Reputation Management Companies versus SEO Companies

Updated on June 4, 2020
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Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.

Reputation management as a service hit the front pages after Jon Ronson’s book “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” came out in 2015. In his groundbreaking book interviewing people who’ve been publicly shamed by online digital hate mobs, he detailed the impact immediate – and for the first time – months and years after someone was the subject of a modern two minute hate. The subjects were often receiving death threats from thousands of strangers, coordinated efforts to get them fired from work and even harass their family members in an effort to make their lives as miserable as possible. The long-term harm included a seemingly permanent digital stain.

Someone who made a tactless comment or politically incorrect statement online in college, and the online forums blew up and the controversy hits the news. Now that issue presents first page search results in any search engine query regarding that person. It appeared to be an intractable problem until Mr. Ronson found out about reputation management companies that systematically work to replace the bad front page results with better ones.

Mr. Ronson’s book found that some of those seeking these services were criminals, sex offenders and those who wanted their negative search results hidden. Yet the victims of digital hate mobs who may have lost their jobs, had family harassed by thousands of threatening messages or even been subject to identity theft find their future limited because every employer, every possible date, Googles them before meeting them … and then decides not to meet them. The subject of the digital hate mob thus is scarred by the modern equivalent of a scarlet letter. Unless they get help.

Mr. Ronson’s book “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” describes how he paid for one young college student to have these services work to improve her digital reputation at a high price. While few people have such a negative stain, many of us have things popping up in our search results we wished weren’t seen. Others find their search results conflated with others; the good cases can still lead to confusion about one’s skills, bad cases cause others to mistake you for someone worse with the same name, and the neutral cases mean you don’t stand out from the crowd.

In any of these situations, the question arises – should you work with an SEO expert to improve your online rankings and reputation or go for a more expensive reputation management firm?

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The Benefits of a Reputation Management Company

Reputation management companies are better compared to public relations firms than SEO companies. The shady ones create fake press releases touting one’s equally fake accomplishments and flood various channels with press releases. However, this type of service is necessary to generate the sheer volume of positive press and variety of it to crowd out negative search results when someone was the subject of an online hate mob or public scandal.

This is why Jon Ronson had to hire such a service to prevent one politically incorrect poem from having the dark reputational cloud hang over her for the rest of her life.

The Downside of Using a Reputation Management Company

The biggest issue with using reputation management companies is the price. Even basic services can cost thousands of dollars, while ongoing monitoring and “maintenance” runs even higher.

The shady companies that give out awards that don’t exist and create false content can worsen someone’s image if the person’s use of them gets out.

The Benefits of Using SEO Services for Reputation Management

The best SEO companies are cheaper than almost any reputation management service. However, that’s not the only reason you’d want to hire them instead of a reputation management firm.

SEO companies can give you advice to stand out from the literal crowd, such as emphasizing your current job title or adding a middle initial to all of your social media profiles. Whether it is differentiating yourself from the five hundred other people with the same name or clearly separating your results from someone else with a bad reputation, a Calgary SEO expert can help you.

SEO services know how to find and promote content that makes someone look better. This could drive a single motivated negative reviewer of your business or crazy ex who bashed you ceaselessly on social media off the front page search results.

An SEO specialist can teach you how to manage your own reputation online by standardizing your social media profiles and setting up systems to automatically share quality content you create whether it is a Tweet or blog post. They do the work one time to improve your profile with search engines and can give you the advice to maintain it yourself without having to pay a high monthly fee.

The Disadvantages of Using SEO Services

The truly extreme cases are beyond the assistance of SEO services unless the incident was long past. In cases where a negative story keeps getting rewritten and posted through blog “circles”, a search engine optimization service could work to bury those recycled stories and downgrade their rankings while promoting positive content. Those companies that create content as well as deal with search engine optimization can promote good content while creating search engine optimized content to help drive bad content off the front page.

Not all SEO services can create and disseminate new, quality content wide enough to repair the damage that others did. You could end up paying for SEO services that don’t do the degree of work that’s necessary.

© 2020 Tamara Wilhite

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