It only takes one rotten apple to sour the barrel as the old phrase goes, and this has apparently become the case when it comes to online reputation management.
Online reputation management has, ironically, gotten a bit of a bad rep recently with a lot of critical sentiment leveled against it.
Specifically, people have been questioning the ethics of some of the companies who offer online reputation management services, and whether the tactics they use might do more damage to a companies reputation than they do good.
The questions these critics are raising are completely valid, as there have been some poor tactics used by some online reputation management companies. However, these are just a couple of rotten apples – the whole barrel isn’t sour so to speak and in any industry there are the odd couple of rotten apples isn’t there?
In the world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) there are two different sorts of tactics to generate website traffic. There are ‘white hat’ tactics, and there are ‘black hat’ tactics and it’s the black hats you have to look out for. Put simply black hat tactics are spam, and some reputation management companies use these tactics in a misguided attempt to ‘improve’ businesses online reputation management.
What these black hat companies do is post spam comments on blogs, forums etc and post a url back to the company’s website who’s reputation they are trying to ‘manage’. These tactics do work, and very quickly Google will be filled with results and information about this company, however it will all look pretty suspect. People aren’t stupid, if they see a huge amount of ‘hollow’ comments or generic positive sentiment in their search results they’re likely to get suspicious and will start to wonder, ‘what are they trying to hide?’
Another common technique less than reputable reputation management companies use to ‘manage’ their client’s reputation is the creation of positive reviews. They will actually write positive reviews for companies and then post them on prominent websites in an attempt to drown out any negative sentiment. This of course, is completely unethical. Some companies deserve to have bad reputations simply because they offer bad products or services, and trying to cover that up is wrong.
There is a right way to go about positive management of reputation by promoting ‘real’ positive customer reviews, (not creating fake reviews).
Also avoiding spamming is crucial , because ultimately this does a lot more harm than good. Positive management also includes providing your intended network of clients and prospects with regular and relevant information that they will find useful and interesting. This is how you build positive sentiment with your customers, which has a positive flow on effect for your online reputation.
Online reputation management is important, and when done ethically and positively it can really improve your company’s standing on the internet. However, if the company you trust to manage your reputation engages in unscrupulous tactics, then your reputation is only going to go one way – and that sure isn’t up.