Online Reputation Management Review
What are Online Reputation Management Services?
The top performers in our review are WebiMax, the Gold Award winner; Netmark, the Silver Award winner; and Go Fish Digital, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a services to meet your needs, along with details on how we arrived at our ranking of these 10 services.
What Can an Online Reputation Management Company Do for Me?
It used to be that online reputation management was something you only needed to consider if you or your company had fallen victim to negative reviews or slur campaigns. However, consumer practices have changed over the years, and people are more likely to seek out information about a company or product, especially when they expect to do more than make a one-time purchase. It's therefore become vital that you not only show up on the first page of a website search in a positive light, but that your online reputation spans the entirety of the internet, from social media to online news sources.
Online reputation management services are designed to help you build and maintain a positive image online. First and foremost, they seek out defamatory and unflattering web content and work to drive it off the first pages of web searches, instead replacing it with information that shows you or your business at its best. The top online reputation management services take it a step further by helping you create and maintain venues where you can build relationships with your clients and monitor online mentions. These companies may also provide training so you can respond to negative content and build positive posts so you are not always dependent on their service.
While internet reputation management can help salvage an unfairly tarnished reputation or enhance a good one, it can also have an underside. Our articles on reputation management explore these services and what reputation management entails. We especially recommend the article on identifying ethical practices. You may also want to check out our sister site's article on choosing an online reputation management service.
Do I Need an Online Reputation Management Service?
Online reputation management is a difficult service to narrowly define as it depends greatly on the services you require and what your overall goals are. A surgeon reeling from an isolated negative review of a patient who suffered complications beyond his control needs a different approach from the international hotel chain that is trying to clean up a long line of customer service disasters caused by previous management. Therefore, it's important to begin by knowing what your company's existing reputation is, what you hope to accomplish and how much you are willing to pay.
Unless you are specifically looking for reputation repair, you may want to consider a different service. Reputation management companies focus mostly on reviews or on countering bad press or slur campaigns. If you are more concerned with increasing your brand's online visibility, online marketing services might better suit your needs. You can read our online marketing service reviews to learn more. Similarly, if you are interested in improving your social media customer relationships, check our reviews on social media monitoring services.
A Note on Pricing Online Reputation Management Services
Because improving your online reputation depends on the type and extent of damage done and your overall goals, very few services have a set plan or price. Rather, each service asks for your website, keywords and specific needs. Then, it conducts preliminary research and delivers a proposal.
You can expect the proposal to contain specific tasks, reports and expected results. Some of these may have a one-time fee attached; most have a monthly fee. The first month is sometimes more expensive, as a lot of content building happens in those first weeks. We found services targeted at small businesses with fees ranging from a few hundred dollars a month to tens of thousands of dollars per month.
A few services we looked at but which ultimately did not make our top ten list set a campaign fee, and the length of the campaign varied by months or years, depending on whether intense reputation repair or long-term monitoring is needed.
The Challenges of Testing Online Reputation Services and What We Discovered
Because this field is so individualized, it's difficult to evaluate a company based solely on its services. For example, one business might need an SEO makeover and PR campaign while another may require multiple minisites and a concentrated click-through program. Thus, it's not enough to rate a company solely based on the services it can offer, because specific services may not apply to your case. Analyzing your company and determining a plan is as important as having the tools.
To add to the complexity, many services are rightfully wary of divulging the identity of the companies they've helped. After all, if you are employing a service to fix a damaged reputation, it's counterproductive to let people know you had a bad rep. Even when we obtained a case study, we did not have access to complete before-and-after pictures for comparison. Therefore, getting a concrete sample of the service in action proved difficult.
Our evaluation of online reputation management services involved finding a business with some reputation problems, including numerous complaints, search engine optimization (SEO) issues and poor social media interaction. We asked each online reputation company to provide a proposal for improving our test company's reputation. We then evaluated each company for the depth of the analysis as well as the focus and approach in the proposal.
Other factors we considered were speed of response and the quality of the phone consultation. We assessed how well the sales representative answered our questions, how up front he or she was about costs, and whether or not we received specific information on methodologies or just general promises of results. We evaluated privacy by asking services for references to see how easily they provided the names of current or former customers. Some services provided a list of customers who'd consented to being used as references while others wouldn't provide names at all.
