No business can have a successful online presence without Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Online Reputation Management (ORM). Both disciplines need continuous work, monitoring, and growth to deliver results. Finding and maintaining the perfect balance between SEO and ORM is a long, time consuming, assiduous and, yes, mandatory process.
On the one hand, SEO is a total of tools and methods designed to improve the ranking of your website in the SERPs (search engine results pages). You can control the way you optimize your website for better rankings, both on-site and off-site. The primary role of SEO is to make your website – an entity you can control – visible and findable in the search.
ORM’s scope, on the other hand, is to build and protect the reputation of your brand online and it only deals with third-party websites or entities that you cannot control. For example, all review sites, forums, social media networks, independent blogs, online news sites and magazines, and a plethora of parasitic sites designed to damage private and corporate reputations.
Without ORM You Can Lose Your Brand Equity
The Internet is a very competitive medium, and contenders for a higher position in the SERPs often employ cut-throat strategies to outrank businesses in the same niche and in proximity to their geo-location. This is where SEO and ORM intersect: a company with a poor online reputation may lose its ranking in the SERPs.
For example, a competitor with a grudge can launch a fake reviews attack against your property in Google, TripAdvisor, and similar sites. These fake reviews don’t necessarily need to be negative: all review sites flag fake reviews and penalize companies that engage in such practices. For example, TripAdvisor has a review moderation and fraud detection arm employing both human moderators and automated tools that flag questionable content. Fraudulent reviews can cause serious reputation issues for a brand:
- A property may drop by several pages in the TripAdvisor popularity index.
- The property will no longer be eligible for inclusion in TripAdvisor’s Travelers Choice awards, Top 10 lists, press releases, etc.
- A large red penalty notice – or a “red badge” – explaining that the property’s reviews are suspicious may appear on the listing page.
The warning, issued in 2010, reads:
“TripAdvisor has reasonable cause to believe that individuals or entities associated with or having an interest in this property may have interfered with traveler reviews and/or the popularity index for this property. We make our best efforts to identify suspicious content and are always working to improve the processes we use to assess traveler reviews.”
However, these instances are rare. TripAdvisor would first email the company in question and warn it before issuing the badge, and this is a good thing because rarely, there are situations when the flagged property may not be behind the questionable content.
TripAdvisor states it has tools in place to identify businesses impersonating a competitor and even to recognize reviews submitted by optimization companies. But Google, for example, is bad at detecting fake business reviews. So, if a competitor cannot harm your TripAdvisor listing that much, you are in danger if you don’t monitor your Google My Business listings to address the problems as they arise.
Addressing fake and negative reviews that can harm your brand is crucial not just to re-establish trust, but also to protect your SEO efforts.
According to studies conducted late last year by Local SEO Guide, reviews were the most prominent local SEO factor in 2017:
“Reviews are obviously a driving factor of ranking in Google My Business pack results. The prominence of reviews isn’t particularly shocking, as it’s a way for Google to crowdsource ranking factors.”
Since reviews matter a lot for local SEO, monitoring them is imperative. Besides their value for SEO, here are some of the reasons why reviews matter for ORM, from our research, Hotel Digital Marketing Trends 2018
- 83% SEOs say that reviews and reputation management “absolutely” deliver excellent ROI.
- Onsite customer reviews can increase conversions by 74%. (TrustPilot)
- 88% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. (think with Google)
- 77% of people take the time to read product reviews before making a purchase.
- 76% of travelers are willing to pay more for a hotel with higher review scores (TrustYou)
- 28.7% of business travelers considered ratings and reviews most important when deciding between properties. (Koddi)
- Reviews are a part of Google’s hotel SERP ranking algorithm. (Confirmed by Google in 2017)
- TrustYou is the world’s most trusted guest feedback software (Google is licensing its review summaries from TrustYou).
- 52% of travelers say summarized review content is the easiest way to consume travel reviews
These statistics show just how important reviews are for online reputation management. You can use TrustYou to manage reviews on TripAdvisor and on hundreds of travel sites worldwide, including Google, KAYAK, and Hotels.com and to manage your reputation. It is also noteworthy that TrustYou powers Google hotel scores for search and maps since 2016.
ORM Is not All About Monitoring Reviews
While reviews play a definite role in maintaining the balance between SEO and ORM, there’s more to consider to protect your reputation online. In fact, ORM is essential enough to be supported by Google too: when you find defamatory information on sites you cannot control, you can ask Google to remove it from its SERPs.
When you manage your online reputation, you make sure that customers looking for your business outside your website find information that is fair and trustworthy. This is why it is crucial to address any issues that can have a negative impact on the way your clients see your brand online.
For example, bloggers can publish individual reviews on their sites, or just mention your hospitality business in connection with a trip. Journalists can include your hotel in a “where to stay” roundup about your location and in other press materials. Social media mentions can affect your online reputation too. Monitoring these mentions is an integrated aspect of ORM. You can use Social Mention for real-time searches, and Trackur for social media and mainstream news, including Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and so on, with in-depth analytics, sentiment analysis, and influencer scoring. Or BrandsEye – a powerful AI tool that will help you understand what drives public opinion. For complaint sites, a search with Go Fish Digital’s Complaint Search engine draws data from over 40 complaint websites.
Here’s Why SEO and ORM Are Equally Important
Both SEO and ORM aim to drive leads for profits. While SEO brings traffic, ORM builds trust. Most hotel guests will research their destinations before booking, reading articles and reviews, asking for opinions on social media and in forums. If your online reputation is poorly managed and your brand is plagued by negative reviews and negative sentiment, you can lose the leads, and your revenue will drop. You can have the best SEO experts working around the clock to keep your site ranking at the top of the SERPs, but if your online reputation is terrible, you will not bring the guests in. SEO cannot work without ORM.
It is also important to understand that online reputation management is not an aspect of search engine optimization, but an element of public relations. ORM may use search engine optimization techniques to push bad content down in the SERPs too – usually by populating search results with positive news and events. For this, ORMs and PRs reach out to journalists, bloggers, and social media influencers. The need for professional PR in managing online reputation is evident: poor pitching can make the situation worse, and while SEOs know a lot about content marketing, pitching journalists is not necessarily their forte.
The best option for the health of your brand and for the growth of your business is to do both and to find a way to balance SEO and ORM to avert a PR crisis.