The Definitive Guide to Online Reputation Management Pricing and How They (Should) be Calculated
The Dirty Little Secrets of Making Sense of Online Reputation Management Prices
Why it Costs What It Costs, A Definitive Guide
Prices charged for online reputation management seem to involve alchemy, chicanery, or worse, disreputable practices where some companies seem to pick a price out of thin air.
They vary wildly from place to place. A Craigslist source may charge $200; a big firm $10,000 per month; a great consultant without all the overhead may charge a flat fee totaling $10,000, all for the same issue.
Why? Which is the best? Which is real? Which option is neither gouging a client outright nor praying on their insecurities and low-balling them? How to make sense of it all?
It that panicked state, discovering with horror that a negative link suddenly shows up in a Google search and is resulting in lost clients, some may think the lowest price is the best option when searching for a solution–any solution. Charging a price that is woefully inadequate, based not on reality but on wishful thinking, can easily do more harm than good, however, so be wary.
This definitive guide aims to answer some of those questions, and pull the curtain behind the sometimes dark world of online reputation management pricing.
Pricing–both the disreputable and honest approach–will be reviewed, as well as how costs are calculated, what real factors determine pricing, a real-world example, and questions to ask both oneself and an online reputation management firm.
The Average Costs
Generally, most solutions range from taking about 50 to 200 hours to successfully complete over several months, or about $5,000 to $20,000. This equates to about twenty hours per month, five hours per week or about one hour per day for a good online reputation management company. (There are of course exceptions, such as if one negative link appears on the bottom of the first page–this could be much less costly).
Disreputable online reputation pricing include sizing up a client and charging whatever they think they can get. Does the client look wealthy? Are they desparate? Some unethical firms may pounce on an unsuspecting client and raise prices dramatically.
Unrealistically Low Prices
In other cases, companies offer an unrealistically low repair price. What’s wrong with that? Some might charge $2,000 that is really a $10,000 job, knowing full well that it never could be successfully completed. They have the client’s money, do very little, and the consumer is left angry and still with the problem.
Why does this happen? A firm could be desperate to sign a client so they low-ball their repair fee to make the solution appear palatable. In reality, success is rarely achieved, and unfortunately, the firm knows it right from the start.
Not only is it a huge waste of money, but more importantly, it means the negative item is out there hemorrhaging business and sales for many additional months (it also harms the online reputation management firm’s own reputation. Why do they do this–this hurts reputable firms too).
Promising the Unpromisable
There are instaces where firms say they can delete links, specifically on RipoffReport.com or other sites, and do so in a few weeks. No, this will NEVER ever happen. Once something is published is very difficult and usually impossible to delete. The few exceptions are links that go to “dead pages,” and some personal information published on Google properties, such as bank accounts and social security numbers.
Impossible Time Frames
Another issue is completing the repair process with unrealistic speed. With few exceptions, it takes months to solve a case–not days or weeks. If a firm quotes an extremely short time frame, be suspect. (The only exception here, as mentioned above, might be deleting a deadlink).
A reputable approach to repair pricing is transparent, honest and clear. A proposal should include goals, step-by-step detailed solutions, a time-frame and an estimated number of hours to complete the online repair process. If they don’t or are vague, it’s probably best to look for someone else.
How Are Prices Calculated?
Each case and solution is unique and there is no cookie-cutter approach, at least when dealing with a good reputation specialist. Generally, a web repair price is determined by the severity of the problem, where the negative link shows up in Google, and if the article has negative comments. There are more factors but for simplicity, stick with these.
Cost Based on Effort Needed
The calculation of an online reputation management solution is simple: the cost is based on the effort needed to solve it.
Usually, this involves hard work, requiring around 50 to 200 hours of targeted content creation, extensive development of multiple online platforms and slogging through the problem, day by day for months. Rarely is there an easy solution.
There are several factors that go into coming up with an online reputation management repair price, but basically it is based on research and analysis of the problem.
Severity of the Problem
A big factor in calculating online reputation management prices is to determine the severity of the issue.
