SERM: 7 Myths About Online Reputation Management


There are myths in any direction of human activity, they are also in such a relatively new area as SERM (Search Engine Reputation Management).

1. There is no way to delete everything at once.

Myth: SERMs cannot completely stop the situation. Suppose you can remove 2–3 out of 5 negative content from the search results. But by the presence of the rest in the issuance, it will be easy to deal with the situation, in fact, the negative will remain.

The fact is that SERM does not work at the click of a finger. There is no way to remove negative resources from search results in a couple of days or weeks. There are tricks that allow you to do this, but these actions can cause opposition and new headaches for the client, as well as new work for specialists. SERM in this matter is akin to PR — there is no way to quickly improve what has been deteriorating for many years.

The main resource that SERM absorbs is time. In a long enough period of time, anyone can be defeated, no matter how strong the site that hosts the negative. However, over a certain period of time, SERM turns into a fight against 1–2 very strong negative resources, and the toolbox of the fight becomes more and more narrow and resource-intensive. Usually, at this stage, the tissue begins to rest on the client’s wallet.

It is especially worth highlighting the situation with the developing negative when there is a confrontation between two or more sides. In such a situation, the amount of negativity can even grow over some time periods. In addition, if negative resources are controlled by one of the parties, it can use a site from the top of the search, linking it to all other negative materials. This happened in one of our projects. The opponent created the site, promoted it, and placed on it a feed with negative reviews collected from other resources, and also put links to all negative mentions of the client.

How are we going to dispel the myth? Very simply, all work on SERM can be put into a common PR, marketing, and other promotion programs. By performing a set of simple actions, even before any negative appears, you will solve your issues with probable negative results by 50–70% and reduce the cost of the main SERM resource — time.

2. Wrong materials are generated.

Myth: SERM specialists write exclusively positive materials about their customers, and those are not so interesting to users who want to see the negative. In general, the negative is more clickable in the search. Search algorithms react to the clickability of links in the search results, so the negative is always at the top. The quality of materials suffers, and everything looks very strained. In general, SERM materials are too visible.

SERM should always be part of the PR program and be overseen by a responsible PR professional. In fact, SEOs absolutely do not care what to promote, as long as it is faster. In some cases, this is a justified and conscious decision, since the reputation is so bad that the person just wants to “dissolve” in the informational noise.

There is a trick to disguise SERM as SEO. These are cases when positive materials begin to appear in the search results, but for an outside observer, it is obvious that these are product articles or actions aimed at the commercial promotion of the site itself. As a result, we get a double effect.

Specialist persona promotion also works great for hiding negative information about a company or individual, as well as being a new site ranking factor in search results.

In total, the classic PR + SERM is the best solution that will require more resources, but will allow you to get an excellent result at the end. Such materials are not so visible in the search results.

As for the best ranking results for negative, that’s not true. The search engine does not highlight positive or negative, for it is just a set of words, technically this statement is not based on anything. However, as practice shows, the negative is indeed more clickable in the search results, which can affect the position of a particular page in the search engine.

3. Results are unstable.

Myth: if you stop SERM work, everything will immediately fall apart, and all the negativity will move to the top.

First, it all depends on what stage the development of the negative situation is at. If it is finished and it is required to finally “bury” it, then this issue is a matter of technology. If the situation is developing or there is a conflict, there is no need to talk about a stable result.

Secondly, what work will be carried out in relation to the project? If these are publications in the media, work on optimizing the site, setting “eternal” links, and promoting the project’s social networks, then you don’t have to worry, these works will affect search results for a very long time. Rather, it is a matter of contractor selection and control.

It is impossible to exclude dishonesty on the part of the performer, for example, all kinds of cheats, which ultimately do not work well on large arrays of sites and give a short-term effect: the client sees a quick effect from the work, which lasts 2–4 weeks and comes to naught. Often, performers manipulate the issuance with the help of rental links or the placement of materials on sites controlled by them.

Of course, search engines contribute to the general instability of SERM, but not significant. Even with a significant change in the search algorithm, shocks should not be significant, plus or minus 20%.

I have seen more than once how, after some time, “everything fell apart”, it is obvious that this is due to an underestimation of the situation. For example, during the initial analysis, for various reasons, you can not reveal all the negative (hidden negative), underestimate the strength of the existing negative, or use unreliable SERM tools in your work. Therefore, all SERM projects are calculated with a margin of safety. Looking at our projects a couple of years later, I see significant negative changes only for areas with high permanent negative. In other cases, the situation remains stable for years.

4. The historical tail is not formed.

Myth: SERM only shapes the current situation. It is too noticeable when there is no mention of a person or company, and then they appear en masse.

The appearance of a large number of positive mentions of a company or person is just confirmation that these individuals have finally hired an active PR specialist. And SERM will just help the PR specialist to form a retrospective trial, for example, with the help of publications in the same media, but on old dates. Usually, sites are even happy with such an offer, since these materials do not catch the eye of regular readers of the site and are not included in RSS feeds, including those for the Yandex.News service.

Question: why build a reputation in the past? This is due either to the need to work out the old negative (it is banal to bury it with a shaft of information) or to create an expert component. Typical customers of this service are all kinds of financial consultants and brokers who “from the past” give 100% reliable forecasts.

Also, the formation of a retrospective trail is suitable for people for whom reputation is a highly sensitive area, and where it is important that information does not fall into various services such as YouScan or Medialogy.

In itself, the formation of a flashback is a test of mindfulness. All materials posted under such a program must be approved by a PR specialist in order to avoid childish mistakes like the one we once made: we formed a biographical article and mentioned the awards that the person received a little later than the date of publication. I had to edit.

5. It’s not for everyone.

Myth: SERM does not make sense for individuals with a well-known negative reputation.

In fact, it is possible and necessary to introduce the basic elements of SERM even for persons with a well-known reputation. In any case, this will slow down the influx of negative data and allow you to build an initial PR defense.

Let’s remember the Herbalife company, which in the 1990s acquired a rather specific reputation. Remember those icons “Do you want to lose weight? Ask me how.” 30 years have passed, the generation has changed, and the reputation of the company has changed dramatically. This happened naturally, and the negative is not particularly noticeable in the search, although this is a network company.

6. It is impossible to resolve issues with info bases.

Myth: SERM will not help you remove information from various databases. Who wants to — will still find information.

Of course, SERM specialists cannot delete anything from the information base, especially if these are databases of state bodies. But if these are World-Check, Wayback Machine or other databases that collect information from the open Internet, then no information can be deleted, but it is possible to deceive the search algorithm for this database or deceive a person working with this database.

For example, drowning the necessary data in informational noise, trying to mix information about different people, removing material from the site itself, or replacing it with another one. For example, an article about the bankruptcy of a developer may turn into an article in which that developer is interviewed about the bankruptcy of other developers. Or, alternatively, you can close this article by indexing by search engines. There are many tools, but they are selected for each specific case individually.

7. It was too expensive.

Myth: SERM is a very expensive service, some organizations spend serious money on their online reputation.

This is a fair statement in relation to companies and individuals for which there is a constant negative background, or the appearance of such a background can cause serious risks or affect a wide range of people. In working with such persons, SERM never “walks alone”, but is friends with both PR and content marketing. The calculation goes to the entire program as a whole, so yes, it all looks expensive, massive, and overregulated.

For most companies, it is enough to constantly perform a set of actions that can have a significant impact on the position of positive resources in search engines:

  • Optimize your own company website.
  • Maintain your own social networks and link to them.
  • Periodically place optimized publications in local media.
  • Respond to reviews on external resources.
  • Publish video content on services like YouTube.

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