The problem is that some choices of reputation management companies are downright dangerous.
Reputation management scams are incredibly common but very difficult to detect. Sometimes it seems as though there are as many varieties of scams as there are sources of potential embarrassment. In this article, we describe some of them:
If you are planning to do business with a reputation firm insist on the following:
You must own any domain names they purchase on your behalf. Some people claiming to be reputation specialists will buy domains and then hold you hostage for them later. The last thing you want is for someone else to own your branded domains.
Some companies will group their clients web properties (websites, blogs, etc.) on a single web server. When an interested party wants to find out who has been doing reputation building they will find one of the customers on the server and do a reverse lookup to see what other people and companies have properties on the same server. Reputation agencies group clients to save money. Don't let them.
Many reputation companies build their own websites and then publish client information to those sites. This is a cost-saving measure that is almost impossible to detect in advance by customers, but Google knows about them. These sites are in effect "private blog networks", something banned by Google. Using them causes a "footprint" easily detectable by search engines and a sure sign the company is trying to engineer search results. Instead, make sure the agency you use places all branded web sites and content on individual servers. They'll perform better too.
The biggest way for a reputation agency to save money is to hold back or eliminate search engine optimization costs. Search engine optimization outreach is the most expensive aspect of reputation management and arguably the most important (great content is a contender too). The way you insist on this is to tell the firm this: "I want DA 30+ links to my branded web properties only and I want you to tell me what they are." This will insure they are performing SEO on your properties - the best way to insure long-term online brand success.
Different companies have different specialties. Some companies are “consumer grade,” offering a very basic service that is intended for those who simply need to build a few social media profiles, have no brand competition, and have no real online image problems. These are usually the cheapest ORM companies.
Many reputation agencies claiming to be the best are really review management firms. They increase the star-rating of review sites for their clients. It's a valuable service and great for local companies, but it isn't complete reputation management. If all you need is reviews then this might be your best bet.
Other reputation management firms are geared for higher-level needs, and these perform services in strategy, reputation disaster recovery, review management, and many other sub-specialties. These tend to cost at least a few thousands per month.
The biggest and earliest decision in choosing a reputation management company is deciding what type of company to go with. Companies may specialize in search engine optimization, or they may specialize in public relations, or they may focus solely on managing online reviews.
Choosing the best reputation management firm to handle your issue (or issues) is critical to the success of the campaign. The wrong reputation campaign will either make litte to no progress, or in some cases make things worse.
Some inexpensive reputation companies rely solely on automation, and these tend to be ineffective. Other companies may be overkill.
A search engine optimization company may sound appealing, but SEO companies focus on moving one site up for a product or service-related search term - not brand building.
On the other hand, a public relations firm seeks to enhance exposure and improve image, but it’s not necessarily the place to go when you want a “behind the scenes” watchdog to protect your online reputation. Most public relations firms are not technical to the point needed for true online reputation management.
There is a big difference between reputation management and public relations. A PR firm stands in the public eye, getting your name out and emphasizing and promoting positive news in an effort to create a great public image. PR firms that specialize in a specific industry are great for their contact lists with niche publications. Reputation X sometimes uses PR firms like this for some aspects of online brand management.
A dedicated reputation management firm tends to work quietly and behind the scenes to keep your reputation healthy and strong. The best reputation management firms are a combination of the following:
The best online reputation companies execute every campaign differently because every company and individual is different. They utilize up-to-date search engine best practices and data to back up their decisions.