Reputation & SEO Services Pricing Explained
This chart shows ballpark prices for different reputation campaigns:
ORM cost examples
Remove Complaints Board
De-Index Ripoff Report
Protect Search Results
$3,000 per month and up. Limited time.
Remove a YouTube Video
Suppress New York Times
$5,000 per month. Limited time.
Suppress a Minor Blog
$3,000 per month. Limited time.
Build an Executive Reputation
$5,000 per month. Limited time.
Clean Search Results in Arabic
$10,000 per month. Limited time.
Radically Alter Search Results for a Company
$20,000 per month. Limited time.
How long does ORM take?
This chart compares relative times to complete online reputation campaigns based on type and level of difficulty.
It's important to understand there are different kinds of online reputation management (ORM) programs:
- Reputation monitoring - Alerts when your brand is mentioned. This takes almost no time, and is very inexpensive - often free.
- Do It Yourself - If you have far more time than money
- Automated ORM - Ineffective (really)
- Dedicated agencies - Reputation management consultants / experts
Automated reputation monitoring
The automated type of ORM is very inexpensive because it's automated. In fact, it's often free. You can use a service like TalkWalker and get this free of charge. They'll send you an email when your brand name is mentioned.
Do it yourself reputation managment
This is the way to go if you've no budget and plenty of time. It's cheap, but extremely time consuming.
DIY reputation management solutions usually range in price from "free" to a couple hundred dollars a month. "Free" sounds great, but DIY reputation management doesn't usually work if there is an actual problem. It's mainly used as a way for reputation companies to upsell "free" customers to a more expensive plan.
Low-cost reputation packages
Low-cost reputation programs are usually priced at about $4000 one-time. At this level, most of the work is done off-shore to make such low prices possible. Because of the offshore nature of low cost reputation agencies the content created for you is at the lower end of the quality scale and sometimes created by machines called "spinners".
What to look for in a reputation company
Make sure there's a strong SEO component
Importantly, due to resource constraints, little to no search engine optimization (SEO) link building is performed during most reputation campaigns.
"The biggest indicators as to whether an online reputation effort will work is SEO and great content"
Realize that reputation campaigns take a while
As inferred by the name, a reputation management campaign takes time. It also requires more resources. For example, in a typical reputation campaign there are a lot of moving parts. These include:
- Content creation
- Web development
- Review management
- Publisher outreach
- Search engine optimization
- ...and much more.
Unfortunately, there is no quick or automated solution for most online reputation problems.
There simply isn't any "proprietary software" that will beat Google or Bing.
It takes real people working with top technology - and the technology changes. An online reputation management campaign starts at about $3000 per month and can range upwards of $10,000 a month.
But there are cheaper seeming alternatives. For example, offshore companies.
Offshore campaign costs
People are expensive. Especially well-trained people. Even if the whole project is outsourced to a low-cost country, a group of four or five experts is still a significant cost. But the issues with using low-cost offshore labor for reputation campaigns are well-known. For example:
- Language barriers. Your language may not be theirs.
- Lack of security. Passwords and identities are often stolen.
- Promising the world, then not delivering
- Little legal recourse if something goes awry
A true reputation management agency is focused on only online reputation management (ORM). SEO companies are not reputation management companies (read about why here). There's a lot to consider, so read on!
Do the math
Why underfunded campaings don't work
As mentioned above, for reputation management to work you must have solid SEO. Search engine optimization is 50% links from other sites. One earned link from the right site will cost at least $100 in labor - and go up from there.
That means that a $4000 ORM project would only get you 40 links if ALL of the money was spent on your project - which it isn't. It also means that no quality content was written, few or no websites were developed, etc.
The math just doesn't work out.
Since most people don't have an understanding of the true costs involved with real ORM, they are often talked into these types of programs that in reality have little chance of succeeding.
Resources that affect cost
Reputation management pricing depends how difficult a project is estimated to be. It also relies on the timeframe, and the type of project it is.
The cost for an active managed campaign can run $3000 and up per month depending on the severity of the issue. It will usually last six to twelve months.
A successful reputation management project may consist of development of hiqh-quality web properties, social media, well-written content that people find useful, search engine optimization including earned links, and more. Many resources go into the price calculations of a reputation management campaign.
You can learn more about how reputation campaigns are priced here. You can also learn about how specific challenges of a project's level of difficulty are taken into account when calculating the costs of an ORM campaign here.
Two very important cost factors
The two biggest cost factors in figuring the price and duration of reputation management projects are:
- Cost of research and development of online content
- Cost of search engine optimization services
According to Forbes, a good national SEO campaign will cost $2000 to over $10,000 per month, and that's for only one site. Reputation management prices are based on not only creating and optimizing web content, but moving multiple sites up in search results, removing a page altogether, or having it de-indexed by search engines.
Online reputation management packages
As mentioned above, an ORM package which only includes a reputation search and social monitoring, can cost as little as $200 per month, and may even be free. Keep in mind that these are passive measures that amount to online tutorials and monitoring by automated software only. Generally, they do not solve a problem. Because they are automated and "do it yourself" reputation management they are less expensive that a true active campaign.
