The real value of Online Reputation Management

Allan Dunlavy 26 Oct 2020

If you think Online Reputation Management is about Google rankings? Think again…

The real value of Online Reputation Management

Too often Online Reputation Management (ORM) is viewed as no more than an exercise in beautifying the first page of Google search results. Here is a situation that may sound familiar: a CEO Googles his or her name (or a friend or family member does it for them!) and all of the results are about someone else or include something untrue, out of context or out of date.

Quickly, an ORM provider is brought in and a project is launched to make the search results more focused on the relevant CEO and with more accurate and up to date information about them. Effectively the key driver – and sole objective – of this project is to improve the first page of the Google results. We are all repeatedly told that a significant majority – always over 95% – never look at the second page or later of the results. The project is completed, and when the CEO and their friends and family Google them, they get relevant and positive results about that individual.

Plainly this is important, and the reputation of the CEO and the search results for the company, product or entrepreneur are crucial to their success and that of the business. But this is a very narrow view of ORM and what it can achieve. Google results are just the window dressing – a virtual business card. It is relatively straightforward to spot any inaccuracies in the results or identify if the information is about the wrong person.

The real substance lies behind the Google results – in how they are used, recycled and relied upon – and by whom.

What lies beneath

The substance in question here are data sets. Every person and company today has a portfolio of digital assets whether they actively seek to develop this or not – Wikipedia pages, websites, social media profiles, online biographies, compliance profiles, review websites – and it is vital that every individual and business actively takes control of this digital portfolio, in the same way that you do with your financial portfolio, and spend time to grow and invest in the assets within it to maximise financial return.

Why? Because this data is used by compliance databases, investigators conducting due diligence reports and deep dives, journalists, NGOs and even governments – we have even seen Google search results and compliance databases relied on to compile Government sanction targets. It may be that 95-99% of people don’t stray beyond the first page of Google when looking into a company, a senior executive or entrepreneur; but the reality is it’s the other 1-5% of people you need to ensure have 100% accurate, up to date information.

These are the individuals or businesses that are doing deep dive due diligence, compliance reports and fact finding to allow others to determine whether to invest with you, employ you, work with you or buy your product or business.

The challenge is, it is much harder to spot if there are inaccuracies or issues in these underlying data sets. It is also often too difficult to track how the inaccuracy or error entered into the data, and where it came from. Errors in this data can have much larger and more important consequences than whether Google results are about the right person or may be out of date. It’s obviously important to ensure that the Google results – your virtual business card – are accurate and up to date but resolving these issues – behind the window dressing – is the real value of ORM.

The power of controlling your real online reputation

It doesn’t matter what you or your company does – whether it is B2B or B2C – everyone from retailers to banks can leverage better business opportunities by strategically managing your online reputation. For example, private equity funds seeking to maximise the value of portfolio companies are missing a significant opportunity if they do not implement a strategic ORM plan for each portfolio company.

ORM checks and remedies though need to go well beyond the first page of Google and flow all the way through the information supply chain from source to end user. Failure to properly conduct a strategic ORM project will lead to a false sense of security. If the Google search results are fine, but the data sets behind this remain inaccurate or out of date, you will at best miss opportunities to maximise value and, at worst, create significant financial harm. ORM may look like a vanity project but the CEOs, companies and entrepreneurs who invest in strategic ORM know there is real financial value in ORM.