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The Reputation Repair Process

A strong online reputation can inspire customer loyalty and trust, while a negative reputation can harm sales and customer retention. This is where the process of online reputation management (ORM) comes into play.

ORM is a comprehensive strategy that involves monitoring and shaping public perceptions of a brand or business. It comprises five key stages: research, strategy, content development, promotion, and continuous improvement. In this article, we will delve into each stage of the ORM process, providing a detailed guide to help businesses effectively manage their online reputation.

reputation repair process diagram

Stages of reputation repair

The online reputation management process consists of five stages, including:

  • Research
  • Strategy
  • Content
  • Development
  • Promotion

The last three stages are repeated at regular intervals as search results improve. Each step in the process is explained below. 

Research: Understanding Your Online Reputation

The first stage of the ORM process is research. This involves thorough monitoring and analysis of the current online reputation of your brand or business. It is essential to gain insights into what customers, opinion leaders, and even competitors are saying about your brand. By understanding the existing perceptions of your brand, you can identify potential reputation threats and opportunities for improvement.

Identifying Top Search Phrases

To begin the research phase, it is crucial to identify the top search phrases associated with your brand. These phrases may include variations of your brand name, key titles or services, and other terms that are commonly associated with your business. By knowing the phrases that customers readily associate with your brand, you can optimize your online presence and improve search engine visibility.

Branded search phrase examples in reputation management:

  • Acme Widgets (main brand search query)
  • Blue Acme Widgets (longer tail branded query)
  • Acme Widgets Reviews (consideration stage search query)
  • CEO Acme Widgets (executive reputation query)

Assessing Removal Options

During the research phase, it is important to consider whether any negative content or information can be directly removed from websites or search engine results.

Removal of online content may involve exploring legal solutions such as DMCA takedown requests or other methods to remove harmful content.

Additionally, tactics like YouTube video removal, NoIndex removal, and search result removal from Google may be employed.

By removing or suppressing negative content, you can protect your brand’s reputation and improve search results.

Conducting Gap Analysis

A crucial aspect of the research phase is conducting a gap analysis. This involves comparing and contrasting your brand’s current search results and online reputation with your competitors. By identifying key differences, you can uncover potential reputation threats and opportunities for improvement. Gap analysis helps inform your reputation management strategy and guides subsequent stages of the ORM process.

Strategy: Designing Your Reputation Management Plan

Once thoroughly researching and analyzing your online reputation, it’s time to design a comprehensive strategy to accomplish your reputation management goals.

The strategy stage involves developing a plan tailored to your specific situation and desired outcomes. Different strategies may be required for various scenarios, such as Wikipedia development, content replacement, review improvement, rating improvement, suppression of negative results, or promotion of positive results.

Once the research phase has been completed, design a strategy to accomplish your goals. For example, there are different strategies for various situations and outcomes. Some examples include:

  • Wikipedia development
  • “Replacement” of content
  • Review improvement
  • Rating improvement
  • Suppression of negative results
  • Promotion of positive results
  • Development of new third-party content
  • Article Placement
  • Social media strategy

Content Development

Content development is a time-consuming but essential part of the ORM process. Content serves as the foundation for a successful reputation management campaign. The goal of content development is to create content that portrays your brand in a positive light, attracts organic traffic, generates shares, and earns valuable inbound links. Content can take various forms, including blog posts, social media posts, outreach to bloggers and journalists, external articles, slideshows, and press releases.

AI Content

While AI has helped speed up the process, it still regurgitates content that already exists. In other words, AI is great, but it is not creative.

Development and Presentation

Once content ideas are generated, they should be developed into detailed outlines and subjects. These outlines are then presented for approval and feedback. Feedback from stakeholders is valuable in refining and enhancing the content ideas. It is also essential to match each approved piece of content with an appropriate publishing target, create a content calendar, and revisit existing positive results to determine if they can be improved through retargeting.

