Best Ways to be proactive for an ORM campaign
Being proactive for a client’s reputation management campaign and knowing what destinations to point links to is an important part of a successful campaign. In technical terms an ORM destination in a search repair campaign is a web page, link, or document that you link out to in a campaign.
As a Utah based company and LDS principles, we take pride in ensuring that we take on clientele that is not egregious. We draw a hard line against promoting and helping those who have black marks against them. It’s not easy to be a judge and decide what is acceptable, what is hearsay versus the truth and we try to be diligent in following ethical principles and practices that have allowed us to be in business for over a decade. If you’re a client or agency looking to have The Reputation Management Company help somebody with a troubled past we ask that it passes the sniff test as we have principles and ethics when taking on an ORM client.
If the client you are looking to take on has a very bad lawsuit or criminal charge that has decimated their business and they can’t grow as a result, you may want to inspect what the issue is and if it’s endemic then think about passing as one bad client can hurt your business should things go wrong. The search engine results are constantly changing and having a pulse on where peoples eyeballs are looking and how to protect your client in a proactive way is crucial.
This image below shows all the different locations and visuals in a search result in 2021. From the carousel results, rich snippets, info boxes, videos, and “people also ask” boxes you have your hands full in trying to own a search result query today.
Things To Avoid with a Reputation Management Campaign
So start off by not creating fake news. It’s bad enough that we had to hear about misinformation and fake news for the last 5 years. Don’t spread more misinformation and stories that may ultimately need to be removed. It hurts credibility for the industry and the promotion of clearly false information and fake persons can have a Streisand effect. So stop problems from occurring by not creating a potential problem.
A desperate client will just want their negative search results to be buried. In some cases, we get asked to completely delete me from the internet and to a degree that is possible. The issue is data scraper websites will then re-post your personal data and any hostile ex-business partners, bloggers, or ex-girlfriends or boyfriends may want to post new content about you now that your old history has been deleted by a reputation repair firm.
Beware of bad clients who have hostility against you and the internet right from the start. They may swear up and down that the results are false but their actions toward you as their potential savior can quickly point out that the internet is telling the truth and this is a hostile client to avoid. In other cases, false accusations that sound true may be false but it will be up to how the client reacts and treats you to help determine.
Depending on the size of your public relations agency you can fact check the online rumors and false accusations to see what is real and what is not before taking on a client that you may want to avoid. Just this past month we had a big Hollywood celebrity who was off the wall and had to be canceled by us. If a client wants to fabricate things on the internet it’s important to warn them about the dangers of doing this and how false lies will spread and make it harder to fix when a problem arises.
Find Good Placement Opportunities That Are A Fit For Your Online Reputation Client
The key to a successful reputation management campaign is having a strategy that ties in high-quality placements. Putting out honest & factual content is going to help out tremendously on high-quality websites. If you’re working with a client or company that has an established history in the business world and lots of press you will have an easier job promoting versus a high schooler whose parents are hiring you out of necessity.
A prominent lawyer that has donated to charities and has been an active member of the community of the past 20 years may have local news organizations covering them but not necessarily CNN and ABC news stories about their work. If they have good past coverage you can leverage those references in a PR campaign.
The key difference when creating placements in an ORM campaign versus past press is that our coverage is optimized to have a near 100% share of voice in the piece versus a brand mention. If you have an online stalker who wants to attack you they will do whatever they can to dig up dirt and defame you online.
As a last resort, slander & defamation lawsuits are an option to remove attacks but crazy people are relentless and will continue to post attacks. In the content promotion campaign promote the good facts for your client and let the difficult answers to defend be buried a little further down the SERPS and then you can share your version of what happened but we don’t recommend promoting the negative story even with your side of events. Better to sweep it under the proverbial search engine rug and let Google displace it over time.
Public PR Events During A Reputation Repair Campaign
Some clients can’t stand to be out of the spotlight. Others enlist your help because they are going to be in the press and don’t want an old negative to affect their career. In cases like this, the public visibility campaign should be accompanied by online media that you create and add in keywords that may be searched to solve the recent and relevant signal in Google and Facebook’s algorithms.
