In today’s world of marketing, staying offline isn’t an option. Even the smallest local businesses need some sort of online presence. If they don’t, they are almost invisible to the majority of even the local markets. Plus, adding digital marketing to your marketing plan is easy. Any business can build a website and social media presence at little to no cost, and start reaching out to customers through the channels they are using most.

Digital media is the new PR. Studies show that consumers get over 60% of their local and national news information from social media alone. Online shoppers also go to online reviews and information before making purchases or inquiring about new products. This means that a majority of your customers encounter you online before they ever make initial contact with a salesperson or visit a store.

With this wealth of information available to consumers, it’s also easier for them to compare you to the competition. No longer does a customer have to visit multiple stores to find the best price or compare the customer service experience. 92% of consumers read online reviews about local businesses before making a purchase, and 88% of consumers say they trust these reviews as much as they do personal recommendations. Consumers have unprecedented power through the internet, and businesses can’t afford to have a poor or no online presence.

Online reputation management is the practice of promoting positive content about a company online and suppressing negative content that an online user might find. Negative content includes bad reviews, incriminating online press, or negative opinion posts about you or your brand. Every business is subject to negative content being published about its brand. It is essential to monitor the search engines for this content, and minimize its impact if possible.

Companies need to encourage positive reviews and update their sites and social profiles with fresh, engaging content. The more information and positive content a consumer sees about a company, the more likely they are to choose that company to give their business. There are a variety of ways in which you can boost your online presence, and the more proactive you are, the better your website will perform in the search engines.

Proactive vs. Reactive

Proactive ORM bolsters your brand reputation. When someone searches your company online, you want them to find your website, social media pages, and other third-party content that speaks highly of your brand. Third-party content can include blogs from reputable websites, Wikipedia pages, and review sites. But, the more of this content you control, the better.

Even when you try to prevent negative content, your business may experience bad press or a negative review that climbs to the top of the search engines. When this happens, your ORM focus shifts from promoting positive content to suppressing or removing the negative content. There are different techniques to suppress negative content, depending on what was published and who published it.

Reactive ORM involves identifying ORM keywords and suppressing negative URLs. An ORM keyword is any search term that causes negative content about your brand to populate in the search engine results pages (SERPs). The best method for suppressing this content is to upload new content on different sites that target those keywords. This process can take quite some time, but yields positive, and often permanent, results.

For more details about proactive and reactive ORM campaigns, read this article.

ORM Audit and Competitive Analysis

Planning and researching your ORM campaign is essential to successfully suppress negative content and boosting your own. It takes more than writing a few blogs and sharing them on social to completely outrank competitors or the poor reviews about your company. You have to find the right keywords that show negative URLs and target them specifically for optimal results.

An ORM specialist will first analyze current SEO (search engine optimization). Factors that influence a brand’s ORM strategy include domain authority, current Google PageRank, the total number of backlinks existing, and social media presence. Then, depending on what strengths and weaknesses your brand have, a specialist will create a comprehensive plan to bolster your online presence with new elements that could help SEO.

An ORM audit will also include research on the top competitors for your keywords. Though ORM focuses on the negative and positive content for your brand, you will want to identify keywords and phrases which other brands are targeting more effectively. This will help you understand which keywords will be easier or harder to rank for.

Researching the competition gives you a better idea of what techniques others in your industry use for SEO, and what strengths they have that you can count. Perhaps your major competitor has a superior website, but a weak social presence. You can use that to your advantage, by creating multiple social profiles and targeting the consumers who prefer social engagement over online search.

Google My Business

You can easily outrank competitors and negative content with a Google My Business profile. Google My Business is an online directory for local searches. You can display your name, address, phone number, and website all on one page. Google My Business profiles connect your location to Google Maps, and puts you at the top of the SERPS, above organic results.

Google My Business can also help you increase reviews. Unless you have a strong follow-up campaign for customers to leave reviews on your website, most people will go to Google to leave online reviews. These reviews can have a powerful effect on your business’s online reputation. The more happy customers that leave reviews (and the fewer dissatisfied ones), the stronger your brand presence will be against competitors.

Business Listings

You can use many different online directories and business listings other than Google My Business. The more listings you have, the higher you rank in the search engines. Business listings help customers find your website, which increases its’ organic rankings. Your brand should be present on any and all relevant business listings and online directories.

Below are the most popular business listing websites. If you don’t already have a listing on these sites, you should create one immediately:

Yelp – review site that helps customers find the best local stores for their queries

Bing Places – similar to Google My Business for the second-largest search engine

Manta – online directory and marketing service for small businesses

Angie’s List – Online directory with reviews and top local business listings

Yahoo Local – Local listings for businesses and their contact information

Thumbtack – for individual professionals (lawyers, trainers, consultants, etc.)

