When a potential customer or client Googles your name, it’s vital that what they see is favorable – informative blog posts, good reviews, and maybe even other websites talking positively about your brand. But brand positioning in the search engines isn’t always up to you. Anyone can write about you online, and not everyone has the best intentions. An unhappy customer, scammer or even a competitor in your industry can just as easily influence a potential customer’s opinion about you.
To ensure that customers get the best first impression of your brand online, you need an online reputation management (ORM) plan. If you aren’t aware of what’s being said about you online, you may soon have a crisis situation that requires reactive reputation management. However, if you’ve prepared for such situations, you can easily recover from any bad press. An ORM specialist can help you design a reputation management plan that positions you favorably, and creates resiliency against online aggression or misinformation.
Online reputation management used to be a digital marketing specialty that focused solely on recovery from bad reviews and articles online When a company received this sort of negative attention, marketing specialists would try to suppress the negative content or remove it entirely from the web. This reactive approach is similar to the way PR managers try to minimize press coverage when a crisis or public controversy involves one of their clients.
While this strategy is still effective in crisis management, most companies have adopted a more proactive approach to ORM. Rather than focusing on defense, companies build their online reputation early on, to create resilience in case they run into negative content. A proactive approach to ORM protects you, and directly benefits other elements of your digital marketing campaign.
Both a proactive strategy and reactive plan must be in place for companies to successfully build a strong online reputation. The current reputation of the company, as well as the industry and it’s size determine which ORM strategies work best. Royal Reptutation uses both proactive ORM and content suppression techniques to help clients gain the trust of their target audience online.
If you are able to build a proactive ORM campaign for your company, it’s a great idea to start it now. Even if a company has a relatively strong reputation, it’s better to be the one in the driver’s seat than to risk your online reputation being ruined by one angry customer or competitor. Plus, proactive ORM is easily integrated into your SEO and other digital marketing campaigns. While the disciplines differ in various ways, a strong proactive ORM campaign will surely help with any SEO activity you’re currently pursuing.
Proactive ORM is also a tool many PR specialists use to promote their initiatives. Publishing and distributing content about your recent good charity or community involvement gains as much attention online as incriminating articles or negative opinions about your brand. Once an online publisher posts a positive article about your company and links to your site, the more likely others are to do the same.
Proactive campaigns more closely resemble SEO strategies than reactive campaigns. In a proactive ORM approach, you want to target keywords that your target audience searches for, but also terms that could potentially yield negative results. However, you have the creative freedom to choose topics you want to include in your brand positioning, not just topics that relate to your ORM keywords (which we will discuss in later sections of this guide).
Companies in industries with higher risk factors have to focus more on reactive ORM. Law firms, finance companies, or healthcare providers – all of these businesses have a higher risk of disappointing their customers, as opposed to other low-risk business models. Because of these industries’ higher likelihood to receive negative press, most will have to launch a reactive ORM campaign at some point in time.
Reactive ORM campaigns take more time to produce results. Instead of providing protection for your brand, you are fighting against another website for top links on a SERP (search engine results page). This SERP “real estate” is very hard to win if you aren’t already implementing an ORM or SEO campaign. Oftentimes negative content has an advantage because of its relevancy to a consumer’s search, and time sensitivity to recent events within your company.
Unfortunately, most companies are not introduced to ORM until they need to implement a reactive approach. However, if the company takes the time to rebuild their reputation after a crisis event, they can continue to promote their brand through proactive ORM. Transitioning from a proactive to a reactive campaign helps companies overcome their reputation management challenges, and can yield very positive results long-term.
What is the difference in Proactive vs Reactive ORM Campaign Strategies?
The first steps are the same, whether you pursue a proactive or reactive ORM strategy. Just like in an SEO campaign, you try to target specific keywords to develop a content strategy. For ORM campaigns, however, you focus more on what already appears in the SERPs, and if it’s negative or positive. If you’re combining a proactive and reactive ORM strategy, these are the steps you would take:
Proactive and Reactive ORM Strategies:
Research – A precursor to any digital marketing campaign is research. ORM specialists use tools to identify keywords and competitive URLs to help their clients gain more SERP “real estate” and promote positive content. You don’t need to target every SEO keyword in an ORM campaign. It’s important to identify and focus your efforts where they will be most valuable to your campaign.
Create an ORM Keyword Plan – ORM keywords are slightly different from SEO keywords. ORM keywords are the words that populate negative content about a company, whereas SEO keywords are any words or phrases that potential customers use to find brands in your niche. Creating your ORM keyword plan after research will help you design your content strategy.
Remove Negative Content (if possible) – In a reactive ORM campaign, your specialist will try different methods to remove negative content. If an online article or review is misleading or includes false information, they may be able to negotiate with the site owner to take it down. However, in most cases this isn’t a viable option. Websites and online consumers have great freedom to post whatever they wish, as long as it is not considered internet slander.
Develop Content Strategy – Next, you will create content based on your ORM keyword plan. This content should be technically and linguistically optimized for your keywords. Different types of content, including blog posts, resource pages, infographics and multimedia should be included in your ORM content strategy. A variety of content will help you rank higher in the search engines and suppress negative content.
Monitor Campaign Progress – Your ORM specialist should monitor your progress, providing evidence that the campaign is reaching ORM goals. You can measure progress by monitoring SERP activity for your keywords, and tracking both positive and negative mentions of your brand online.
In a proactive campaign, you are free to create a brand voice from scratch or target certain keyword groups and demographics. Proactive ORM resembles SEO in that you’re trying to rank for a variety of terms and are building an overall positive brand image. However, in most proactive ORM campaigns, you want to target keywords that could potentially have negative content, such as “Company X reviews,” or ‘Company X cost.”
Proactive ORM allows you to take more time in the content creation phase. When trying to suppress negative content (in a reactive approach), you must focus more on the speed of publishing content than the actual quality.. However, when taking a proactive approach, you have the freedom to be creative and take on an integrated campaign with your SEO and overall digital media strategy.
In a reactive campaign your ORM Keywords will determine the type of content you create. You must focus only on the specific terms that yield negative search results. To find these terms, you analyze every popular search term that your company ranks for and make a list of all negative search results that also appear for those terms. Then you can begin creating and publishing content to outrank those negative URLs.
Reactive also requires more content to suppress, which takes more time. The more content you can publish in a short amount of time, the quicker you’ll be able to suppress negative content in the SERPs. Reactive ORM can take significantly more resources than the proactive approach. However, in some industries reactive ORM is just part of the process, and is well worth the effort. You can always transition from a reactive ORM campaign to a proactive one once the negative content is off page one of the SERPs.
Proactive ORM is a branding effort, and reactive ORM is it’s crisis management counterpart. Both digital PR tactics can help your company in the long-run gain customer trust and support from other websites in your niche. If you want to compete in the online marketing arena, a comprehensive ORM strategy is essential.
Royal Reputation uses both the proactive and reactive ORM approach to help our clients achieve certain goals. Each client we take on has different objectives, and we respect their needs by creating individualized ORM campaigns. Please contact us with any questions you might have.