A case will take longer (and will be priced higher accordingly) if the negative link is on well regarded, trustworthy pages. Examples include news sites such as The New York Times, CNN, ABC, the Wall Street Journal. Additionally, niche publications that are important within a specific industry could be just as difficult, such as Artforum for the art world, or AboveTheLaw.com for legal-related matters.
Federal, State and local government sites are also unusually very difficult to push down. Those that end in “.gov” such as the IRS or SEC can take many months to resolve. Others that are hard to move are RipoffReport.com and the anonymous complaint sites.
Things that are a bit easier handle are individual blogs where an ex-employee or disgruntled client started a purposeful online smear campaign. Google rarely ranks these sites extremely high–unless the victim has little or no online presence.
Where The Links Show Up
A problem occurring on the bottom of the first page of Google search results is easier to solve than one ranked at the very top, and is less costly.
The very first link on the first page, generally, can require nearly ten times the effort because many more campaigns and platforms need to be crafted, developed and frequently updated.
Existing Platforms or Web Sites
If there are few or no existing platforms and web sites, the online repair process takes longer and costs more.
Developing a quality presence is extremely time consuming, and Google looks for and rewards high quality sites. Writing original content is key, as are photos, images, videos, presentations and sound recordings. Again, this takes time–and thus money–to develop.
Note that putting out poor content or engaged in publishing syndicates (i.e., “link farms”, a black hat or disreputable approach to online reputation management) might result in a penalty from Google since it could be considered spam. Beware of low cost solutions for this reason.
Google sees blog post comments or social media Likes or re-Tweets as a “vote” in popularity. If there are many negative comments on social media or in response to an article, the repair process is much more involved.
So, an online repair price requires looking at the severity of the problem, where the negative link shows up in search results, how many existing current platforms are there, and what negative comments exist. Let’s not look a sample online reputation management issue, and plug in some numbers to come up with a price.
Real World Online Reputation Repair Example
Let’s take a real-world example. In this case the problem is fairly severe, and could include several negative links towards the top of the first page.
Here are some steps necessary to repair an online reputation and some of the hours necessary to accomplish it.
Analysis and Issue Review
Understanding the current business and developing an effective repair strategy.
About 10 hours.
Search Engine Optimization and Key Search Terms
Analyzing and researching search terms and updating existing web sites and platforms. About 10 hours
Generating unique text and visual media.
About 50 to 80 hours or more.
Determine the best platforms for the intended audience/clients and update each very frequently, sometimes several times daily.
About 50 to 100 hours.
Administrative Review and Setup
Monthly Maintenance Services
Thorough Pricing Approach
Once estimated hours are assigned to each of the repair tasks, a realistic price can be calculated. The total in this example ranges from about 130 to 210 hours, or a few hours per day for six months.
If the hourly cost is $100 for this example, then multiplying 100 by 130 equals $13,000. Thus, it would take about $13,000 to successfully complete this case.
This is no “pick a number out of the air,” but a fairly accurate repair price is based thorough research and rigorous analysis.
Questions to Ask
Since an online repair solution can be a sizable investment ($5,000 to $20,000 or more), it’s important to know what you are actually getting for the price. Here are some questions to ask:
- What kind of effective, targeted and original is content created?
- Is a robust social media campaign included where industry thought leaders are sought out as followers?
- Realistically, how many months will it take (yes–months: most projects take between three and seven months)?
- Is the work customized or copy-and-pasted into some kind of form or template?
- Who is doing the work? Is it farmed out to low-wage workers somewhere else such as India?
- Are you paying for layers of management, salespeople, project managers, and offices?
- Is the company huge and doing what worked two years ago or is small and nimble that can react immediately to monthly changes that Google makes to their search algorithm?
While there are disreputable approaches to online reputation management pricing, a thorough analysis of the problem is best–not low-balling the client or gouging them. When getting a quote, look carefully. If the proposal is vague or lacks estimated hours or details on how the job will be successfully completed, look for someone else.
There is no magic button to push. Repairing an online reputation takes time, effort and hard work, but it is possible, and it’s worth it to increase revenue, sales and clients.