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Updated Feb 15, 2024

Online Reputation Management, and Why It Is Important

Your company's digital reputation can influence would-be customers. Here's how to make sure you make the right first impression online.

Danielle Fallon O'Leary
Danielle Fallon-O’Leary, Senior Writer & Expert on Business Operations
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Digital media has transformed marketing and advertising, making it easier for businesses of all sizes to connect and engage with their target audiences. However, with constant cybersecurity threats and the ability to easily share unfiltered information via social media and search engines, online brand reputation management is more vital than ever. Here’s what you need to know about online reputation management and how to develop the best reputation management strategy for your business.

What is online reputation management?

Reputation management comprises all business activities that shape customers’ opinions of a company based on its online presence. Your company’s online reputation largely results from how today’s most-used websites, including Google and Facebook, present your company. As such, search engine optimization (SEO) and proper handling of negative reviews are part and parcel of reputation management.

While similar in some ways to public relations (PR), reputation management focuses more on your online presence than on how your brand is perceived in traditional media. For example, your PR firm will pitch stories about your company to leading publications, while your reputation management firm will focus on your online reviews, paid content and SEO. Your PR and reputation management firms may assist you with social media management.

Why is managing your online reputation important?

Warren Buffett once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” This quote, from one of the most successful entrepreneurs of all time, elucidates the importance of managing your reputation.

That’s because a strong online reputation helps to rank your company higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). Having higher SERP rankings increases your exposure to potential customers, thus increasing your revenue.

Online reputation management also helps improve potential customers’ perceptions of your brand based on your reviews on Google, Yelp and other listing sites. A trustworthy reputation management team will know how to meaningfully respond to all of your positive and negative reviews. How you react to reviews can affect how potential customers perceive you and whether they ultimately choose to buy from you.

>> Learn more: How to Strengthen Your Company’s Public Image

What affects your online reputation?

Many factors contribute to your company’s online reputation:

  • Social media presence: Forging a positive reputation for your brand on social media begins with developing an engaging, meaningful social media presence, but it doesn’t stop there. Your social media pages allow you to post interesting content and consistently communicate with your customers. Some social media platforms also have review sections that your reputation management team should oversee.
  • SEO: Your online brand’s reputation is, loosely speaking, part of its search engine rankings. So, if Google ranks your brand lower than others, then Google’s algorithm likely doesn’t perceive your brand as reputable. And given that household-name companies often dominate the first and second SERPs, the lower your company ranks, the less trustworthy it may appear. [Read related article: SEO Tips to Improve Your Website Traffic]
  • Online reviews: Even if you fully optimize your website and social media presence to always appear within the first few pages of web searches, your online reputation can still suffer if you have even just a few negative reviews. However, responding to negative reviews with care, empathy and an interest in open communication can help revive your reputation. Avoid cramming your online pages with fake positive reviews — discerning customers can tell.
Did You Know?Did you know
Ensuring that your website is secure is one of the easiest ways to improve your SEO and build trust in your brand. Always display applicable security certificates and labels on your homepage, and confirm that your URL starts with https://.

How search engines affect your online reputation

Whenever someone searches for a company’s name, the information on the first page will tell a story about the company. If there are positive links, people researching are more likely to assume that the company is trustworthy, while any negative links can potentially raise doubts and erode trust. 

Generally, the information consumers find will have an anchoring bias, which can influence their decision-making process. In other words, internet users will find what they read on page one more important than what’s on subsequent SERPs. If a positive search result becomes an anchor, it will benefit the company. However, if it is negative, it will likely harm the reputation of an individual or hurt their perception of the business.

Notably, most people have a bias known as the isolation effect or the Von Restorff effect, meaning if there is just one negative result among a slew of positive results, the negative result is more often remembered than the positive one. Therefore, it is imperative to manage your business’s first-page search results to ensure they display the most representative digital assets.

How to repair a damaged reputation

Negative reviews or search results often originate from dissatisfied customers, disgruntled former employees or mischievous competitors. These reviews are typically available on online review sites such as Glassdoor and Yelp, as well as on social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Defamatory content may also be found through blogs or websites such as Reddit. The negative results can appear from past or current allegations against the company or specific executive management team members. The company could be named in an allegation without being at fault or have been found innocent of charges, but older links with select keywords may continue to appear and resurface.