Finally, our evaluation of these services involved conducting an analysis of each service's website to see if they applied their own online monitoring and repair techniques to their reputation. First, we did a search engine optimization test using SEO evaluation software to score general SEO health and domain authority (which relates to backlinks, something these services state help enhance your website and other content the company generates for you). Next, we did a Google search to determine if complaints against the company show up on the first page and whether the word "complaints" shows up in the auto search window after the company's name. Online reputation management companies say their goal is to remove these negative terms from your search results; thus, they should be able to do it for themselves.
Finding the Best Online Reputation Management Company for You
Some of these online reputation management services focus in specific areas. All of them can cover national reputations – after all, they are providing online reputation management – but Gadook is among those that specifically say it works with local reputation and SEO. Some services, such as WebiMax and Netmark, take a positive approach to online reputation management, while Reputation Management LLC has a strong focus on countering reputation attacks by competitors.
Most have some SEO capabilities, but WebiMax, Submitedge SEO and Netmark concentrate much of their efforts here, which might be an advantage if your website needs technical work to improve its search engine ranking. Many of these companies have means to increase positive reviews. Reputation Management Consultants and Gadook set up specific review sites to funnel customer reviews so you can promote positive reviews and respond to negative ones. Reputation.com takes it a step further by providing you tools to have customers post reviews before they leave your store.
All of the companies will provide regular feedback, but WebiMax and Netmark in particular say they will advise you on how to handle negative reviews. Go Fish Digital has a strong focus on training its clients to handle their reputation management over the long run, while Reputation.com and Reputation Hawk help you track your own reputation with their software.
The Basics: What Can These Companies Do and How?
Regardless of their specialties, each of these services should be able to perform specific tasks. Therefore, we considered the following factors in our reviews:
Any online reputation management company should offer reputation repair, which relies heavily on pushing negative reviews off the first page of website searches and replacing them with positive or neutral content. A few companies address negative feedback in cooperation with you, or research a complaint and send it to you so you can respond. For reputation monitoring or long-term support, you may want to look for companies that specialize in active reputation building and long-term strategizing.
It's important that your main website shows up first on web searches, so the best online reputation management companies will analyze your site and either effect changes or make recommendations. However, having a single website, no matter how perfect, will not alone create a strong reputation. Therefore, the trick is to get as much content that promotes you and that you can control on that search engine's front page. To this end, most online reputation companies create content such as mini-sites, articles, press releases or videos. They will also help you establish a social media presence; the best companies will determine which venue works best for you.
Content covers everything from mini-sites to Wikipedia pages. The best companies concentrate on the aspects that will most help your site. For example, a travel agency specializing in honeymoons might benefit from a honeymoon-focused minisite, while a company changing management might bolster its reputation with press releases and interviews with the new CEO.
Reputation management services also work with the content to build links among these venues and any articles mentioning you. Backlinks tell search engines like Google that the information is important to readers. Finally, the best services provide training, which cover everything from SEO writing to responding to complaints posted on social media sites.
In order for an online reputation service to do its job, it has to monitor opinions expressed online. Some companies do manual searches of the common complaint websites to find out what is being said about you, with the top online reputation services going a step further to read the complaints and identify common issues. Most services employ monitoring software that they develop in-house or buy commercially. Others have computer labs for automatic searching and clicking in order to influence the ranking of websites.
Content such as press releases and articles are only as good as their distribution. We evaluated these services on the channels they have access to, whether they use industry-specific lists or general press release clearinghouses, and if the service has personal contacts.
Employees should be trained in reputation management tools. They should have in-house training or outside certification in social media monitoring, and writing articles and content that are SEO-strong and rich in information. Furthermore, employees should understand the latest changes in search engine philosophy. Companies that are Google partners have proven to Google that they understand its workings and abide by best practices.
A Final Word of Warning
While reputation can be influenced by a concentrated program, that alone may not be enough. For example, an online reputation company may do a brilliant job of promoting good reviews, but if your business doesn’t fix its customer service problems, the problem will continue to surface. There are also other variables that influence this as well. For example, your website can have superb SEO, but if the website complaining about you has better SEO or if it has a great social media presence, it may rank higher than yours. Therefore, it's prudent to go into online reputation management understanding that it should be one tool, among others, for improving your company.
Reputations are important, possibly even more so online, where anyone can make a judgment based on whatever information shows up on a web search or social media site. With online reputation management services, you can be given the tools to help repair a damaged image, build a strong, positive one, and get the training and help you need to continue to monitor and bolster your reputation.