Online reputation management (ORM) is officially an “industry.” While there’s been a lot of discussion about the importance of reputation management, BusinessWeek is among the first to look at the industry behind it.
While I define online reputation management as this…
…realizing that the perceived value of your brand is defined by information found on the internet; therefore requiring your constant monitoring and participation in these web conversations.
BusinessWeek’s John Tozzi focuses in on the Google reputation management niche, and with good reason. I spoke with him for the piece and even I had to admit:
“The majority of inquiries that I get are from people who are looking to do a cover-up,” says Andy Beal, a marketing consultant and co-author of Radically Transparent: Monitoring and Managing Reputations Online. “They’re not necessarily interested in trying to fix the problem. They just want to make sure that other people can’t find it.”
The article looks at the typical costs involved with ORM, provides examples of companies battling negative results, and also explains the seedier side offered by “Hired Guns.”
…there’s little agreement on where the line is drawn. For example, one company, Internet Reputation Management, founded last year by three partners in the New York area, recruits bloggers to write about clients on third-party sites, without necessarily disclosing that they’re paid, according to partner Carl Sgro.
In conclusion, BusinessWeek talks to Google officials about the legitimacy of managing Google results (emphasis added)…
Google, for its part, says there is nothing inherently wrong with reputation services, but “if you use spammy and manipulative techniques to get this positive content to rank highly, we may take action on it,” a spokeswoman writes in an e-mail. (With two-thirds of U.S. search volume in April, according to Hitwise, Google is clearly reputation companies’ biggest target.) The company refers to its Webmaster Guidelines, for violations that can get sites banished, such as using hidden links or creating “cookie-cutter” affiliate pages just to boost page rank.
Abiding by Google’s guidelines is something I encourage–we cover it in depth in Radically Transparent.
I get the last word–you know how I like to get the last word–and try to explain that reputation management is about just that; management. You have to build a strong, positive reputation by being transparent and engaging your stakeholders. If you screw-up, don’t expect a reputation management expert to wave a magic wand and make it all go away.
“You have to take partial ownership in fixing your online reputation,” he says. “It’s not something that you can simply just provide a credit card number to a company and they can take care of it.” While outside firms can help businesses influence results on Google, only the company itself can repair real damage to its reputation.
For more insight, BusinessWeek asks search expert John Battelle to share his thoughts on the industry.
I don’t think there’s any harm in working with a third-party agency to build your search equity. On the other hand, you’ve got to make sure you’re doing it in a transparent way with high integrity.
“Transparent.” You’re spot on John!