Active (non-packaged) ORM campaigns that successfully change results start at about $3000 per month. But these campaigns entail the use of many experts in content placement, creation, negotiation, legal issues, search engine practices, and much more... and some bots.
Most reputation firms don't do the expensive part
As you read previously, the two most expensive parts of online reputation management are the content and the search engine optimization. Most reputation service companies don't perform the search engine (SEO) part. SEO is by far the most expensive aspect of online reputation campaigns, and that is the reason most online reputation projects don't end well - reputation companies simply don't do it. Instead, they do the cheapest part, build free websites and social media profiles. This increases their profit margins exponentially.
The development of a large number of free sites can affect search results in the short term, so clients are often fooled. But without the rest of it, they quickly revert. See, Google is smart.
ORM vs. SEO
It is important to know that reputation companies are different than SEO companies and PR companies.
- SEO firms normally focus on one site.
- Reputation firms focus on many sites (sometimes over 50).
- PR companies are generally less technical than both.
Reputation firms also tend to deal with branded terms (terms about a person or company name) whereas SEO firms deal with product or service related terms most of the time.
The cost of removing a search result
Removal of a search result often uses either legal tactics (expensive) or relationships (which we have, far less expensive). The cost also depends on whether something is being removed from the source, like a web page, or from Google search results. SEO firms don't normally do this, even though they say they perform reputation management.
The costs involved with removal are based on where the negative content lives, who owns the site, and other factors. Most of the time a negative search result cannot be removed directly from the source or from search results, but sometimes it can.
Real reputation management is complex. As mentioned above, some negatives can be removed completely, usually for a fixed price that ranges between $3000 and $8000 one-time. Most times clients need a web of content created in a very specific way to move bad search results somewhere else. These types of campaigns take more time and more resources.
What happens when online content cannot be removed?
When a search result or web page cannot be removed, it must be suppressed or at least diluted in search results. Dilution usually involves creating a counterpoint in search results to a negative story. This is radically different than SEO and the steps involved begin with sentiment related research to find out what makes a certain search result page "tick". A typical suppression or dilution project looks like this:
How bad is it?
A big determinant of the cost of online reputation projects is the strength and position of the negative online content. For example, a New York Times negative will normally be far more difficult to move than a local online newspaper. The cost of reputation management rises with the degree of difficulty.
What determines negative result strength?
We measure the strength of a web property by 'Page Authority' or 'Domain Authority' and other factors like trust. Domains and pages at the top of search results generally have high page authority and high domain authority.
We measure the authority (strength) of pages and design a program that will alter those search results by creating very strong pages that reflect online reputation in the best possible light. Sites with a high degree of strength that need to be rearranged in search results will require more resources, and increases costs.
Cheap reputation management "packages" used to work
Reputation management packages tend to be a one-size fits all attempt to bring reputation control to the masses. Of course, one-size does not fit all and that is why packages rarely work. These services are based on automation, instead of people doing work (because people are expensive). Because one cannot automate reputation work effectively they tend to leave a "footprint" in search results that are easy for search engines to spot as low-quality attempts to change search results. They rarely work, in fact many actually damage online perception of their victims.
OK, but why are those packages so cheap?
Passive reputation packages can be purchased for just a few hundred dollars from some management companies. For the most part, they simply use generic websites to post spam content which will result in your company being penalized by search engines. Or even worse, they use sites owned or controlled by their reputation company. They also use offshore labor, most often in countries that do not natively speak the language the content is being created in.
Spam is bad: Reputation company out of business due to Google penalties - Customers lose everything
One major firm used spam reputation techniques - when Google effectively shut all their sites down at once, the reputations of hundreds of customers suffered instantly. The company went out of business and clients lost their money.
Why would a reputation firm use their own sites?
There is no cost to the firm to post to their own sites, so profit margins remain very high for them. In other words, they don't have to pay for search engine optimization - the most expensive part of reputation management. There are other cheap forms of reputation management to watch out for though, for example: spun content.
When a blender writes your bio
Spun content is "spun" by machines. It works by feeding a phrase into software, and then the software jumbles up the phrases and creates pseudo-content. It is designed to fool search engines, but does not work most of the time.
If for example, you read a company bio that has been written by a "spinner", you would see how terrible it is, and would be highly unlikely to stay on the website. Obviously, Reputation X does not use spun content, we only produce custom strategies, high-quality online content, and end-to-end campaigns.
Content is a major cost
Content is one of the major costs in a reputation management program. In order to save money, most online reputation companies outsource the content (web pages, articles, blog posts, etc.), to writers in less developed countries where English may be their third language, so that they can pay them $1 for a few hours work.
Our teams are only made up of professional native speakers and writers. This is imperative, as if this is not the case, then the quality suffers dramatically. Furthermore, Google checking tools are programmed to tell the difference in quality, and can easily pick up content that is not professionally written, and that has grammatical errors. Google thinks content quality is so important they even have a course for it that can be found here.
Unfortunately, using offshore labor to cut the costs of reputation management can backfire by making search results far worse.
Our company ethos is to excel at what we do. Part of this is creating the right content for our clients. We only employ the services of native writers who have knowledge of a specific industry. Excellent writers earn a good wage, and are absolutely imperative to superior reputation management.