Choosing an ORM Agency
The digital revolution has it’s unicorns and it also has it’s victims; namely, those who have come to suffer bad press and negative reviews in prominent positions of Google’s search results.
For both individuals and companies faced with irreparable damage, this can be a very revolting situation. Not a day seems to go by that I get a call from a person who has lost their job because of what has been found about them online or a company suddenly experiencing a steep decline in sales because of a bad review. The problem amplifies when I hear a person is in fear of negative exposure by digital extortionists, sometimes by the very ORM agency who was hired to protect them.
Online Reputation Management Agencies: Some are wolves in disguise!
Sometimes the same people who are working on your online reputation also participate in activities that I would say is “semi criminal”, a term I borrow from a former partner of mine at Mamma.com, Earl Azimov. Why would I use such a term to describe the particular online reputation management companies? And what are these activities?
Well, as a proxy for not delivering, these companies often try to lock the client in with pressure tactics or even go as far as sabotage the project when the client moves on to a more competent reputation management agency. Typically the way this is done is by buying links to the negative item they already know the client is attempting to suppress down from prominence. In other words, they use knowledge from their project against their client. An unsustainable business practice as far as we are concerned. Sometimes this is done without executive knowledge. We have read on ripoff reports how employees often trade or send customer information to third parties, often this is done from outsourced employees who are in a third world jurisdiction. We have even met a former client of one of the top reputation management agencies complain about how crime syndicates tried to extort money from him after he hired the firm.
In our firm, the approach we take is a complete white glove service, our online reputation management services™ are of the highest standard when it come to customer service, integrity and transparency. During our onboarding process, we record everything in the situation analysis. We take a snapshot of the current SERP and embed it in the contract; we also do back link research and record the links to both negative and positive assets as they stand prior to our engagement. We also work in a small team where we pay particular attention to the privacy of the client information. We have developed a great reputation for being very discreet and competent firm and as such I feel I have to share what believe are important tips about how to pick a good agency for your ORM needs.
Asking For References
It is customary in many service businesses for the client to ask for references. Many firms in the ORM industry do not provide references because of the privacy reason I just mentioned. But that is no excuse for a lack of transparency. In our firm, we have a n elegant way we get around this. You want a reference? Good, we will give you one but in return you will agree to give one out when we do good by you. Most clients are ready to give us a reference anyway despite this, but this elegant workaround should give the opportunity for every ORM agency under the sign to be able to give you at least one good strong reference and not use privacy as a deterrent. As a client, you have nothing to use, least of all your own skeleton as you know you have agreed to just a one time use in return for good service.
So the next time an ORM agency uses this excuse, ask them why they don’t implement a strategy whereby they are only as good as their last contract? The reason probably has to do with the lack of competence. Do not accept analogies as an answer. I have recently heard an owner of a software company say something along the lines of “if we keep screwing customers over, we would be bankrupt”. On the surface this made sense, I knew he was in business for nearly two decades. But his business never grew and later I found out he did go bankrupt in 2008. So don’t ever take logical sounding excuses or proxies for hard tangible proof of track record and recent delivery. The recency of their delivery is also particularly critical, as the world of SEO is constantly changing.
Asking about what is outsourced and where
In today’s global economy, it seems all businesses outsource part of their work. But when it comes to reputation, it is just not one of those types of services that can be shipped overseas. Would you let someone in a third world jurisdiction do your taxes? Some services require one on one trust, SEO is often seen as teach issue but ORM is specialized SEO that should be trusted to one person or an agency of record. You must trust the reputation management project to a very trustworthy beholder.
If you do not pay attention to who’s handling your sensitive information, you might create a whole new set of problems for yourself. We sat in one individual who even told us that soon after he finished working with on ORM Company, a Russian crime syndicate contacted them and try to extort money. These types of stories have become so common in the ORM industry that I am sometimes ashamed to be in it.
So how do you avoid this? I have a few suggestions:
- Pick a firm who has their entire stake in ORM. Do not pick a firm who can afford to turn their back on the ORM practice. A traditional SEO firm can turn their back on you and it will not cost them their entire business down the line.
- Pick a person or company that works with a close number of local workers. To a certain extent, the company and it’s executives should be vulnerable to you. They should also be able to control the roaster of employees with private client data.
- Ask explicitly what part if any of the tasks are being executed by third parties.
- Ask how your identity and information will be protected after the intervention.
Along with these important pieces of information you should try to get at least one reference from the company and ask around to see what the firm’s reputation is. Reputation.Management publishes a list of the best online reputation management companies, have a look at those. Every year they rank the best agencies in terms of capabilities and customer reviews.