It’s just a risk of doing business: You’re going to get bad reviews. You may even get some negative press.
You probably knew that going in. Or at least you know that now. But knowing it doesn’t make it any less painful. Or annoying.
That bad review or negative article on page one of Google is enough to drive you crazy. Anyone who has run a business website for long enough knows that.
So, you just have to learn to live with it, right?
Absolutely not. Not even close.
There’s a whole field of professionals dedicated to controlling your online reputation. It’s called online reputation management (ORM).
It’s not ALL about SEO. But I’m here to tell you that you can use SEO to control your online reputation. Let’s get into it.
ORM is a little bit like SEO in the sense that it’s a broad field that includes a TON of different tasks.
The main idea is to manage the reputation of a person or business in the online sphere. That’s everywhere on the internet, but it’s often fairly focused on search engine results and social media platforms.
ORM might involve some or all of the following tasks:
In other words, it’s a full-time job. And you’re expected to wear your ORM hat on top of the dozen other hats you wear as a business owner.
That’s a lot of hats, and I get it — you’re hesitant to add another one. But you need to focus on ORM for your business. Let’s take a look at why.
Here’s the deal: In 2023, your online reputation IS your reputation. You can’t separate your online image from your in-person image — not anymore.
That means consumers are going to consult the internet to learn more about you and your business. And they’re going to let what they find influence whether they purchase a product or service from you.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a stat for you: 97 percent of consumers look at product reviews before they decide whether to purchase a product.
So, if you ignore your negative online reviews, you’re just letting it happen — you’re letting 97 percent of your potential customers see this negative online sentiment about your business.
And trust me:
You’re going to lose business because of it. I’ve seen it happen countless times.
That’s pretty negative. So, let’s look at the positive side of why ORM matters for businesses.
When you do ORM right — which involves leveraging SEO — you get control of the narrative surrounding your business.
You can make changes in the online world that influence the real world. You can respond to negative reviews in a way that boosts your brand image and results in actual word of mouth.
You can flood the internet with positive PR about your business, making anything negative look painfully irrelevant and small.
You can show your potential customers that you ARE right for them. You can do more of what your business does best.
So, where does SEO enter the picture with ORM? It’s an efficiency play.
Sure, you could hire a PR firm to handle your online reputation. They’d probably do a decent job, and in the process, they would charge you somewhere just south of an arm and a leg.
Or you could do it yourself. You could spend countless hours learning ORM techniques and doing it all manually. Meanwhile, some other major responsibility of yours will have to take a backseat.
That’s not good for your business either. You need more efficiency. And SEO gives it to you.
How? By allowing you to control the Google search results surrounding your business. And once you’ve gotten the SEO ball rolling, it takes a lot to un-roll it.
In other words, SEO can build a protective moat around your reputation online. That way, even when negative things happen, you’re much less exposed to them. And many fewer people see them.
Ready to take action? Read on.
I’m not about to throw all this ORM and SEO theory at you without giving you something to actually DO with it all.
Below, you’ll find tons of actionable tactics that will help you use SEO to control your reputation online.
Let’s dive in.
We’re talking about controlling the SERPs. That means increasing the amount of real estate you control in Google when someone searches for you or your business.
To start, picture the average SERP:
You might have some paid ads. Maybe a Map Pack. Perhaps some SERP features, like a People Also Ask box or a Google Business Profile over to the right. And then 10 blue links — the organic results.
How do you get more control of those organic results? By leveraging the power of websites OTHER THAN your own.
(Your website should already be ranking No. 1 when someone searches for your business. If it isn’t, you’ve got bigger problems.)
What do I mean by other websites? I mean any website that will allow you to create a profile or somehow represent your business.
Here are some examples (and how to use them to dominate the SERP):
There are lots of reasons to fill out relevant directory profiles for your business. Backlinks are a big reason, but there’s also a benefit to your ORM situation:
These directories are often big, powerful websites that Google likes to rank. When they have a fully filled out and optimized page that has your business name as the title, Google is going to want to serve them up in search results when someone Googles you.
And when you fill out all the directories you can find, you add that many more chances that Google will rank one of the profiles on page one to push anything negative about your business down — maybe all the way off of page one.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok (and probably more) — if you don’t have a profile on each of these platforms, you’re missing a HUGE opportunity to take up more real estate on page one of Google with owned channels.
Technically speaking, social media platforms aren’t “owned” channels in the traditional sense, because the platforms ultimately control your profiles. But in the context of ORM and SEO, you “own” these channels because you control what they say.
Oh, and the websites where these social media profiles live are insanely authoritative. That means Google LOVES to rank the business pages on these sites.
Just Google any business in your area. You’ll see a Facebook, Yelp, and Instagram profiles or something similar on page one.
Bingo. You can do that, too. Just create profiles on EVERY platform.
I know, I know. You don’t want to do TikTok. Or Instagram. Me neither. And I’ve got good news for you:
You don’t have to.
You just have to create the profiles. You really don’t even have to post on them. In most cases, Google will trust that your business’ profile on these platforms is legitimate on the strength of the social media sites alone.
Reddit is kind of a social media platform, too, but you won’t rank on page one with your account profile on Reddit (probably).
Instead, do an AMA (Ask Me Anything). This is a thread in a particular subreddit (forum) where users can ask you questions.
Pick a subreddit where you have some expertise. If you’re an attorney who has run a successful solo practice for years, you could do an AMA on the subreddit for solo attorneys (r/LawFirm).
Why take the time to do this? Because these AMAs rank REALLY well.
So well, in fact, that if you do a good one, it’ll likely skyrocket to page one of the search results for your business name.
I’m a BIG advocate of using Google Business Profile to boost your local SEO. In fact, I’m comfortable saying your GBP (Google My Business, for those of you who have been doing this a while) is the No. 1 way to control your local SEO.