If the high profile client insists that they need to talk about the controversial situation then advise them to promote boring facts that can’t be disputed and invite them to subscribe to your website, social media channels (Instagram, TikTok, TwitterFacebook, Website Email) to get updates on a big announcement. This is important because now you have them engaged in your own ecosystem versus letting them run wild on the internet and going down a potential conspiracy theory rabbit hole.
When picking out what social media channels to give out. Do the ones with the biggest reach that give you the most control over negative comments. IG is a great platform but you may have to moderate comments and bring in extra employees to help with this screening process. Also, figure out what you want to promote and link to. High-end media without comments is great as are your own personal branded websites. Let the highest value content rise up while the low-quality conspiracy theory and blogger attacks fall down.
In other words, you want truthful, factual publications and content from high-end news sites, social media channels, and branded websites.
Classifying Owned Media vs. Search Clutter
As we start out with any campaign we ask clients to send over a list of their current online assets. As mentioned above their social media and branded websites are a key leg up when starting a campaign versus somebody who doesn’t have any relevant search results. We want to promote owned media into your moat. Think of that protection where only via a hacker can your website turn against you. You control the content and promote positive achievements and news for your audience and those researching you to see.
In a lot of cases, clients have owned media that doesn’t optimize for the search query they want to protect. In many cases, they have content from big-name publications like The Wall Street Journal or Forbes but it’s not optimized for their name or company. For a leading digital marketing agency, it’s a dagger in the heart when we see high domain authority websites that lack even the tiniest bit of relevance to our client’s protected queries. In most instances whatever is in the Corporate Communications or Publicity queue won’t help with the type of reputation repair and protection campaign we’re running.
The most common issue with high DA websites that our clients have previously been covered on is that it’s not optimized enough to rank for the queries we’re targeting and end up complimenting the campaign but not controlling it. Our reputation repair team will divide your list of assets into different buckets to help organize relevant owned media placements, branded content, news articles, high-end editorials, social media websites, and irrelevant owned media and content. The irrelevant could be a different brand that you own but doesn’t rank for the brand or company we are campaigning for. We wouldn’t want to change a skincare page to target people searching for your financial services company and vice versa.
Once we have the buckets organized on what we can promote with a high probability of success versus content that will most likely not rise higher in the search engine results. We then discuss future public relations campaigns, upcoming newsworthy events, or storylines that we can help compliment and both rank our content and the earned media that will come given that it doesn’t have any negative connotations that we’re avoiding.
In some cases with smaller clients, there are the well-known data scrapper websites that we typically remove with our data privacy removal and the consistent “delete myself from the internet” type of requests. If a client wants to fill up the search engine results however we can take those neutral results and classify them in the promotional campaign. The bucket from our back end is organized with Owned media placements, social media owned, social media 3rd party, neutral search results, positive but not optimized, blog posts, social profiles high-end editorials, and irrelevant media. From there we can pick and choose what results to promote as we see changes in the search engine rankings.
If the client doesn’t have any content, which we do come across from time to time then we can create your persona from scratch. In 10+ years of being in the industry only once have, we found a query that had less than 3 search results.
What You Don’t Want To Promote & Why
Picking placements is one step of the campaign & organizing is another that we just went through but what about the type of content you don’t want to link to? It’s important to avoid websites and documents that can have the opposite effect of protecting your client. At all costs, you need to protect your client’s SERPs in all legal ways without violating search engine guidelines.
These are the outbound link placements to avoid and why:
- Fan Pages – These sites cover the good and the bad. Just take a look at an R. Kelly fan page
- Business Rating and Review Websites – These are the shakedown websites like Consumer Affairs and Better Business Bureau that are known for pay to play
- Wikipedia – With daily edits, a page can turn from positive to negative in an instant
- Wiki sites – Same issue as Wikipedia but with less domain authority
- Video Websites – If you can control the comments then its okay if not beware of the wrath if you do something bad
- Twitter – Have you seen the comments on each tweet from your haters?
