SEO

Why Most SEOs Can’t Do Reputation Management

If you are an SEO and your saying to yourself, he cant be talking about me. Think again, I probably am. Dont get me wrong, I have complete faith that you could learn how to do it, but its a completely different skill set from what you are used to doing. With this in mind, it is very interesting to note how many SEOs are jumping head first into Online Reputation Management (ORM) and treating it as another project or deliverable. ORM is not just another application of SEO.

What is Online Reputation Management?

Quickly, so we are all on the same page, ORM is the task of maintaining a positive image for a person or company on the Internet. This article has a specific focus on search engine results since this seems to be the most common form related to SEOs.
What skills are needed for ORM?

Some of the more common functions associated with ORM can be broken into two types of skill sets.

Pre Reputation Crisis Skills:

This set of skills is would be used to prevent a negative issue or problem from becoming a reputation issue or from allowing the problem to remain an issue for very long. The sooner an issue is dealt with, the less likely it will have an impact on search engine results or other types of online information sources. Some examples of Pre-Crisis Skills include …

  • A fundamental understanding of how an issue would impact reputation
  • Ability to do ongoing monitoring of brands or phrases to identify potential issues
  • Ability to correctly respond to direct negative activity
  • Ability to identify and nullify potential negative activity in a subtle manner
  • Ability to perform exceptional online customer service
  • Ability to communicate effectively to potentially hostile detractors
  • A refined set of problem solving skills

Reputation Triage Skills:

This is the set of skills most commonly associated with SEO. This type of skill set is used when issues have already begun to impact the reputation of the client. Listings are turning up in search results which can negatively impact business or personal relationships and immediate action is needed to negate the listings or the impact of the listings.

  • Know and use advanced SEO techniques
  • Ability to manipulate multiple listings for a single search phrase
  • Manage a highly stressed client
  • Communicate effectively to clients and their detractors in a stressful environment
  • Utilize a wide variety of online marketing techniques
  • Be an expert problem solver

Why most SEOs can’t do it?

The first and most obvious reason is that Reputation Management at its core is a customer service issue, not a search marketing issue. A vast majority of SEOs are not trained in or have any experience with customer service. Sure, once a situation has elevated to the point it needs specific attention in the search engine results, the manifestation of the problem may be handled by the SEO, but the underlying cause is still an issue. Most SEOs are just not capable of dealing with the underlying cause, sorry but it is true.

Even the handling of the negative issues in the search engine rankings is not a task most SEOs are up to. Attempting to remove negative items out of the search engine results is completely counter to what most SEOs have spent their entire careers trying to achieve. One of the basic principals of “ORM Triage” is to attempt to move negative items down in the rankings, preferably off of the first page of search results for specific terms. As SEOs, most have spent their time learning the craft with only an opposite goal in mind, to rank web sites higher in the search engines. There are a number of very distinct differences between this and the skills needed for ORM Triage. Here are some of the most basic:

SEO – Moving one site UP in the rankings
ORM – Moving multiple sites DOWN in the rankings

SEO – Managing one site for a set of keywords
ORM – Managing multiple sites for a set of keywords

SEO – You have control of your site
ORM – You have no control over the negative sites

SEO – Search Engines like you to make your site do better
ORM – Search Engines do not want you to influence others listings

Reading this list, it seems that some of these activities are tailor made for those of us who wear the darker variety of hat. It is true that a Black Hat SEO may have more experience handling these types of skills. However, as with many Black Hat activities, this can end up causing more problems while negating the benefits. The results would probably be short term and a reputation issue would only get worse if unethical methodologies were uncovered. There are ethical means to achieve the necessary results, however as stated before, most SEOs don’t know them as they have only been working towards the opposite goals.

What does it take to do ORM?

The major search engines have been working with the smartest minds in the world for many years to prevent individuals from manipulating their search results. They don’t want it to happen. When working to eliminate negative press from search engine results you are effectively going to battle with the search engines and this standard. Additionally, these same minds work to protect web sites listed in their results from being manipulated by competitors or unethical webmasters. So over many years, it has become almost impossible for someone not directly involved with a site to effect its rankings in the search results.So, to do ORM ethically, you will need an understanding of how to use the search engines own algorithms to your advantage and move the negative listings out of the results. You do this by replacing them with “better” listings for the targeted search terms. It sounds simple, but it is not and most SEOs just cant do it. It takes an SEO with the ability to remove themselves from the standard SEO activities and use their understanding of how search engines work to develop techniques which are most likely counter intuitive. A few of these SEOs exist and have developed numerous techniques to do quality and ethical ORM. Additionally, there is quite a bit of unproven propaganda in the SEO Industry about what works and what does not for ORM.

