How to Choose an Online Reputation Management Company?

What makes you choose one product over another? What drives you to recommend a brand to a friend or loved one?

Research on the impact of brand image on sales conducted by Reputation Dividend found that that 80% of consumers make purchasing decisions based on a company having an excellent reputation. 68% of consumers report making purchasing decisions based on direct recommendations.

With 80% of your potential sales hanging on your brand's image, monitoring and developing your online reputation is critical. If your company doesn't have a dedicated reputation specialist on staff, it's a good idea to contract with a search engine reputation management (SERM) agency.
What business tasks does a reputational agency solve?
Company online reputation management encompasses creating and maintaining a positive image of the company, protecting that image from damage from poor feedback or bad information, and restoring the brand's image if a PR crisis occurs. The agency will accomplish this through a variety of tools and techniques, including:

  • SEO (search engine optimization). This tool helps to increase the ranking of positive, relevant content about and from your company in search results. Good information coming up on the first page of a search gives a positive first impression and pushes negative reviews down out of sight.

  • Content development and management. Specialists will help you improve and create expert content that ranks well in search and interests your audience.

  • Social networking. Constant interaction with your audience builds customer loyalty. It's important to read and respond to all comments in reviews, moderate your community, and work with potential brand advocates.

  • Manage reviews and ratings. ORM-companies work comprehensively with reviews. They can balance negative reviews with positive ones, remove unwanted links or reviews, and respond to positive comments. Active work with your reviews helps build your brand's rating on third-party review sites.

  • Monitoring brand mentions. Negative comments anywhere can damage your reputation, including popular sites, maps, blogs, forums, and personal social media pages. Therefore, it is important to monitor all brand mentions and respond quickly to each of them. Agencies usually use special services such as Brandwatch for constant monitoring and instant processing. You should also listen to what your target audience says about your product and the products of your competitors. Social listening enables you to discover consumer needs, insights, and paint points. This information can help you improve your product, services, or marketing strategy.
6 Tips for Choosing an Online Reputation Agency
1. Successful cases.
The first thing to look for in choosing a reputation management agency is a track record of successful cases. Results matter, and it's important to see their expertise in action in various areas involved with strengthening brand reputation and resolving conflicts online. Be sure to ask for results in cooperation with their customers, but be aware that some information may be withheld to maintain confidentiality.
2. Availability for communication and "fit."
Meet with a team of specialists, remotely or in person. It is important to get to know people and evaluate their experience and skills. This will also give you a chance to see how comfortable you feel working together.
3. A detailed plan for your project.
Before signing a contract with a reputable agency, we recommend asking them to provide a work plan for your project. This will allow you to see how long the work will take and how much the team knows what to do in your situation.
4. A good reputation.
The best online reputation management companies have a flawless online image. To verify this, read customer reviews, media reports, and the company's own blog or social media. Pay attention to how they interact with users on social networks and what content they publish. If the company has authority and other customers are satisfied, you can be more confident trusting them with your business.
5. No guarantee of instant or unrealistic results.
Reputation work takes time. There's no room for unrealistic guarantees or instant results. Steer clear of "quick fixes" such as a promise that deleting negative reviews will immediately increase your ratings.

A reliable ORM-company will be honest and realistic. Work on the company's organic image takes six months or more. The work should begin with an audit of the current reputation of the company and its competitors. That audit forms the basis of the long-term strategy tailored for working with your brand's image.
6. Transparency in everything.
Before starting the project, the agency should provide you with an audit showing the strengths and weaknesses of your current reputation. The audit should include an analysis of your competitors to give a better picture of what you're striving for and any mistakes or experience that can be borrowed from others in your industry.

Discuss a budget for the project in advance before contracting with an agency. They should be willing to answer questions about expenses, tools, the scope of work, and any other major factors impacting their fee. The agency must also provide you with weekly or monthly reports indicating what actions have been taken and what results observed.

In a word, a good agency is transparent in its actions at every stage of work.
"Red Flags": What Should I Avoid When Choosing an SERM Agency?
1. The agency uses dubious methods of promotion.
For example, "satellite" sites with fake reviews, purchasing a large number of links to substandard resources, and so on.

2. The agency fails to provide regular reports.

3. The agency doesn't stay up to date with changes in search engine algorithms and doesn't adjust their strategy accordingly.

4. The company does not have a personal manager who is accessible to you to monitor the process and discuss the results.

5. The agency only offers fake reviews.
Feedback from specially created accounts can positively affect your rating, but there are risks. Fake reviews can cause suspicious account activity, causing site administrators to ban your profile. They are also less effective than reviews from real customers. We have an article detailing how to get reviews from your customers here.

6. You don't know what tools and programs the agency uses.
If an agency is only using free services and manual monitoring, they're unlikely to provide the results you need. Professional agencies use special premium monitoring services. They should have certificates to confirm their memberships and subscriptions.

For example, we — Topface Media — are a certified partner of the YouScan social media monitoring and analytics system.
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Online Reputation Management FAQs
The following list of questions can guide you through business conversations with ORM companies while you consider whether their services are right for your brand.
  • 1
    How long does it take to see results?
    The SERM agency cannot give you an accurate answer, but they can guarantee that you can get a more detailed forecast after the audit. If you are promised instant results, you should be wary and ask them to set out in more detail the work plan for your project.
  • 2
    After the brand's reputation is restored, do I need to continue to use your services?
    The agency should not insist on continuing cooperation with you if your main goal is to neutralize negative reviews or remove unwanted links. They can offer you a continuation of the project to support the established reputation: regular monitoring of mentions, quick response to comments, addressing negative reviews, interacting with the target audience, etc.
  • 3
    What methods and tools do you use to improve online reputation?
    Online reputation management companies provide a range of services from local work with negative responses, a reputation crisis, crisis or attack by competitors to constant monitoring of mentions and responding to all comments about the brand. The team should have an SEO specialist whose task is to optimize the brand's content and put it in the top search results. Some cases require legal assistance, so most agencies have a full-time specialist or work with a law firm.
An online reputation management company can become much more valuable than a simple cleanup crew for occasional reputation tasks. A great relationship with a quality company can provide you with a long-term partner in all areas of your brand's image. Look for experience, availability, successful cases, and the agency's own reputation. Avoid those professionals who promise quick results and use dubious or low-effort methods in their work.
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