or misinformation.
Reputation Management and the companies that specialize in this field, focus on helping businesses and individuals proactively protect their online reputations and fight back against brand damaging content.
The Importance of Reputation Management
In the modern age of online storefronts, open forums, and social media, reputation management is now the intersection of public relations, marketing, and search engine optimization (SEO).
Reputation management begins in the search engine results pages (SERPs). While many search engines exist, Google dominates the market, making your Google search results a number-one priority when it comes to online reputation.
To get an outsider’s perspective of your business (or yourself), Google your brand name or full name in an incognito browser.
To conduct a deeper review of your brand’s reputation, you can run various advanced Google Search operators and combinations that include your company name. For example, you could use the query “[company name] + reviews” to instantaneously pull up user reviews across any site.
Keep in mind that Google’s search ranking algorithms currently favor what they perceive as the most relevant and useful content for users. As a result, review sites and news articles commonly appear on the first page of Google SERPs.
More specifically, Google’s algorithms reward sites and pages that demonstrate expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness—often called E-A-T within the SEO industry. Google spells out their assessment of E-A-T qualities in their Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines.
Google puts extra emphasis on E-A-T when ranking content related to peoples’ health and finances, known as the YMYL (your money or your life) category. This has been the case since 2018, when Google rolled out a change to its algorithm called the medic update.
However, this system can create problems for businesses and individuals when a site with E-A-T qualities publishes disparaging content about them or their company.
While Google evaluates E-A-T, it doesn’t check what these high-ranking or well-known sites publish for accuracy. Especially on sites with user-generated content, negative content can thrive.
For example, people can publish fake reviews to Yelp, and they will commonly show up on the first page of Google because of Yelp’s high standard of E-A-T.
Fake reviews, inaccurate articles, and “clickbait” with misleading headlines can all feature prominently in SERPs when published on websites that Google trusts. This has the potential to ruin the reputations of individuals and businesses.
For individuals, this can affect your career, social status, and even your family’s safety in more severe cases. For businesses, a negative online reputation can affect customer perception and overall sales. Negative content won’t go away on its own, and the internet doesn’t forget about it.
Choosing to ignore what people say online will only compound the problem rather than make it go away. If businesses and individuals don’t actively monitor their online reputation, they’ll miss the opportunity to prevent a problem from turning into a full-blown crisis.
Without reputation management, all the work put into building a brand can be stripped away by negative or inaccurate content online.
What Reputation Management Companies Provide
You can think of reputation management as modern-day, online public relations. Individuals and businesses can stay in control of their brand with the assistance of a reputation management company.
Without active reputation management, harmful content can cause individuals and businesses to forfeit control of their brand. Staying in control requires preparing for an online crisis before it happens and dealing with any damage swiftly and decisively should a crisis occur.
Staying Prepared For a Reputation Crisis
Reputation management companies help individuals and businesses stay prepared by working together to create customized plans to reach desired reputation goals.
Progress toward those goals is analyzed every month and presented in a monthly report. Along with insights and action steps, monthly reports include a roundup of reviews or content curated during regular reputation monitoring.
With reputation monitoring services, individuals and businesses get immediately alerted to reviews or content that require attention, allowing for a prompt response.
Responding to a Reputation Crisis
Reputation management companies excel at crisis management. When responding to an online reputation crisis, the first course of action involves having negative content removed if possible. If the reputation management company can’t get the content removed, they shift strategy to “burying” that content below positive SERP results.
Content Production and Branding
Individuals and businesses can effectively hide negative content by creating high-quality positive content and using SEO tactics to rank it in Google. Reputation management companies have knowledge and expertise on Google Search best practices, and they stay up to date with the latest ranking algorithm changes.
Publishing more content adds value to a brand beyond pushing negativity out of search results. Quality content posted regularly is key to establishing the E-A-T Google looks for when ranking websites.
Moreover, quality content establishes businesses and individuals as authorities in the minds of their audiences, while reinforcing what a brand stands for and the benefits it provides.
Reputation management companies can create content that accurately communicates the brand values of an individual or business. Branding has become more about what a brand does than what a brand sells, and content can help get the right message across.
Above all, reputation management companies provide individuals and businesses with a sense of security and peace of mind over their online presence. They can ensure a reputation crisis caused by fake, or negative content won’t detract from more important operations.
Protection for Your Most Valuable Asset
In her TedTalk titled “The Currency of the New Economy Is Trust,” author and digital trust expert Rachel Botsman discussed how trust fuels the marketplace.
In Botsman’s words, your reputation is your most valuable asset. For individuals and companies alike, technology should be leveraged to build trust with complete strangers; the concept of digital trust brings out the personal and purposeful side of establishing and maintaining a brand.
It’s not hard to come up with examples of why online reputation matters in the modern economy and online ecosystem. Your Google Search results act as a digital resume, a biography, and a business card all rolled into one.
Moreover, online reputation makes a difference at all levels of the economic food chain. Consumers make purchase decisions based on the reputation of businesses. Companies make decisions to hire and fire employees based on online reputation. Advertisers decide where to spend their marketing budget based on reputations.
In other words, online reputation has real-world value for businesses and individuals.
But a strong reputation today doesn’t prepare a business or individual for a crisis in the future. Without protection, businesses leave themselves vulnerable to negative content attacks from competitors or disgruntled customers.
The most valuable things in life deserve protection—whether that means insurance for a home or reputation management for a business or an individual’s online presence.
Proactive reputation management companies offer the protection needed for preserving reputation now and protecting reputation against future threats.