As pioneers in developing Reputation Marketing systems, our sales team often runs into the objection “But, I already have someone working on my SEO”. The misconception that all things related to managing a business’s online presence are the same is amusing, frustrating and resolvable.
Perhaps the simplest way to distinguish the difference between SEO and Reputation Marketing is to acknowledge that SEO is more mechanical and factual, while Reputation Marketing is more opinion and emotion. And, when it gets right down to it, people narrow their choices based on facts, but actually buy based on emotions.
Another distinction is clear from the names we put on these functions. “Search Engine Optimization” is a clear indication that the target of the effort is search engines. Reputation Marketing, on the other hand, is directed at real people. Mechanics vs. Opinions.
SEO has one objective; getting a business’s website to rank well in Google (68%) or any of the other search engines (32%). Reputation Marketing presents the business through the eyes of people who have actually experienced it. Their opinions are absolutely critical to the very success of a business – regardless of any SEO efforts.
SEO is like advertising. A business can put up billboards, buy newspaper ads, run spots on radio or cable TV. Thousands of dollars can be committed to making people aware of the business. The fact remains, over 80 percent of people will still check out a business online before initiating a transaction. If they see others are displeased, or even offer tepid reviews in response to their experience, all the advertising in the world will not gain a new customer.
A well-executed Reputation Marketing campaign is steady and never-ending. It involves monitoring what is being said about a business and providing the business tools with which to encourage customers to express themselves. It allows less-than-happy customers to get their issues resolved before “yapping on Yelp” and happy customers an easy way to know how to express themselves online. Over time, the preponderance of positive experiences will steadily have an “SEO effect” by lifting a local business in the rankings.
In fact, Reputation Marketing for a local company is vastly more powerful than SEO. While SEO is helpful for non-geographically-specific businesses, a local search always has two components; the type of business and the location of the customer (e.g. Dentist, Canton, Ohio). A national company does not have the advantage of such simplicity and is far more reliant on SEO to even be found, but will still rely on positive customer feedback to be selected.
In the end, the two strategies are not mutually exclusive. SEO is important to get search engine ranking. Reputation Marketing is important to establish trust with prospective customers and can supplement SEO dramatically. When it comes to local businesses, the lines are blurred even more where consumer feedback is treated by search engines in ways that optimizes the possibility that a business will be ranked higher and found more easily.
By Tushar Patel and Roger McManus