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Online Reputation Management (ORM) deals with everything about your company’s brand in the online community. This community includes the entire web – search engines, forums, blogs, news sites, social networking sites, etc…

Online Reputation Management is first being mindful of your company’s online brand then building on that brand in the search engines (chances are this is where you are sought for the most) through social media and other websites that produce and disseminate content.

As you’re vetting ORM firms, there are key questions to ask as well as red flags to look out for. In this post, I’ll guide you through them so you can go forth confidently as you do your independent research, communicate with ORM firms, read sales materials and review contracts. Here’s what you need to know.

Conduct an online search.

If you’re looking for an ORM firm, chances are you’re going to search online to see what’s out there. My suggestion? Stay away from the companies that spend a lot of money on advertising.

The term online reputation management gets searched in Google 8,100 times each month. That’s a valuable keyword to rank for so it’s no surprise that ORM firms will want to advertise there.

Communicate with ORM firms.

After you’ve done your research, you’ll choose a few firms to reach out to. Here are several warning signs of a bad firm.

Beware of any guarantees about fixing search results.

Some firms out there make absurd claims – bragging that they have been around longer than Google, as if this gives them some special super power. If the firm boasts a quick fix – under six months — guarantees it can achieve certain search results for you, or claims to have some sort of proprietary software that works against Google, you should run in the opposite direction.

Beware of black-hat SEOs.

Look out for terms, like keyword stuffing and link farming, or any other shady technique that is meant to try to trick Google.

In short, if the firm’s reps feels confident that they’re going to outsmart Google, it’s not going to happen. When’s the last time you did a Google search and saw something spammy on the first page? It rarely happens anymore because Google is extremely sophisticated today, and it continues to penalize those who try to outsmart it with black-hat SEO techniques.

Pay attention to whether the firm boasts quantity over quality.

If they try to impress you with the number of websites and social properties they build for clients – rather than the quality of the work they do on those web properties — you should be skeptical. Remember: Google wants value, so you need to provide value in an ORM campaign – not links to hundreds of social media and bookmarking sites.

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