Which strategies should you use?

ORM vs SEO: What’s the Difference?

People confuse reputation management with SEO all the time.

ORM and SEO are different. ORM (online reputation management) uses SEO as a tool to accomplish its goals, along with technical public relations, content management, negotiation, and psychology. SEO is a technique used as part of the reputation management toolkit. 

Reputation management vs. SEO – The differences

  1. ORM focuses on many sites. SEO usually on one.
  2. Reputation management often involves negotiation.
  3. Reputation management often involves legal efforts.
  4. SEO is mostly link building. 
  5. SEO focuses on product and service searches. ORM on branded searches like peoples or companies names.
  6. ORM improves reviews, ratings, search results, removes negative content, and even third-party sites not controlled by the brand. SEO doesn’t do normally focus on that.
  7. ORM uses SEO. SEO doesn’t normally use ORM.
  8. SEO and ORM work together, each with a different focus.
  9. At Reputation X, we work with SEO’s and PR people every day.

For those of us in the digital marketing realm, acronyms like SEO and ORM are a part of our vernacular. But for the rest of you executives and industry experts, these may equate to Greek. For that reason, let’s dive into the differences between two very important acronyms in the online branding and marketing space:

SEO and ORM explained

SEO: Search Engine Optimization

ORM: Online Reputation Management

Now, SEO you may be familiar with, but ORM may be new to you. Many people have trouble distinguishing the difference between the two, but there are some subtle — but important — distinctions between them. SEO is not reputation management. Let’s look at four ways SEO and ORM differ:

  1. While SEO drives awareness of a brand or product in the early stages of the buying process, ORM works on the bottom of the sales funnel to aid buyers in the decision-making stage.
  1. SEO is concerned with driving traffic to a company’s website only, whereas ORM manages content on many sites, including those not owned or controlled by the brand.
  1. ORM focuses on brand perception, and may involve removing negative content or improving star ratings on consumer-generated review sites.
  1. SEO is a component of ORM, not the other way around.

Now let’s look closer at each of these components of online marketing.

SEO: Drive Traffic and Boost Sales

Meet Sally. She’s in the market for a new yellow raincoat. Like every other human on the planet, she turns to Google to find one. She searches for “yellow raincoat.”

At the top of the results are sponsored links that paid to appear at the top. But everything below that got to the top of the list organically, meaning that the popularity of the site and the relevance for the term “yellow raincoat” caused Google’s magic spiders to push those links to the top of the list.

But this doesn’t happen magically, exactly. Brands put a lot of time and energy into moving up search results. There are over 10 million web pages that either sell or talk about yellow raincoats, but most people won’t click beyond the first page or two of results. Some people will ignore everything under the first few results.

That’s why it’s so important for a brand to use search engine optimization to hopefully appear near the top. The more effort that’s put into SEO, the better the visibility of a brand.

The nuts and bolts of SEO

Whether you’re trying to sell yellow raincoats or get eyeballs on your company blog, using the right keywords is hugely important. And while there are other more technical aspects that go into SEO behind the scenes, including meta descriptions, H1 and H2 tags, and web page title tags, it all starts with that keyword.

Each web page or blog post on your site should have one primary keyword. This word (or phrase) identifies what the page is about. The more specific you can make it, the better. So if you sell yellow raincoats, you’d do better to drill down and use the keyword “women’s yellow raincoat,” to cut the competition down from those 10 million results to just 1 million. It’s still a lot, but it reduces the number of sites you need to rank against drastically.

Links, too, are important in increasing SEO results. Websites that are linked to on relevant, high-authority websites and on social media tend to be ranked higher than those that aren’t. Sites that also link out to relevant and respected sites also get the thumbs-up from search engines.

Even load time is assessed when it comes to determining where a given site should rank. Search engines want to see that a site will load within seconds, and that it also loads easily and is navigable on mobile screens.

Where SEO fits in the buying process

Here’s a short lesson on the buying process. There are several stages a shopper goes through as she looks for a solution to a problem (in our raincoat example, the problem is that she’ll get wet!).

Awareness: Sally knows it’s rainy season and needs a solution to keep from getting wet when she’s outside. She’s aware of the problem, but doesn’t yet have a solution.

Consideration: She decides she wants a yellow raincoat for her problem. She doesn’t yet know what brand she wants, but she searches for “women’s yellow raincoat” online.

Decision: After assessing several raincoat options, Sally makes her decision. The purchase is made, and the raincoat is on its way!

Both SEO and ORM shine at different stages of this buying process. For SEO, it’s that early awareness stage where it matters most. Maybe when Sally searched for “women’s yellow raincoat,” she found an article on a site that happens to sell raincoats called “5 Things to Look for When Buying a Women’s Raincoat.”

She read the article and found it informative, so she clicked to check out the company’s raincoats. Voila! She ended up finding one she liked on that site.

