1. How did you first become interested in working in the area of ORM?
I have an extensive background in eCommerce, and that taught me a lot about how displeased customers interact with online companies. It wasn't uncommon for us to find out about a problem with an order by getting a bad online review. Sometimes the customers wouldn't even contact us first. I saw that this was an issue that most eCommerce companies had. You can't please every single customer every time. Online review sites are an outlet where consumers can express their frustration. This is what spurred my interest in online reputation management.
2. How important are online reviews when it comes to the reputation of a business, and what should business owners do upon discovering negative reviews?
According to a recent study conducted by Harvard Business School, if a business increases their Yelp star rating by just 1 star, it leads to a 5-9% increase in revenues. Additionally, a study by Cornell University, which examined sites like TripAdvisor and Travelocity, found that a 1 star increase would allow a hotel to charge 11.2% more. The popularity of online review sites is only growing.
It is important for businesses to be proactive and begin building their online reputation and positive reviews now. Don't wait for a negative review to appear. If you start building up positive reviews now, it will help drown out any negative reviews when they get posted. An example of this would be: You are searching for a new business online. You find two: the first has one negative review, and the other has 25 positive reviews and 3 negative. Which would you do business with? When you do get a negative review, it is important to respond to the review, keeping the message short and emotion-free. Try to contact the customer if at all possible because when you resolve a complaint and make the customer happy, it is very common for people to delete their negative review if satisfied. When you do respond to the negative review, do not include your personal name. If you include your personal name, the negative review may start ranking for your name when people Google you, which causes yet another online reputation issue.
3. What can people do if there's negative information about them posted online in such contexts as public records or newspaper articles?
The first thing highly visible people usually do is work to get a positive article with the same paper. This is not advised, as when you get additional media, even if it is positive, most news software platforms perform name-matching, so they usually show a link to the negative article at the bottom of the new article. This is because news sources want to recycle old content and continue earning revenue from it. I have seen this happen more times than I can count. What I advise is to get positive media from a different news source, particularly an online-focused news site.
Whenever negative information is posted as public records or on news sites, it is usually syndicated pretty well, so the challenge went from one listing to multiple, sometimes even hundreds. Government sites and newspaper sites are authoritative in the algorithms of search engines and social media, so they tend to get much higher visibility than normal sites. This presents more of a challenge when you are trying to suppress this information. It is still possible to suppress a negative listing on these types of sites; however, it will require substantially more time and resources.
4. For people who want a DIY approach, what are some things they can do to boost their positive search results for themselves as individuals, or for their businesses?
The first thing is to develop a blog, and write about things you are passionate about--for example, your job, hobbies, or charities you believe in. This is one of the most important things you can do for personal branding and to take control of your online reputation. Write blog articles using keyword phrases that people would type into a search engine when searching for you.
Secondly, do what I am doing right now. Reach out to other blog authors in your vertical that you respect, and offer to write an article for them, or offer an interview. If there are forums in your vertical, make sure you participate in them. Offer free advice and information. You want people to see you as an expert in your field, and the best way to do this is to start out helping others in a public manner. But don't just limit yourself to blogs and forums; participate in groups on social media platforms such as Facebook, Linkedin, and Pinterest.
Businesses should also be active in online review sites in which their customers participate. When a customer leaves you a review, whether positive or negative, take the time out to write a detailed response to each one.
5. As an expert in the field, what are some services you offer that go beyond what most people might readily know about and/or be able to do?
I always recommend that you should first try to develop positive listings yourself. In a small amount of cases, people will be successful and not need a firm like ours. However, in most cases they make a small amount of progress, and then it flatlines. Once a person or a company has begun developing their online reputation, they begin to truly understand how much resources are needed in order to successfully control their online reputation. We have an extensive team of writers that produce content for clients, and teams of link builders which enhance the visibility of listings.
The greatest reason a business or individual should hire an online reputation management firm is that firms like ours have established relationships with media outlets that we can leverage for our clients. In addition to this, we have the resources available in order to create large amounts of high quality content, large teams of link builders which can boost listings on search engine ranking, and webmasters who know how to build or optimize sites, blogs, profiles and other listings which will rank well, and who can execute on a campaign very quickly.
Unfortunately many clients feel hopeless when they call us. They have tried for months or even years to suppress a negative listing with little to no success. We make it clear that there is hope, and we can help them.