- Message boards – Message boards, forums, and discords allow commentary and it’s a lot harder to delete 50 messages on one page than one bad blog post
- Review Sites – Think Yelp.com or Facebook Business Pages with open reviews and how they want to charge you to help moderate the reviews on your page
- Financial News Results – If you’re a public company we would want to avoid stock market listings, earning reports, coin listings, ICOs, and crypto reports
- Family websites – You may have a family reunion website but an attacker will use that as ammo to go after your loved ones and we want to avoid
- Business Intelligence Reporting – These websites whether it’s a Zoom Info or a Data Scrapper Site these sites can change their content and or fall out of the SERPs
- Job Boards – Think job listing sites like indeed.com or craigslist, They’re dynamic pages that will fade away
- Paywalled content – If you want your audience to read about your accomplishments it’s best that they can easily access it
- Soft 404 pages – Soft or normal 404 pages that are no longer live shouldn’t be linked to as they will fall off
- Court record results – We have a stellar record of helping to remove court cases for clients and most don’t want to promote their court verdicts good or bad
- Category & Archive Pages – In a WordPress site these pages get indexed but are not the ideal pages to promote along with author, date or index pages
- Individual Social Media Posts – Think about that one good tweet that is still allowing comments
- User-Generated Content Sites with open comments
- Family Social Media Profiles – Same reason to stay away from the family reunion page
- Old pages that haven’t been updated in 10+ years – We want to promote new stuff not stale stories as they lose flavor in Google’s eyes (in most cases)
Any content that you promote on web pages that host low-quality content is going to be detrimental to your campaign’s success. Stay away from sites that are stale or ones that don’t post new content very often. If a site updates every 2 months it’s most likely not a great site to do an editorial on versus a local news site that accepts opinion pieces. You want to avoid URLs that are unstable or transient with respect to how the content is changing based on paid guest posts. The nature of these pages is a violation of Google’s web spam guidelines.
Protecting clients’ privacy and their personal life as mentioned on web pages to not link to. If you have a high-profile client who wants to keep their privacy in tact then you should not reference their children or spouses. Keep stray online content bullets away from your clients and stop them from getting harassed if only due to the association of being a family member.
Doing Reputation Repair for Public Companies
This can be a bit tricky because publicly traded corporations have a lot of guidelines and compliance measures that they need to follow. If you put out press releases on Globenewswire, PRNewswire.com, or BusinessWire.com you need to disclose that the companies are public.
If you manipulate the stock price then you have SEC issues and bigger problems of your own that you need to be aware of before you start up a reputation improvement campaign. If you’re solely handling release announcements of earnings and such then you should be keen to avoid trading in that company’s stock as you would be obtaining insider information.
It’s not a client that you have to avoid as working with publicly traded companies is an honor but there are risks to understand. You also have to voice your concerns and think through the process legally and logically.
What Are The Best Content Pieces To Create & Link To?
As we talked above about content that should be avoided when it comes to outbound links this is a list with notes on what makes great properties for an ORM campaign:
- Social Media Profiles – Linkedin is one of the best. The others you should turn off the comments
- Personal Brand Websites
- Corporate Domains with target keywords in the URL
- News Releases
- Press Releases
- Blog Posts on non-spam websites
- Academic Research
- Videos without comments turned on
- Biographical Interviews
- Business Interviews
- Business Scrapper Sites that don’t invade personal data that you don’t want public
- PDF Uploads
- Resume Sites
Avoid business directory links and old abanded websites that have been reoptimized thanks to content found on sites like archive.org and the way back machine. A corporate or academic-based client will have a lot of web scrapper results and old documents that got indexed online.
You don’t want to promote old invoices, government reports, court records, transcripts, and old newsletter information that should be de-indexed or in a supplemental index at best. There’s a wealth of junk online about any person or business but it’s best to promote and create good new relevant content and not wake the dead.
As you create fresh content you will see how fast it will start appearing as you can create a search engine result and sculpt it accordingly if there are old junk search results to start with.