SEO creates awareness by getting the right content in front of the buyer at the right moment (when she’s assessing what the options are to solve her problem). SEO, as you can see, is about driving traffic to a site, not necessarily convincing Sally to buy the raincoat. That’s where content marketing comes into play.

What makes for a successful SEO campaign

If you do your job well, your website will rank above others who use the same keywords, and you’ll see an uptick in sales. Your competitors will scramble to try to rise back up in results, but if you continually put the effort in with your SEO (because it’s not a one-and-done deal), they’ll have trouble ever matching your ranking.

ORM: Managing Brand Perception

While SEO is a component of ORM, online reputation management goes even further to help a brand online. While Sally was generically looking for a yellow raincoat, what happens if she searches for the Wet n Wild line of raincoats? Your brand should be aware of what appears in search results for your brand name, and be on top of managing any negative mentions that may impact search ranking and sales as a result.

Let’s say Sally searches for this made-up brand of raincoats and sees a negative review in the top search results. Immediately she’s alarmed, and decides that she doesn’t want to buy a Wet n Wild raincoat after all.

Were Wet n Wild on top of its ORM, that review wouldn’t be in the top results for its name. How could it get rid of that negative mention? While it may not be able to remove the negative review, the brand could focus on creating additional content — both on its own website and on other high-authority sites — that would make that review less relevant.

The nuts and bolts of ORM

Consider ORM like holistic healing. It uses the basics of SEO to improve brand reputation by creating and promoting positive content about a brand, both on the brand’s website as well as on other sites and social profiles.

ORM’s focus isn’t on selling products, the way SEO’s is. Instead, it strives to create more positive brand perception.

One tool for improving ORM is publishing content through an Authority Network. YouTube is an Authority Network, as are highly-trafficked blogs that establish expertise and thought leadership on a given channel. When a brand creates content on an external Authority Network, a couple of wonderful things happen:

  • The brand reaches an audience it might not otherwise have connected with.
  • The brand gets a link from that high-authority channel back to its site.

Both of these perks help with search results.

Getting on authority networks

ORM is a constant effort, whether you hire an ORM agency or manage it in-house. Continually creating content for Authority Networks is key to your success.

One easy way is to find guest blogging opportunities. Creating content on your area of expertise is an excellent way to expand your sphere of influence and improve your ORM. Focus on sites with high traffic and high engagement (plenty of comments on posts and social shares), and make sure the site targets the audience you’re trying to reach.

Additionally, you can become a thought leader who is quoted by the media. Sign up for Help a Reporter to be notified when journalists are looking for tips or interviews from people like you, and you’ll get free media mentions and a link back to your site for the effort.

Where online reviews fit in

The fact that 59% of online shoppers see online reviews as being as reliable as the recommendation of a friend means that you as a brand need to pay close attention to what’s being said about you online.

A negative review — just one! — can affect how potential customers perceive your brand. And as we all know, not all online reviews are even genuine. Sometimes a disgruntled customer will lie just to get free products or to create problems for your brand.

The best way to mitigate negative reviews is to stay on top of them and respond promptly and publicly. If, for example, someone leaves a negative review about your business on Yelp, respond to the comment immediately. Apologize for the inconvenience and make efforts to remedy the situation, maybe by offering a refund or exchange. When visitors to your review page see that you proactively work to fix negative situations, they will be impressed.

Once the customer’s situation has improved (she came back in and got a refund), ask her to update her review, reflecting on the followup service. This can improve your star rating, and it doesn’t take much effort.

Where ORM Fits in the Buying Process

While SEO targeted the awareness stage of the buying process, ORM focuses on the decision stage. Going back to Sally and her raincoat: once she narrowed her options down to three brands of yellow raincoats, she searched each brand.

While Wet and Wild had some negative reviews at the top of its search results, it was Slickers.com that had that interesting article on choosing a raincoat. This brand also had some great reviews at the top of its search results, so it’s the company that Sally ultimately chose.

By the time shoppers reach the decision-making process, they know what they want, but they may not have decided which brand to buy from. This is where customer sentiment comes into play: when the overall perception of a brand online is a positive one, it attracts more customers and sales. It perpetuates from there.

How ORM could help United Airlines

Let’s look at a modern brand to see how online relationship management could help. If you Google “United Airlines” right now, there’s a slew of negative mentions and articles about pets that have died on flights and other unpleasant interactions with the brand. Even United’s Twitter stream, which appears in results, is filled with mentions of a recent issue with its Contact Center.

Were United making efforts to improve its ORM, some of those top results might have positive stories of travelers or employees that would lessen the impact that the current PR crisis is creating.

It’s Not a Choice Between SEO and ORM

Fortunately, your brand doesn’t have to decide between putting energy into SEO or ORM: they’re equally important. And ongoing efforts for each can ensure that you don’t end up with a PR crisis like United is suffering from.

Continually putting effort into creating content and using keywords that drive your site to the top of search results, as well as leveraging your Authority Networks to keep positive brand perception, will ensure the success of your business.

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