What’s the best way to get rid of a body? You make it disappear of course. What’s the best way to recover your reputation when its been tarnished? You make that disappear too. When your reputation is at risk and you feel you have no way out, online reputation management (ORM) companies often seem like a viable option for recovery.
The concept of reputation management is nothing new. Businessmen across the centuries have often worked tirelessly to ensure their reputations remained pristine, but now with the advent of the internet, ORM has taken on a life of its own. And while ORM companies may seem like the perfect answer to all of your reputation related woes, you may be in for a rude awakening.
Online Reputation Management – A Double-Edged Sword
It was only a few short years ago that the online reputation management industry was estimated to grow into a $5 billion behemoth, but at this point, it wouldn’t be surprising if the industry has surpassed even this initial analysis.
With the wide scale proliferation of online review platforms like Yelp, reputation reigns supreme. One bad review could cost a business thousands. You could lose much more if your personal reputation were tarnished.
Fixing your reputation isn’t cheap. ORMs can charge anywhere from $5,000 – $20,000 a month per client. And while those prices may seem outrageous, you have to consider what online reputation management entails.
Let’s say you’re a doctor who has been accused of malpractice. Whenever anyone pulls up your name on Google, they’re presented with all the juicy details of your past misdoings. As a doctor, do you think you’ll be able bring in new patients with that type of heat hanging over your head? Of course not.
That’s where ORM services come in handy. In a bid to outwit Google’s algorithm, ORM companies will create a series of articles, press releases, and website promotions that focus on the good deeds of your organization and push them out to as many authoritative websites as they can to generate links.
The goal is to convince Google to rank this new, positive content at the top of the search engines, and slowly push down negative press until its been forced onto the second page. Out of sight, out of mind.
And while there are plenty of legitimate ORM companies that rely on authentic marketing methods to accomplish this goal, the industry is rife with those who break the rules. More than a few ORM companies have been known to rely on “black hat” techniques to get the job done.
“Black hatters” as we’ll call them for the purposes of this article, have been known to create fake articles, Yelp reviews, and Wikipedia pages amongst other unscrupulous acts. Just like legitimate ORM strategies, the goal is to convince Google to push down negative press and replace it with positive content about your “good deeds.” The problem is, with this technique, your new and improved reputation will be built on a web of lies and deceit.
While cleaning up one controversy you potentially start another if you’re caught. Plus, it doesn’t help that many black hat strategies are known to be temporary at best. Imagine paying $20,000 to clean up your reputation to only have the same bad press resurface a few months down the road. Talk about a bad investment.
Should you trust online reputation management companies in 2019?
It’s funny, really. Our reputations can be our greatest asset, but they can also be our greatest weakness. With online review platforms commonplace in today’s digital landscape, it’s more critical now than ever before that we carefully tend to our ever so fragile reputations.
When it comes to online reputation management, prudence is key. Legitimate companies will utilize tactics that will take months before bearing fruit. You may pay a pretty penny, but you can sleep soundly at night knowing you used legitimate means to rebuild your online image.
Beware the less than truthful ORM services, however. Rebuilding your reputation on lies and deceit is a lot like building your business on quicksand – eventually, you’re going to sink. The problem is, it can be difficult to tell the legitimate services from the black hat variant. Ironically, your best option is to rely on the reputation of the ORM company in question to identify their legitimacy.
Your best bet is to make amends for the actions that ruined your reputation in the first place and aim to accomplish good deeds that will attract the attention of legitimate news sources. Over time, people will hopefully see your sincerity and give you a second chance.
Time heals all wounds, but only if you go about it the right way. Try to trick your way back to the top and you may end up burying yourself in a very deep hole.