Online Reputation Repair: How Long It Takes And What To Expect

Online Reputation Repair

It’s time to set the record straight.

When it comes to online reputation repair, there are a ton of myths floating around that simply aren’t true.

We know this because every day we talk to potential clients and customers who’ve bought into them.

The crazy thing is that these myths aren’t based on any facts at all. They’re typically created by “consultants” for the purpose of selling their services and mystifying the process.

Want to know the most common one?

The claim that your problems can be fixed extremely fast (or even overnight).

If you hear someone pitch this idea to you, RUN. They’re either lying, or using unsavory tactics that will make the problem much worse in the long-run.

Online reputation repair is an ongoing process that takes time and effort. This might be frustrating to hear when you have a problem, but that’s just the way it is.

Now, that information alone should be enough to help you separate the good companies from the shady ones.

However, we wanted to go a bit further for you.

So here’s what we did:

We’ve outlined the key information you need to know when it comes to the process of repairing your online reputation. This means what to expect, some rough (realistic) timelines, and more.

This will arm you with some accurate expectations when you find a company or consultant you want to work with.

Note: If you already understand the process and want to get started, head over to this page.

Is it possible to truly repair your online reputation?

When asking yourself or an ORM (Online Reputation Management) company whether or not you can truly repair your online reputation, remember, the answer is yes.

Even if you are dealing with authoritative or persistent negative results, don’t lose hope - put in the work.

While the specifics of every situation are different, the best route to true online reputation repair is through the three-step process of building, establishing and maintaining your presence.

By flooding websites and profiles that you control with positive information about you, users get to see a much more complete picture of who you are. By taking control of your own brand narrative in a consistent way that follows best (SEO & branding) practices, you are setting up a long-term solution.

But before getting to the “how” of improving your online appearance, you need to first get a better understanding of what “success” means.

What does online reputation repair look like?

“Zero negative search results” is probably your gut reaction to this question. But that answer doesn’t take into account what people looking you up will consider to be a win. Your initial reaction also ignores what repairing your online reputation requires on your part.

In today’s day and age it’s not about deleting your past from the internet, it’s about showcasing your assets. This means online reputation repair is less about cleanup and more about positive promotion. Because successful removal requests are often difficult to achieve, building and optimizing content that you control is the best way to address a negative search result.

While ultimately the hope is that your content is so engaging and well-received that it suppresses negative results farther down in rankings, this is a process that requires ongoing attention - and the time that it takes to gain control of your search results depends on a number of factors.

Some people will see rapid changes in rankings and others will witness more measured shifts in search results. Regardless of the speed of initial changes in search engine rankings, the most important thing to do is to focus on the content and activity that you can control.

Show other users that you are an authority in your industry with the type of content that you publish. Devote time to engaging with others in your field on different social media platforms. By being accessible, engaged and a part of current discussions, you have the chance to expose the truth behind what kind of person and professional you actually are.

How long will it take?

When it comes to online reputation repair, there is no exact timeline. However, Google normally recognizes changes in indexed sites and profiles every 2 to 6 weeks.

But don’t let that number fool you. This doesn’t mean that all your sites or profiles will automatically shoot up to the top of the first page of search results a month or so after you create them.

Depending on your particular situation, you may begin to see small changes in rankings as early as a few months after building and optimizing your site and profiles, to well over a year.

Again, it truly depends on factors like: how competitive your search query is, how many negative search results you are dealing with, how old your negative result is, what site your negative search result is coming from, and more.

Let’s use some examples to illustrate how much the timelines can vary:

For these examples let’s assume that Person A, B, and C have zero existing web properties, but are all letting the same, reputable company handle their online reputation repair.

person a situational overview

Person A got some bad press a few years ago and three negative results are showing up when you search their name online. These unflattering search results are all ranking near the bottom of the first page, and are fairly lengthy articles. The sites that posted these negative articles have average domain authority (read: site strength), but no one has ever linked to or shared these articles.

person b situational overview

Person B has one negative result about a public incident they had with a cement mixer and their boss’s Lexus. The article is recent, ranking #3 for their name, and on a site with a very strong domain authority. However, the article itself is only a 250-word blurb. Unfortunately, a few people have linked to it.

person c situational overview

Person C has one search result they aren’t too fond of that’s ranking #1 for their name. It’s a fairly old article that didn’t get a lot of traction online (no links or shares). They have a very uncommon name which means the competition and search volume is very low for that keyword. The content of the negative search result is of average length, and the site it’s published on has pretty low domain authority.

Now, let’s break these scenarios down and come up with some rough timeline estimates.

Person A:

The fact that the negative results are older in nature is a good thing here. Google knows this means these articles are less likely to be relevant now, so up to date high quality content has a great chance of getting on the first page.

