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Marketing 19 min read November 25, 2023

SERM Essentials: How to Protect Your Site's Online Image

SERM Essentials: Protecting Your Site's Online Image
Kateryna Hordiienko
Kateryna Hordiienko
Research Editor at Serpstat

One of the key factors in a company's success is its online reputation. According to ReviewTrackers, 94% of users try to avoid businesses with mostly negative reviews. And only 8% agree to work with companies if their average rating is below 3.5 points. If you don't want to lose more than 90% of your target audience, you must put effort into online reputation management (ORM). 

But how can you change your rating from negative to positive? At first glance, it seems like fighting against windmills or trying to calm the sea. There is a bit of truth in this, but you should remember there are modern technologies that can help you in both cases. In this article, we'll explain what search engine reputation management (SERM) is, how it benefits your business, and what methods are used.  

What Is Search Engine Reputation Management (SERM)?

SERM involves a series of strategies aimed at cultivating a positive reputation for a company, brand, product, or individual within search engine results for particular queries. Its objective is to improve the company's online reputation by filling the first pages with positive or neutral materials. Removing negative reviews and testimonials is unnecessary — it is enough to lower them below the top 20 results, where, according to the research, only 0.63% of users look.  

It is essential to understand that managing the online reputation of companies or individuals involves links and other tools. It also implies working with FAQs, related topics, images, videos, and even autocomplete suggestions in the search bar. SERM methods are much like software testing — specialists check even improbable scenarios, eliminating the slightest chance of negative information leakage.  

Initially, managing online reputation in search engines was just one of the PR areas. But as digitalization became more widespread, it became increasingly important. Today, SERM is as important as offline PR. And in the future, the roles may change — the latter will become just an auxiliary tool used only in narrow industries. 

Why the SERM Matters?

Brand name and reputation are among the most valuable business assets in the era of global communications. If you tarnish them with dubious actions, there is a chance that the whole planet will know about it in a few days. And the more interesting and scandalous the news is, the faster it spreads through the web. The same applies to black PR from competitors or dissatisfied customers, a negative image can be formed without any significant mistakes. 

When such problems arise, it's important to start restoring your online reputation as soon as possible to minimize the damage and maintain contact with your target audience. Better yet, take preventive measures to protect you from black PR and other attacks. 

Moreover, online rep management allows you to build a sustainable image of a responsible brand that keeps in touch with consumers and all stakeholders. Today, people don't just want to buy a product that meets their needs. They need a product that allows them to contribute to solving global problems — social, economic, environmental, etc. For many consumers, this factor is as important as price and quality. 

By managing your company's reputation, you also get the following benefits:

1.Increased conversion rates and improved key website metrics. According to Google statistics, 59% of users conduct their own online research when choosing products, and 97% pay attention to reviews from other customers.
2.Increased SEO and PPC effectiveness. Imagine that people will see negative information about your company next to your link or, even worse, your ad. Such a "neighborhood" can reduce click-through rates several times, negating all the results you have achieved in recent months. 
Benefits of online reputation management
3.Get back some of the lost customers. If a company fixes a problem mentioned in a negative review within 5 minutes, most unhappy customers change their opinion. There is a high probability that they will come back to you again instead of switching to competitors. 
4.Get valuable feedback. With your business reputation tracking, you will get acquainted with many customer requests and understand their essence in detail. Access to a modern analytics system lets you quickly identify the main patterns and see your company's weaknesses.

Types of Online Reputation Management

SERM is usually associated with SEO methods. This is not surprising because it is about influencing search results for certain requests in both cases. Optimizing your website and filling your guest blogs with interesting content can increase the ranking of positive mentions, pushing negative content off the first pages of Google. However, the scope of online reputation managers' activities is much wider. It also includes:

1.Monitoring the current situation. For this purpose, specialized online reputation services for research are used. We already spoke about the top 5 tools for tracking brand mentions. Using them lets you control the target audience's attitude, main problems and preferences, and sources of this content. 
2.Marketing policy. Almost all business promotion tools can be used to manage the company's reputation. For example, along with the benefits of the product, you can include a message about the brand's social responsibility in your advertising. Another example is using discounts and bonuses as compensation for negative customer experience. 
3.Protection against targeted attacks. Online reputation managers should monitor and respond promptly to attacks from competitors and opponents. They contact the platforms' owners where the reviews are posted, send complaints, or provide evidence that such reactions are false.

Source: ReputationX 

Online reputation management
4.PR. When authoritative figures and independent media give positive feedback, it boosts a business's reputation. Therefore, the ORM process often includes cooperation with well-known journalists, bloggers, and other influencers. 
5.Managing online reviews. The rules for building a good reputation are quite simple. Encourage people to leave positive reviews by offering them bonuses; work with negative ones. When someone is unhappy, fix small issues in public and talk about big problems privately.
6.SMM. As part of reputation management, firms create official profiles on social media. By keeping in touch with their target audience, they respond quickly to requests, receive valuable information, and can comprehensively improve their marketing policy. 
7.Advertising campaigns. Paid ads can promote both certain products and your business messages. Such reputation management services are more expensive, but they give instant results. They often act as a "fire extinguisher." This helps put out negativity so you can handle things calmly.
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How to Do Search Engine Reputation Management?

Online rep management is a complicated process requiring careful preparation and planning. In this guide, we'll explore tools designed to monitor your current online standing effectively, address emerging issues, safeguard against potential attacks, and cultivate a positive brand image. This comprehensive approach ensures you can manage and enhance your digital reputation.

Identifying your current online reputation

When starting any endeavor, you should know what you can begin with. Therefore, the first step is to audit your business's reputation. Of course, manual work will be long and only sometimes effective. You will need specialized tools. For example, you can use the Rank tracker to monitor positions by key branded keywords or other queries related to your company name.