Online Review Management

Online reviews are a kind of content. Online review management is an integral part of reputation management. Positive reviews and ratings can significantly impact customer perception and trust. Encouraging satisfied customers to leave positive reviews and manage negative reviews effectively is essential. Responding promptly and professionally to negative reviews can help mitigate their impact and demonstrate your commitment to customer satisfaction.

Technical Development

As part of the ORM process, it may be necessary to identify and build various web properties, such as business listings, social media profiles, blogs, and other owned properties that you control and influence. These properties help shape your online presence and provide platforms for content distribution. Building a network of owned domains enables you to distribute content and improve search engine visibility.

Leveraging Owned Properties

Owned properties, such as your website, social media profiles, and other web properties you control, provide an excellent opportunity to promote positive content. By leveraging these properties, you can reach your target audience directly and control the messaging and presentation of your brand. It is important to regularly update and optimize these properties to maintain their effectiveness in promoting positive content.

Examples of owned online content:
  • Company Website: The primary platform where a business can control its messaging, branding, and information dissemination.
  • Blog: A section on a website or a standalone platform where companies publish articles, news, and updates.
  • Social Media Profiles: Pages on platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, etc., where businesses manage their interactions and content.
  • Press Releases: Official statements issued to media outlets, often available on the company’s website as well.
  • Email Newsletters: Regular updates sent to a subscribed audience via email.
  • Online Brochures and Catalogs: Digital versions of traditional marketing materials.
  • YouTube Channel: Video content created and managed by the company.
  • Podcasts: Audio content produced and distributed by the company.
  • E-books and Whitepapers: In-depth content on specific topics, often used for lead generation.
  • Infographics: Visually engaging content designed to simplify and communicate complex information.
  • Webinars: Online seminars or presentations hosted by the company.
  • Company Wiki/Internal Knowledge Base: An internal resource for employees, sometimes made public for customer support.

These owned channels are crucial for effective online reputation management, as they provide a controlled environment to shape and convey a company’s narrative.

Supporting Positive Content with Earned Content

Earned content refers to content that is generated by others, such as social media shares, comments, and reviews. It is important to actively engage with your audience and encourage them to share positive content about your brand. This can be achieved through social media engagement, soliciting comments and feedback, and creating engaging content that naturally attracts shares and links.

Examples of earned online content:
  • Media Coverage: Articles, news stories, or features about your business in newspapers, magazines, TV, and online platforms.
  • Product Reviews: Reviews of your products or services by consumers or professional reviewers on various platforms.
  • Customer Testimonials: Positive feedback and endorsements from customers, often shared on social media or review sites.
  • Social Media Mentions: When individuals or other organizations mention or talk about your business on social media platforms.
  • Word of Mouth: Recommendations and discussions about your business by customers or industry influencers.
  • Blog Posts: Articles written by third parties that mention or discuss your company, products, or services.
  • User-Generated Content: Content created by customers, such as photos or videos featuring your product, and shared online.
  • Awards and Recognitions: Being recognized by industry groups, consumer organizations, or community groups.
  • Forum Discussions: Conversations about your brand or products in online forums or message boards.
  • Guest Blogging: When your content is featured on a third party’s blog, often with authorship credit.
  • Backlinks: When other websites link back to your site, indicating a form of endorsement or reference.

Earned content is valuable as it’s seen as more authentic and credible since it’s voluntarily provided by third parties. It’s often a result of good public relations, quality products/services, and strong customer relationships.

Paid Content Promotion

Paid promotion can be a highly effective strategy to support both owned and earned content. It involves investing in advertising and promotional campaigns to reach a broader audience and increase brand visibility. Paid promotion can include guest posts on high-authority websites, sponsored content on media platforms, and paid search campaigns. When done strategically, paid promotion can yield a high return on investment and enhance your online reputation.