To repair a digital reputation, adopt these three strategies:

  • Build content that reflects your mission, vision and values. Creating original content that reflects the tenets of your business and showcases your company culture humanizes your brand, making it appear more authentic and genuine to your target audience. If negative search results appear on the first page, focus on posting timely technical content to shift those results to the next page.
  • Monitor your digital presence regularly. Digital media is constantly evolving, so it’s vital to continuously monitor your brand’s digital presence and manage any negative search results with the appropriate SEO tools as soon as possible. 
  • Consult experts. Depending on the severity of the situation, your business might need to consult with a professional reputation management firm. These firms have the expertise and contacts to suppress negative search results and remove the content if necessary or possible. Reputation management firms also understand the legal ramifications of negotiating directly with content publishers and domain authority managers to remove or hide harmful content or reviews from search engines.

Understanding online reputation management assets

The most compelling online reputation management asset is the content on the company’s website. When someone searches for the company or its brand name on Google, the first link, in most cases, is the company’s website. Google and other search engines can also direct users to relevant subpages on a business’s website, so it’s essential to have relevant content across your site, not just on the homepage. Meta tags and meta descriptions are also crucial for organic search engine optimization.

There are a number of inorganic methods a company can use to acquire online reputation management assets, including managed assets (social media profiles and content), influential assets (information aggregators such as Wikipedia), earned assets (positive news articles and blogs) and paid assets (advertisements on Google search pages).

Managing online reputation management assets

All online reputation management assets should be managed collectively to improve your ranking on Google’s desktop and mobile algorithms. However, the assets managed in-house by the company (i.e., the company’s website) should be optimized when first deployed and improved continuously. Google and other search engines will automatically investigate essential components — such as the URL, location of the business, keyword strength, site encryption and relevant tags — from the website and social media handles, providing more reason to manage these assets first.

TipBottom line
Creating content that demonstrates your brand’s reputation, culture and views can improve recruitment efforts by attracting top talent who align with your organization’s values.

How to improve your online reputation through your content

The most crucial factor in improving a brand’s online reputation is whether the company is publishing engaging content. Here’s how to use your content to bolster your online reputation:

  • Publish valuable and reputable content. A strong content marketing strategy is critical to developing and sharing content that your target audience finds helpful, entertaining or educational. Incorporate commonly searched keywords into your content to improve your SERP ranking. 
  • Use visuals to supplement text. People’s attention spans are shrinking, making them less inclined to visit websites with text-heavy pages. Include engaging videos, images and infographics to make the information more digestible and engaging. 
  • Link social media content back to your website. All content you create to promote your brand, including social media content, should link to your company’s website. Doing so helps to improve brand awareness and visibility by creating an online presence for your brand.
  • Leverage earned and paid assets. While it’s essential for your company to create and post organic content, supplement organic content with earned and paid media assets. With paid assets, you can tailor your ads to strategically drive traffic that will help bump newly added content to the first SERP.
FYIDid you know
Engage your target customers where they’re most active, which can influence them to view your brand as a reliable industry expert and dependable resource. Social media is a great platform for connecting with specific demographics.

Negative search engine results can have a damaging effect on your company, while positive results can significantly enhance your business’s profile. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. To salvage your business’s reputation, it’s vital to manage your digital reputation assets before it’s too late.

Sameer Somal and Max Freedman contributed to this article.

Danielle Fallon O'Leary
Danielle Fallon-O’Leary, Senior Writer & Expert on Business Operations
Danielle Fallon-O'Leary is a longtime marketer with a passion for helping clients strengthen their online brands. She has managed clients' social media accounts, developed marketing campaigns and compiled key data for analytics reports. Other projects have included newsletter curation, workflow management and search engine optimization. Along with her marketing responsibilities, Fallon-O'Leary has had an up-close look at other aspects of small business operations, including invoicing and accounting, employee recruitment and training.
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