Rank tracker

Other popular reputation management services are also worth mentioning:

  • Yext Reviews
  • ReviewTrackers
  • Podium
  • Reputation Defender Reviews
  • BirdEye
  • Remember that any mentions are important for the company's reputation, regardless of their content, tone, and placement. Even if they seem insignificant and uninfluential today, the situation may change tomorrow. 

      Brand's search engine presence monitoring

      It is elementary to check the search results. Open a new browser window in incognito mode, go to a search engine, and enter your company name. You can also use anonymization services, such as a VPN or proxy, to disable the personalization of search results and allow you to see the situation from the perspective of a third party.

      Web and App Activity

      Using monitoring tools, you will get even more information. Serpstat allows you to analyze keywords, CTR, and the SEO traffic of each site with negative reviews. If a business has negative online reviews, 86% of consumers might not buy anything. So you can determine how much profit you're losing and how much revenue SERM will bring.

      Remember that online reputation management in SEO is not limited to Google. Although the company's share of the search engine market exceeds 90%, it still has competitors. Even if negative mentions in Bing or Yahoo are almost invisible, they can become the basis for a black PR campaign. 

        Strategies to improve positive search results

        You can use particular strategies to manage and improve your search result presence. This turns the internet into a landscape of visibility and reputation-building opportunities. There are just a few:

        1.Use conventional SEO management methods. Your website should be the first by branded keywords or at least in the top 5. If you don't appear on the first page of search results, the situation is catastrophic — you need to react immediately. Promotion tools will be as usual: content and meta tag optimization, link building, fixing technical errors, speeding up loading, etc. 
        2.Remove negative mentions whenever possible. Outreach is one of the methods of reputation management online. Contact the reviews' authors and the platforms' owners where the comment was posted. If these reactions violate the rules, refer to this fact. If not, find out what the requirements are. Some people just want attention, while others demand money. The question of whether to pay for removing harmful content is very complicated. However, the reputation of a business is often much more valuable. 
        3.Fill independent platforms with guest posts. If you can't eliminate negative reviews, you should move them down in search results. As part of your company's online presence management, you should order guest posts on reputable platforms — popular blogs, news services, review aggregators, etc. Don't forget about experts and influencers — mentions on social media often look more authentic and effective. 
        4.Promote positive content. To build your company's positive reputation, actively share existing reviews on social media and other platforms. Duplicate them on your website using special plugins. A good practice for online reviews management is to encourage the creation of user-generated content. Promise benefits to those who maintain a company's positive image — a discount, bonus, access to an exclusive newsletter, etc.

        Of course, every business and individual will have their own customized reputation management online strategies. But you can use the essential tools as the basis for a system to protect your positive image. 

        How to deal with negative search results effectively?

        Not everyone will agree to delete their review. SEO techniques for managing a business's online reputation are rather slow. Meanwhile, negative content remains visible to hundreds of thousands of users, continuing to affect your company negatively. To reduce its impact and improve the situation, you can use the following company reputation management techniques:

        SEO for better reputation management

        Controlling branded search requests, publishing guest posts, and promoting positive reactions are not the only SEO tools for a business's online presence management. You can also take advantage of the following techniques:

        1.Confirm facts and refute rumors. Requests related to the most sensitive topics often appear in the autocomplete search bar and in the FAQ section. It is very difficult to remove them from there. To save your business's reputation, optimize the pages under your control for these queries and share your side of the story through them. 
        2.Generate positive news. Companies can fill their websites and blogs with engaging content that others want to share to improve online reputation management. You can learn more about this in our article on content marketing for small businesses.
        3.Promote your brand and reputation on social media. Agencies offering reputation management services often use viral marketing methods. By using current trends and memes, they stimulate brand discussion, increase brand awareness, and motivate further spread of the company's message.
        Starbucks Coffee

        Audience engagement to boost SERM

        Another method of reputation management for companies is using user-generated content (UGC). We've already talked a lot about testimonials and reviews, but you shouldn't limit yourself to them. The example of successful companies shows that it will be very effective to use:

        Create advocates and brand ambassadors who will protect the company's reputation without unnecessary reminders from you. To do this, work with the most loyal customers, offering them special terms of cooperation, personalized offers, and significant bonuses.  

        Long-term SERM Strategy

        Corporate reputation management or personal online reputation management should be an ongoing process. People make mistakes, companies choose the wrong ways of communication. Therefore, it will be good if the negative reaction reflects off your shield and does not hit you in the heart. To build a reputation in marketing management strategy, follow these recommendations:

        Source: Kitchen And Bathroom Marketing

        Reputation Management Tips

        Conclusions: Can You Change How Google Sees You?

        Knowing what a SERM is, we can confidently say yes, you can control search results, albeit within certain limits. Key methods of managing corporate reputation and online personal reputation management allow you to promote positive results and lower the rating of harmful ones. And even if you cannot influence certain content, you can always share your vision of the situation or neutralize the negativity with the help of expert opinion. 

        Understanding that SERM and ORM should not be a means of emergency response is crucial. You should build a strategy for protecting your online reputation rather than repelling specific attacks. Being proactive makes it much easier to maintain a positive business image. 

        FAQ

        SERM is a part of ORM that focuses on how a brand is seen in search results. ORM covers more online platforms and interactions. Both are integral to maintaining a positive online presence and reputation.

        SEO focuses on improving visibility and traffic from search engines. SERM manages the perception of a brand or person in search results. SEO is a key component of SERM, but SERM extends beyond SEO to address reputation-related challenges specifically.

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