What a brand looks like in the eyes of users: getting to know SERM and ways to work with reputation on the Internet

What a brand looks like in the eyes of users: getting to know SERM and ways to work with reputation on the Internet

Author: HostZealot Team
2 min.

Listening to one's neighbor is a characteristic of most people. This is the way our brains work; our perceptions of reality are shaped by our social environment. Our opinions on one subject or another depend on the people around us and the sources of information available to us. The Soviet researcher Valeria Mukhina proved that under pressure from others, a person can eventually believe that white is black and vice versa.

The phenomenon of conformity was demonstrated with the example of seven young people, who were seated in a semicircle and had two pyramids – a black one and a white one – placed in front of them. Six people were "dummies", they knew about all conditions of the experiment, and only the seventh was unaware of what was going on and for what purpose. During the experiment, the woman asked what color the pyramids were, and the six "plant ducks" answered one by one that both pyramids were white.

People said things that blatantly contradicted the obvious fact, because there were two pyramids of different colors on the table right in front of them. Finally, when the turn came to the seventh participant of the experiment, after a little hesitation he also answered that both pyramids were white. The scientist asked him several times whether he was sure of his answer, to which he received an affirmative answer from time to time.

This experiment is a clear demonstration of why it is so important to shape the image of a brand in the eyes of ordinary people. Any facts, any reality, can be changed in people's minds. And if a person is often told that a washing machine of this or that brand is cool, he will believe it, even if the facts show the opposite. And he will buy it. And after a breakdown he will buy it again. Because conformism has no rational basis, the essence of this phenomenon is reduced to the peculiarities of the human brain and consciousness. We will not go deeper into this, we will only say, but instead we will introduce you to SERM and tell you how the reputation of the brand is formed in practice on the Internet.

What is SERM

This is an acronym that stands for Search Engine Reputation Management. Translated – reputation management in search engines. It is a set of methods and technologies whose purpose is to form a positive image of a brand, person, service or product in the Internet space.

SERM is used for a variety of purposes:

  • To whitewash the brand image after planned black PR ordered by competitors. In business, as in war, the rules are rarely followed, using any available means to gain an advantage. Yes, not all businessmen use black PR, but many of them do. And the victims of such attacks from competitors may need SERM to whitewash their honest name in the eyes of the common people.
  • Improve your search engine ranking and "override" the many negative reviews that appear in the same search engine. It can also happen that at a certain stage the reputation of your brand will be undermined because of some unsuccessful marketing decision, or because of a batch of defective products that have enraged customers. It happens to everyone, even the giants like Apple, Samsung, and LG. The influx of negative feedback can be leveled out with the same SERM.
  • Correct untrue information about a brand's products or services in search results. Again, this information can be disseminated by competitors themselves, as well as by ordinary customers who misunderstood something, did not understand, or simply wrote a review because the manager offended them in some way.
  • To popularize a product or service. For young companies SERM is one of the best ways to quickly promote your market segment, create a positive image, etc.

It is impossible to build an effective business without reputation management, because mistakes and miscalculations will always happen, but they should not radically affect the future of the brand.

It is important to remember that people are extremely reluctant to write positive reviews. If the service or product are satisfying, if the service was at a high level, drawing a positive review will be difficult. Because people perceive this as the norm. But if the client was dissatisfied, you can be sure he will spare no time and will leave a review everywhere possible.

what a brand looks like in the eyes of users: getting to know serm and ways to work with reputation on the internet

What SERM involves: directions and methods

Effective reputation management involves working in five key areas:

  1. Tracking mentions of the brand. And if there is a lot of negativity – artificially create a preponderance in the direction of the positive. Writing articles, publishing reviews from different accounts, posting custom materials in blogs on specialized Internet resources, etc.
  2. Placement on external sites (links and reviews on review sites, forums, blogs, social networks.
  3. Search engine optimization in order to remove the negative from the top of search engines and replace it with positive, or neutral information.
  4. Communication with the client.
  5. Prompt reaction. This is especially relevant in the case of an "attack" by black PR.

As for methods, there are three of them. Let's look at each one.

Hidden marketing

The information is presented in such a way that a person cannot recognize the manipulation. You have probably seen many times in movies how some main character opens his laptop and starts typing something. The laptop, in most cases, has the apple logo on it. This is a simple example of soft, unobtrusive hidden marketing.