More and more information will become available about ORM as it relates to SEO and when it does more SEOs will be up to the task. Until then, if you are an SEO make sure you truly understand what you are getting into if you want to do ORM. If you have a problem and need help with ORM, make sure your SEO is up to the task today.

John Carcutt is the President and Founder of AppliedSEO, a search engine optimization and social media marketing firm based out of Boca Raton, Florida. John is also a regular speaker at Search Engine Strategies and Search Marketing Expo (SMX) Conferences.

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14 thoughts on “Why Most SEOs Can’t Do Reputation Management

  1. Great post John. I have a specific question. If the reputation is a personal reputation and the client sets up a personal website in their own name, would that website technically be considered the “authority” in the domain of their name and given that, couldn’t they pass “good” keyword relevance by linking to other sites that rank well for the person’s name thus allowing them to get a little boost over the negative sites (that the “authority” site does not link to? Or is that too simplistic?

  2. Hi Marjory and Thanks.

    It takes much more than just a domain to gain “authority” for a specific keyword (even a proper name). If you were able to build that domain into an authority, it would indeed be a good place to pass relevancy and give your other efforts a bit of a boost for the name.

    It would depend on the strength of the negative listing as to whether that boost would be enough to help move them down the page.

    Like most everything having to do with the search results there are always multiple factors which have some measure of influence.

  3. I would agree with John there. If the website with the individuals name has been active for years with good quality inbound links it would have a great chance to help fight off some of the negative listings. But if i were to create a new domain with the persons name for the sole purpose of helping the reputation issue it would take a great deal of time before that listing became anywhere near the strength of the negative ones.

  4. I disagree:

    SEO – Moving one site UP in the rankings
    ORM – Moving multiple sites DOWN in the rankings

    These are the same thing right?

    SEO – Managing one site for a set of keywords
    ORM – Managing multiple sites for a set of keywords

    Once again why would this be any different for any reputable SEO?

    SEO – You have control of your site
    ORM – You have no control over the negative sites

    Sure you do, by pushing your pages above the negative websites you essential control them by pushing them down.

  5. It’s REALLY hard to tell a SEO that social media is *not* about traffic. It’s about relationships. Social media platforms facilitate relationships. A SEO-based marketer will listen to this and say all forms of “yes, but,” and then skip to theorizing different tactics for how to manage an algo’s possible interpretation of human action, in order to do helpful things with traffic. But, it’s not about the traffic. It’s about relationships fueled by human nature, facilitated by infrastructure.

  6. @ Jaan

    > “These are the same thing right?”

    No they are not. Each of these requires different application of various SEO techniques. You cant actually think that moving a site UP in the rankings is the “same thing” as moving it DOWN.

    > “Once again why would this be any different for any reputable SEO?”

    You focus on an important factor that may not have been clear in the article. What I am talking about here is multiple sites in a single SERP.

    Good SEOs will not be trying to get multiple sites listed in the same SERP unless they are working in a conflict of interest with a multiple clients or are wearing the darker shade of hat. Either way I would not personally classify these folks as “reputable”.

    > “Sure you do, by pushing your pages above the negative websites you essential control them by pushing them down.”

    I think you misunderstand. What I am talking about here is the ability to modify a site to influence its rankings. This is a staple of standard SEO, changing content, fixing technical issues etc., here you have no access to change or modify anything on the site you are trying to move.

    @Elizabeth Able

    I Agree 100%

  7. “No they are not. Each of these requires different application of various SEO techniques. You cant actually think that moving a site UP in the rankings is the “same thing” as moving it DOWN.”

    OK well semantics aside if I am getting websites to rank above yours I am moving them down.

    “Good SEOs will not be trying to get multiple sites listed in the same SERP unless they are working in a conflict of interest with a multiple clients or are wearing the darker shade of hat. Either way I would not personally classify these folks as “reputable”.”

    WOW?

    So making sure my linkedin profile page, my personal blog, my company website, mybloglog profile page, etc rank well for my company name, personal name is a BAD thing? I would not think so. This is what I meant by ranking multiple websites for a phrase.

  8. “Most SEOs Can’t Do Reputation Management” is correct. But these days it seems most SEOs cant do SEO either. I think these observations might be related.

    As for the rest, as far as search results go it’s just good SEO. Keep in mind that good SEO addresses all of the things that might influence sites going up, sites going down, etc.

    Now finding a good SEO…. that can be a challenge.