Online Reputation Management & The Three “R”s

Read Time 5 min.

Online Reputation Management & The Three “R”s

If your online reputation suffers from search engines displaying negative, inaccurate, or unfair information, you have options to repair your google results. Search engines use dozens of different signals to understand how to rank results when you search. The exact words you type into Google (or other search engines) is called a “keyword expression,” and the results you see are ordered based on what’s most likely to address what you are searching for, using a complex algorithm to determine how to rank the various web pages that contain the keyword expression you selected.

Some of the most important factors in ranking are the authority (credibility) of the web page that contains the keywords, the number of other web pages that link to it, the traffic it gets, and what people do when they land on the page. When site visitors spend lots of time on the page and navigate to other pages in the same site from it, Google concludes that the page satisfied visitors and promote it higher in results. If they spend just a short time on the page and use the back button (called a bounce in Googlespeak), the search engine assumes the page didn’t address their need, and the page is lowered in rank. Dozens of other factors are at play as well in the algorithm.

Bad News Usually Tops Google Results

Bad news tends to rise to the top in Google and understanding why is the first step in learning how to fix it.

Bad news stories tend to be in large, well-trafficked publications which have significant investments in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), to improve their own search visibility. And human nature dictates that people like reading gossip and salacious information, so the time visitors spend on the page is higher. Plus this kind of reporting tends to be syndicated, so many publications with often have variations of the same story. To a search engine, bad news looks like big news. And big news rises to the top of search results.

When we are contacted by clients, they have often attempted to use technology based “online reputation management” firms to fix their results with very limited success. Now, to be sure, technology based online reputation management can and does help with some kinds of problems. But when we are dealing with large numbers of negative stories in large publications, technology alone will not repair your reputation. You need a customized approach.

ORM: The Three Rs of Success

When we talk about online reputation management, we always look at our options using the Three Rs:

  • REMOVAL: Removing content that is defamatory or violates the terms of service of the site on which it is located.
  • RERANKING: Lowering the visibility of negative content by promoting positive content to higher rank.
  • REPOSITIONING: Developing new messages that reduce the relevance and the harm caused by negative material.

There are dozens of methods Digital Strategies uses to implement each of these elements of a successful engagement. Here is an example of a few techniques we use:

Removal: We work with our client’s legal counsel to shape letters to publications that can result in the removal of defamatory content, or which violates the website’s own terms of service. It often requires multiple queries to accomplish this.

Reranking: Many people maintain a limited footprint in digital and social media. As a result, what other people say about you can dominate your search results. We’ll build a new ring of online presences, from a personal website to very high performing social media channels, that over time push their way into the top of your search results. These will not be fake, low value, or poorly written; the key to making this work is to develop authentic and well written material about you.

Repositioning: Sometimes, news may be so visible and so persistent in dozens of publications that making it invisible is not a viable strategy. We use our public relations practice to secure online expert commentary roles, place op-eds, and make sure our clients are mentioned frequently in media on the same size websites that contain negative information. As a result, even when people see undesirable material, they will also see high credibility new content that place our clients in a very positive light. 

We Have a Secret Weapon

When so-called “Reputation Management” firms talk about their work, public relations is rarely mentioned, because they don’t have the relationships or skills to be effective. And that’s a shame, because quality PR is the secret weapon of online reputation management. It stands to reason that if your reputation was harmed by being mentioned in major publications, the most effective repair will incorporate positive stories in those same publications. It won’t work without the other elements in place, but when they are… nothing delivers better results.

Public Relations is a very specialized arena, requiring strong media relations and advisers with deep experience in crisis communications. That’s why Digital Strategy Ltd is the firm of choice for high profile individuals and organizations with emergent problems in reputation management.

If you want to learn more about how we can help, please contact us for a confidential evaluation.

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