Kudzu – Compare pricing and reviews for professional services

Better Business Bureau – Independent ratings of small businesses

Social Profile Creation/Management

A strong social presence is essential for online reputation management. Social media profiles are the most effective distributors of content across the web, and the best way to engage with customers directly. Consumers spend much of their time surfing their favorite social media platforms, and reaching them directly has never been easier for businesses.

Below are the top social media platforms, and how you can use each of them for your ORM campaign:

Youtube
This platform is the largest video-sharing social media channel. Businesses can use Youtube to create promotional or informational videos for their followers. Youtube is a powerful tool for branding, and for publishing content to share on Facebook and Twitter.

Twitter
Businesses use Twitter to share links and photos with their fans. Audiences have more access to Twitter feeds than they do Facebook, which makes it a popular platform for content sharing. Twitter users are more likely to mention your brand if you consistently post interesting content and contribute to trending topics online.

Facebook
The world’s largest social media platform, Facebook helps businesses reach over 1 billion users every day. You can share photos, videos, links, and statuses on Facebook. This social profile usually ranks well when consumers search for a brand online. And because you have control of the content that is shared (unlike the content on review sites like Yelp), Facebook is favored among businesses for brand management.

Medium
This platform is not as well-known as other social media but can be a powerful tool for ORM campaigns. The medium acts as a personal blog but is shared by millions of other users. Readers subscribe to different topics, while the writers are free to publish anything they want. Sharing your blogs on Medium increases their visibility, and gives you yet another platform to promote your brand.

Google+
Google My Business’ counterpart, Google+, helps you share content across the web and organize your contacts all in one place. Your Google+ account manages your contacts and creates a profile that is used for every other Google application. It also allows you to upload blog posts and photos, which increases their prominence in search engines.

Content Strategy

Creating content for your brand is part of preventative ORM as well as your content marketing strategy. Search engines will rank websites that update their content regularly above websites that are stagnant. But, you shouldn’t upload just any content. For effective ORM, you need to tailor your writing to targeted keywords. Keywords that populate negative or content should be the focus of your web pages and blog topics.

ORM specialists will make a keyword plan, and form your content strategy around that plan. The content you publish should follow SEO best practices. Content should be a certain length and contain a variety of other keyword-match phrases. Your blog posts and web pages should also include photos and videos, as search engines prefer websites with a variety of media for users to engage with.

The more content you publish that includes or relates to your ORM keywords, the faster you’ll be able to suppress negative content in the search engines. These tactics will also boost your overall rankings for competitive keywords and phrases. You can weave ORM keywords into blog posts, case studies and white papers, articles, site pages, and a variety of other content forms on your website. You can also use microsites and Medium to get more use from the same articles and resources.

Content Distribution

Content needs to be distributed to other places across the web for it to be visible. SEO can only do so much to help you boost your online presence. You have to send your content to your audience, and guide them to other content they may find useful. There are many different ways to distribute content, and choosing which ones to use depends on your brand’s current audience and ORM campaign goals.

Online newsletters, communities, and forums are a great way to start distributing your content. If you have an email list, send your blogs and articles to these contacts on a semi-regular basis. You don’t want to flood your customers’ inboxes, but don’t neglect them either. If you don’t have many emails, try directing members of an online community or forum to your blog by posting links in relevant conversations. If you’re contributing to the conversation (and not being “spammy”), most users will appreciate the input.

You should also share it across multiple social media channels. Royal Reputation recommends you use Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Medium, and Google+ to distribute your content, but other platforms such as LinkedIn, Pinterest or Instagram may be applicable to some clients. Check out Royal Reputation’s social campaign management page for more info.

Tracking and Reporting

To measure the effectiveness of your ORM campaign, Royal Reputation monitors the SERPs for your keywords and tracks the changes over time. We do so using a variety of tools, and give clients detailed reports so they can see the progress their campaign is making. Here are a couple of tools that are very useful in tracking ORM campaign results:

Google Alerts
Google allows you to track activity relating to any keyword or phrase, including new content posted about your brand. You can see if new negative content is ranking in the search engines and if there is positive content you can promote. Google Alerts is free and sends you email notifications, so you stay on-track with ORM.

SERPWoo
Monitor the SERPs for your ORM campaigns with SERPWoo. This tool helps us track our progress with our clients’ ORM campaigns, and lets us know when negative content is bumped off page one and into page two of the Google rankings. It allows us to show clients when our campaigns are showing progress, and how we can alter our campaigns for the best results.

By using the tools and techniques in this guide, you can launch your own successful ORM campaign and take control of your online presence. For more information on ORM for business, send us a message below or check out our ORM for Business services.

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