How To Optimize Search Results For An Online Reputation Scrubbing Campaign
How people search for your client is important. Also important is understanding the intent of any Google, Amazon, or Social media search. We’ve been able to successfully alter intent on Amazon.com searches and can influence and scrub certain reviews it’s important to know what the query is that your client wants to target and then understand these four relevant reasons why the pages are ranking:
- The page has enough inbound links with targeted anchor text to show up for the keyword
- The page is optimized for your keyword
- The query is listed on the page and it has inbound anchor text
- There are internal links on the site and the keyword exists in the Title or content of the page
If you are trying to scrub a result and replace it with content that you’ve created for a campaign we suggest you vary your anchor text and do not use all of the same targeted keywords over and over again. The best success comes from highly optimizing a page with high-quality content so that Google can serve up the most relevant results that you’ve created for the query.
Don’t make your campaign easy to reverse engineer. Years ago a Philadelphia-based company Brand.com used similar patterns and link networks and overnight had all of their clients’ campaigns reverted. Doing a stealth reputation management campaign for a client that enjoys their privacy is one of the greatest things a client can ever ask for and receive if you can pull it off but it’s not easy.
Content + Links + Google Autocomplete + Click Through Data
Links are very important. So is content, placements, Click through data, and Google autocomplete suggestions. Combining these important pieces is a formula for success. The unseen autocomplete and click-through data that can be changed is a stealth way to fix search engine results. When dealing with corporate communications teams they will most likely need to review and approve via email (not verbally) the content that is going out. If you don’t they will almost certainly contact you when the content is live and ask for edits or a removal.
The key when dealing with bigger players is to make sure there are not too many cooks in the kitchen trying to dictate the campaign and derail the possibility of success. We’ve seen it where a client didn’t want to optimize for their keyword and was mad when the content didn’t rank above a major news article that was negative and optimized for their name.
The key is to avoid clients who think they’re too good to pay you and threaten to sue you. A big New York real estate developer was famous for this against online reputation management companies and it’s not Donald Trump but David Lichtenstein who’s been known to do this but probably Donald Trump would do it too if he tried to clean up his online image.
If you have a client with a very common name like Vanessa Williams then you have a few unique opportunities to do pieces that compare your client to the other notable versions. There’s an industry of sites that do net worth pages and others that do a “Who Is” report on people that are in the news. In cases like this you can do a piece about your client and at the end note that it’s no relation to the other known Vanessa’s and link out to their URLs to boost up and insulate your clients’ results even more.
If the client is a common name but the city and state tied to the search is rather bare we suggest creating social media profiles and videos to secure their rankings. If they run a business that is niche like a specialty product or manufacturing then you can target industry-specific publications or local media to see if they can do a story and then leverage that for the editorial content you push out after.
Layering the content on and starting with the best and most relevant publications and then topping it off with the supplemental content. Explaining this to your ORM client in the early stages makes managing expectations that much easier as the campaign progresses.
Closing Out An Online Reputation Campaign
There is no Risk Free Online Scrubbing. If you do a good job and are stealthy nobody should notice but it only takes one match to reignite a flame. You don’t want attackers to post more negatives but you also don’t want search algorithms to undo the work you did like the example we shared above. As Google has a core update you don’t want to be shaking in your boots each time.
To get around this make high quality content and follow the guide above. Take fewer risks with your client and you can sleep better at night. Bing, Duck Duck Go, and Google really don’t like search engine reputation companies. If you practice within a white hat theme then you need not worry versus those who are black hat scrubbers.
Search engines prefer to show negatives above positives. Just like local and mainstream media negativity sells. Bumping negative hostilities off of page 1 is the goal and it can be accomplished but positivity just doesn’t sell as much so remember the search results will bounce around because click-through does have an effect on queries.
If you can do a direct removal and deletion with the owner of the website’s approval that’s the best solution. However, it’s not always feasible, and if you can’t delete the negatives remember the result will exist online. So if one wants to find it they will. So inform people with as much relevant and good information as possible high up in the searches to appease their curiosity.