But I’m not talking about local SEO. I’m talking about ORM.
GBP matters for this, too.
More specifically, you need to claim or create your profile and fully optimize it.
Why? Because GBPs take up an enormous portion of the SERPs for businesses.
That means they’re going to distract from anything negative in the regular organic results. And you can make it even better by prioritizing positive reviews on your GBP.
You know how we talked about social profiles showing up in search results for business names? Certain review sites do the same thing.
The review sites you’re eligible for will depend on the type of business you run. But definitely check out the following:
Start with those. But don’t stop there. On every review site that looks relevant, claim or create your profile and start posting or soliciting reviews.
Before long, you’ll see at least one of these review site profiles in the SERP for your business. That’s one less space for something negative to show up.
Ever seen a video carousel? It looks like this:
Pretty big and flashy, right? And it’s right near the top of the SERP.
That’s a GREAT way to push down anything negative about your business. But how do you get a video carousel?
By creating videos and uploading them to YouTube. Make sure they’re about your business and relevant to those who might be searching for your business.
You’ll need at least three videos, but more is better. Play your cards right, and you’ll get a video carousel.
Even if you’re not a big podcast person, you should know that these things are WILDLY popular. Anybody and their brother’s cousin can create a podcast, and chances are, they have.
They’re a dime a dozen, which means there are PLENTY of opportunities for you to be featured on one that’s relevant to your business.
But why would you want to do that?
Because every episode of every podcast gets published on what’s usually an extremely authoritative website: Spotify’s site, Apple’s site and similar.
Besides providing you with a lovely backlink, these podcast episode pages rank REALLY well. And really fast. They’re likely to rank on page one for mentions of your business if you’re the featured guest on a podcast.
So, find a podcast. You can do that with services like Help a Reporter Out (HARO). Respond to requests for podcast guests, do the interview and get even more control of the SERP for your business.
Speaking of HARO, you can use it to get interviews in written media, too. Think newspaper, magazine and industry publication websites.
Now, these won’t ALWAYS rank on page one for your business name. But it does happen.
And, separately, it’s really good for your SEO if you’re getting backlinks from sites like this.
So, take the time to secure a few interviews. Get quoted in major outlets and push down the negative press.
We’ve talked a lot about doing stuff on other websites to control page one of Google results for your business name. But what about YOUR website? Is there anything you can do there.
For one thing, you need to be doing SEO in general. I (hopefully) don’t have to get too deep into that here — you should already know that SEO is key to business success in 2023.
And if you’re doing it right, you’re steadily boosting your rankings across your site. You’re creating new content and ranking it, too. And you’re focusing on keywords that are relevant to your business.
That includes branded keywords. These are keywords that include your business name. So, if your business was called Jim’s Deli and Bakery, some branded keywords might include the following:
You need to make sure you’re ranking for all of those types of keywords. Why? Because it increases the likelihood that your site will show up in Google instead of someone else’s.
In other words, you’ll get more chances to get served up in Google. And you’ll take away chances from the sites that have negative sentiment.
Here’s another branded keyword that can be particularly useful when you’re trying to use SEO to control your online reputation:
[your business name] reviews
Yes, you CAN publish a page on your website with this title. You can add reviews from your customers. And you almost certainly will rank for this keyword because it’s about YOUR business.
Why does that matter? Because that ranking will push down other reviews, some of which could be negative.
Did you know that most review websites allow you to petition to have reviews removed?
They do. Even Google does, and they’re usually the hardest nut to crack.
They really have to leave open the possibility of removing negative reviews. That’s because so many online reviews are completely fake or greatly exaggerated.
In fact, around 82 percent of consumers in the US have encountered a fake online review in the past year.
That’s not fair. And the review sites know that. So they give you a way to fight back.
You need to take that chance.
Most of the time, bad reviews are at least exaggerated. Often, they’re completely fabricated.
In either case, you have grounds to object to the review entirely. And in many cases, the review sites will hear reason and remove the review.
Often, they would rather avoid an open conflict with you. It’s one of those situations where it just doesn’t hurt to ask.
If you have a team working for you, you can also ask them to downvote or report negative reviews that are faked or exaggerated. That often helps get them removed.
Here’s the thing:
I’ve thrown a ton of information at you in this guide. And I know it’s probably overwhelming. But I have one more thing to remind you of:
You need to be building backlinks.
From the very earliest days of search engines, backlinks have been a way of signaling trust and authority in the eyes of search engines.
You’re not going to accomplish your SEO goals without a strong backlink game.
So, if one of your goals is to use SEO to control your reputation online, you’re going to need backlinks.
First, start with quality. You need backlinks from authoritative websites with real search engine traffic.
But then you need to decide where those links should point. I’ll eliminate a few options for you right now: You don’t need to build backlinks to any of your social profiles.
If you want to get fancy with it, you can build what’s called tier two links to your GBP, YouTube video URLs and directory profiles.
These help to boost those properties in the rankings — making it more likely they’ll occupy valuable space on page one of Google for your business name — and because you link to your website from these properties, they’ll funnel even more link juice your way.
It’s a win-win.
You can go in a lot of directions with this part, but the point is clear: You need backlinks. Lots of them. There’s no other way to gain total control of your online reputation.
SEO is powerful. It’s not hard to see how it can bring more business through your doors. But many people underestimate the power of SEO to boost ORM efforts.
But not you — not after reading this guide. Now, you know just how important SEO is in the long-term management of your online reputation.
And you’re not going to wait any longer to start protecting the reputation of the business you’ve worked so hard to build.
Right? I hope so.
Trust me — you won’t regret gaining control of your visibility in search engines for any reason. And you’ll LOVE the ability to hedge against the next negative review or article that comes your way.