Or another example – the recent Usik and Joshua rematch. Before the fight a video of the boxers choosing their gloves was posted on the net. Usik chose Rival, and Joshua preferred Grant. Be sure that this action, at least, will strengthen the positive image of the brands among the athletes. And it will also stimulate their sales – at least among the fans of these champions. Although there was no overt advertising, no imposition. Both brands certainly produce very high quality products, there is no doubt about that, but this is also a prime example of hidden marketing. And it works.

Online reputation management (ORM)

The essence of the method comes down to identifying certain factors that have the strongest impact on reputation. This is done to form an effective strategy to improve reputation and create a positive online image of the company, product or person.

Professionals in this field know that the first thing to do is to study the customer experience with a particular brand. It is important to talk to those who are dissatisfied and find out what went wrong, what aspects of the service or product need to be improved, and what processes in the business need to be revised.

A simple example – people complain about poor service. For example, boorish staff, or long waiting times after ordering. If you want to improve your reputation, you need to identify the root of the problem and get rid of it, or reformat some processes. If people have to wait a long time to get in touch with a manager - maybe you just don't have enough staff and need to hire new people. And if any of the clients have encountered abusive behavior, you need to find the malicious manager and replace him with someone else.

Remember that for effective ORM, it is not enough just to identify the root of the problem. It needs to be uprooted, and the mechanisms of operation need to be improved so that this does not happen in the future.

Search Engine Reputation Management

This is done by monitoring and analyzing all mentions of a brand or company on the Web. Search results, as a rule, make it possible to quickly determine where and what is not working as it should. Negative reviews can be overridden by publishing good ones, but this, again, only masks the problems. If the negative reviews left by customers are completely true, you should use them to improve your services or products.

The publication of custom positive reviews is only an auxiliary tool for managing your search engine reputation. It helps get rid of negativity, but does not eliminate the cause of it.

SERM Stages

Reputation management in search engines is implemented in three stages:

  1. Preparatory. The first thing to do is to analyze the current situation and measure the "front of work" to set the right priorities. This determines which key requests and which regions to work in the first place, as well as determining the tone of each site.
  2. Strategic. The results of the analysis are bundles of search queries, regions and search engines. Based on these bundles, specialists begin to work, implementing a strategy to improve the image.
  3. Practical. The previously thought-out strategy is implemented. Many different methods are used here, starting with the publication of reviews and ending with the writing of certain thematic articles in the blog for further publication on specialized sites and social networks.

All of this is also perfectly combined with search engine optimization, which is implemented through the integration of certain keywords and LSIs into articles and reviews. Micro-patterning, targeted advertising, and more.

How to improve SERM and online reputation

Let's list the key methods and tools:

  • Work on content – you need to do everything to ensure that the user will appear in the output only positive reviews and ratings;
  • cooperation with the media – the publication of materials on third-party sites not only contributes to the building of link mass, but also contributes to a positive reputation in the network;
  • working with social media – on all platforms, from Facebook and Instagram to Tik-Tok and Twitter;
  • Respond to feedback – never ignore negative comments, but always try to answer the person as politely as possible, explain the reason and assure them that you will definitely do better in the future.

Also make sure that all your employees communicating with customers are as polite, competent and tactful as possible. Because it is they who form the image in the eyes of customers.

How to track and analyze online reputation

There are quite a few tools for this. Here are the main ones:

  • Google Alerts – allows you to monitor social networks and other Internet sites by keywords or brand name;
  • Brand Analytics is an excellent tool for determining the tone of messages, extremely useful at the stage of SERM strategy formation;
  • IQbuzz is a multifunctional service with the ability to comprehensively track a variety of brand mentions.

There are others, we just mentioned three of the most popular in 2022.


As a final note, it is extremely important to respond to any negative feedback. Simply cleaning up the reviews on your site or overlapping the negativity with positivity on third-party sites is not enough. You must be sure to identify the cause and eliminate it.

In addition, you have to respond to dissatisfied customers - first, other people, looking at it, will understand that the company cares. Secondly, the person to whom you have responded may even change their anger for mercy, feeling that they matter.

You don't have to respond to positive feedback, but it's also desirable – at least with a smiley face. Let the person know that you are grateful, but without ingratiation and low bows. Here we end our article and thank you for your attention. Have a nice day!

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