The length of these articles means that it will be important for Person A to create in-depth and lengthy content to beat this out. The fact that the domain authority of these sites isn’t super high and no one has linked to these articles means this is one of the main reasons the negative results are on the first page. One-upping the negative articles in that regard will set them up for success.

Based on similar online reputation repair campaigns that we run for clients, this would probably be a campaign that would see most of its significant progress after the six month mark. It takes time to create and promote lengthier content, and with three negative results Person A would need to constantly shift focus and juggle what they spend their time on.

Person B:

This case might seem fairly simple, but there are a number of factors here that make it a tricky one. The domain authority of the site that posted the negative article is probably the most concerning factor here.

Despite the article being on the short side, a strong site can still rank for personal search results very easily, especially for recent events.

The fact that there are a few links to the article is something else to be aware of. Links are a big factor in the Google ranking algorithm and it’s typically pretty tricky for someone without experience to build quality links on their own (a definite benefit of working with an online reputation repair company). If Person B were to handle this on their own, this would be something they would need to study up on in order to be successful.

A reason to be optimistic about this situation is that the negative article is short, so there’s an opportunity to create some high-quality content that can help close some of the gap.

Given the information above, this would likely be a campaign that took longer to see changes in rankings than the other two. Based on our experience with clients in similar situations, we would expect to see more significant movement after the eight month mark. Populating the first page with positive content would most likely take less time, but to fully suppress this negative result would be a time-intensive undertaking for sure.

Person C:

Right off the bat there are some things about this situation that make this campaign very promising. The uncommon name, low competition, and low domain authority give Person C a chance to make a dent on the first page fairly quickly.

Don’t assume it’s a walk in the park though. Despite a lot of the favorable metrics, the fact that it’s ranking #1 means it needs to be knocked down a full 10 positions to get it off the first page. This means Person C will have to pay close attention to a variety of web properties and make sure each of them is well-optimized. The success of this campaign depends more on consistency and discipline than on implementing an overly complicated high-level strategy.

Given these circumstances, it’s very likely that Person C would be able to make a dent on the first page fairly quickly. Populating a handful of the positions on the first page with new well-optimized web properties, would probably start after the two month mark of the campaign.* From that point on it would be about focusing on suppression to outrank the negative search result.

*Don’t let the above estimates fool you though. There’s no easy way to nail down a guaranteed timeline of success when it comes to online reputation repair. There are simply too many factors at play and only so much certainty given the information. The only way to know 100% is after the completion of a campaign.

This is why when you hear firm guarantees in this industry (particularly when it comes to timelines), don’t sign the contract! The best of the best can’t guarantee instant success, so that budget “consultant” certainly can’t either.

BrandYourself’s 3-Step Reputation Repair Strategy:

At BrandYourself, we follow and encourage a 3-step method where we build, establish and maintain your online presence. Negative suppression is a big part of this as well (we’ll cover more on that in a second).

While the process is ongoing, there are certain markers to pay attention to. During the first phase, we suggest that you build properties. By “properties” we mean social media profiles and a professional-looking website. Each should be fully optimized to rank well for your name.

These profiles and sites should be updated regularly with relevant information. You also need to engage with other users on these different platforms regularly.

From here you should not only monitor the progress and upkeep of these profiles and sites, but you also need to keep an eye on the progress of any other negative or irrelevant content out there about you.

By staying on top of this you protect your reputation online as it is today, and safeguard your future online presence against damaging search results too.

Why is suppression the best method?

While getting a negative search result removed from the internet would be ideal, in truth, the process is very difficult.

Search engines honor a select handful of removal requests, and even when the information is removed or de-indexed, that doesn’t mean that it won’t resurface later on.

Suppression is a long-term solution that enhances your current online identity while protecting your reputation in the future.

In ORM there’s a joke (yes, we do make jokes) that asks, “Where’s the best place to hide a dead body?”.

The answer?

“Page 2 of search results”.

When it comes to click through rates, the farther down in search result rankings you go, the fewer clicks these sites receive from users. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the number of people clicking through results degrades the higher the page number.

The actual rate is pretty significant. Advanced Web Ranking released a study about the click-through-rate from Google’s organic search results. According to this data, on average, 71.33% of searches resulted in a page one Google organic click. Pages two and three get only 5.59% of the clicks.

While the reality is that your focus should be on creating positive content, take comfort in the fact that suppressing an undesirable search result down 1 spot significantly diminishes the likelihood of users clicking through. And, if you eventually overwhelm a negative search result off of the search page and onto the second, an even greater number of users won’t click it - let alone see it.

For internet reputation repair, instead of focusing on how long it will take to suppress a negative result, work on creating strong sites and profiles that follow best SEO practices and have the greatest shot at ranking well over time.