Examples of paid online content

Here are some common examples of paid online content:

  • Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Ads: Advertisements on platforms like Google AdWords or Bing Ads where you pay each time a user clicks on your ad.
  • Social Media Ads: Sponsored posts or ads on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Snapchat.
  • Display Ads: Banner, sidebar, and other visual ads displayed on websites.
  • Sponsored Content: Articles, blog posts, or videos created in collaboration with a publisher or influencer, where payment is involved for the content creation and distribution.
  • Influencer Partnerships: Paying influencers to promote products or services to their followers.
  • Retargeting Ads: Ads targeted to users who have previously interacted with your online content or visited your website.
  • Affiliate Marketing: Paying commission to external websites or individuals to drive sales or leads.
  • Paid Email Campaigns: Sending promotional content to purchased email lists or paying for placement in another organization’s email newsletter.
  • Video Ads: Advertisements that appear before, during, or after digital video content on platforms like YouTube or Vimeo.
  • Native Advertising: Ads that match the form and function of the platform on which they appear, such as advertorials or promoted search results.
  • Content Syndication: Paying to have your content shared or featured on other websites or platforms.
  • Digital Out-of-Home Advertising: Digital billboards and signs, often connected to online networks for dynamic content updates.

Each type of paid content has its own set of strategies and best practices, and its effectiveness can vary depending on your target audience, budget, and marketing goals.

Promotion and Amplification

Simply building it will not make them come. You have to promote it, too.

Promotion is a critical aspect of the ORM process. It involves amplifying your positive online presence and ensuring that your target audience sees the content that portrays your brand in a positive light.

To streamline promotion, it is helpful to separate your content and properties into three distinct groups: leveraging owned properties, supporting positive content with earned content, and using paid content to support both owned and earned content. The section above outlines the types of web properties a brand can leverage to improve online reputation.

Strategic Retargeting

Retargeting is simply watching results to see what has worked, then changing how the content marketing and SEO program is focused so inertia continues and search results improve. SEO reputation management includes researching appropriate link partners, SEO outreach, link development, on-page and off-page technical optimization, and more. For more information about a typical search engine optimization campaign, click here.

Conclusion: Investing in Your Online Reputation

Building and maintaining a positive online reputation is essential for businesses in today’s digital landscape. The online reputation management process of research, strategy, content development, and promotion helps businesses control their online narrative and shape public perceptions. By investing in reputation management, businesses can inspire customer loyalty, attract new customers, and protect their brand from potential reputation threats. Remember, ORM is an ongoing process that requires consistent monitoring, analysis, and adaptation to ensure a strong and positive online reputation.

Citations and Further Reading

For those seeking to delve deeper into the topics discussed in this article, the following resources offer additional insights and perspectives on Online Reputation Management (ORM):

  1. “Reputation Management: The Key to Successful Public Relations and Corporate Communication” by John Doorley and Helio Fred Garcia: This book provides a comprehensive look at the principles and practices of reputation management.
  2. The New Rules of Marketing & PR: How to Use Social Media, Online Video, Mobile Applications, Blogs, News Releases, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly” by David Meerman Scott: This resource explores the evolving world of marketing and public relations in the digital age, including aspects of ORM.
  3. Crisis Communications: A Casebook Approach by Kathleen Fearn-Banks: A study of crisis communication strategies; this book offers insights relevant to managing a brand’s reputation during challenging times.
  4. Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional” by Deirdre K. Breakenridge: This book delves into the intersection of social media and public relations, providing strategies relevant to ORM.
  5. Journal Articles on ORM: Academic journals like the “Journal of Marketing” or “Public Relations Review” often publish articles on ORM, offering research-based insights.
  6. Online Articles and Blogs: Websites like Search Engine Journal, Moz Blog, and PR Daily regularly publish articles on ORM and related digital marketing strategies.
  7. Case Studies: Exploring ORM case studies from companies like can provide real-world examples of the strategies discussed in this article.
  8. Conferences and Webinars: Industry events like the PRSA International Conference or digital marketing webinars often cover topics relevant to ORM, offering insights from experts in the field.

By exploring these resources, you can gain a more in-depth understanding of ORM, its importance in the digital landscape, and practical strategies for managing and improving online reputation.

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