The Role of Quality Copywriting in Reputation Management

October 27, 2011 •

I don’t often publish guest posts on this blog, but when Alex Petrovic, of Dejan SEO, approached me with an idea to write about the role of quality copywriting in reputation management, I was intrigued. It’s not something I’ve been involved in, myself, so I was keen to hear his thoughts. I’m glad I made an exception, because I learned something! Hopefully you will too…

Over to Alex…

If you’re in reputation management and have to run a damage control campaign due to some bad press or vicious rumors, here’s the good news: Most people who try to create smear campaigns, who post negative product and service reviews, and so on, don’t do it professionally. They don’t know the first thing about SEO and strong copywriting.

Why is quality copywriting important in reputation management?

If you write a series of positive stories about your client, and make those stories ‘attractive’ to search engines, they’ll ‘drown out’ the negative stories. Google’s top results will be dominated by your stories, and the negative stories will be pushed to page two (or lower). The good stories will get more hits than the bad, and the bad press will quickly fizzle out.

Here’s an example of what copywriting in reputation management is all about: Let’s say a member of a company’s board of directors has been doing a wonderful job for years. He’s been maximizing profits and raising customer satisfaction. But some personal affairs have turned sour for him, and now his name is plastered all over everyone’s blog, as people spread the gossip. It becomes a hot search subject on Google and all of the top hits are pretty negative. The bad press is reflecting poorly on the client’s brand and impacting his bottom line.

The solution in this instance is simply to fight fire with fire: Critics are flooding the internet with negative reports, rumors and gossip about your client. You need to spread the good news about him, to point out his charity work, his impeccable personal history and so on.

But of course, you can’t just engage a traditional PR company to do this. Unless they’re SEO-savvy, they’ll merely address the mainstream/traditional media outlets. A few of those outlets may publish an online story, but that’s about as far as it will go. It’s a sad truth that positive stories don’t usually have the same viral appeal as negative stories, so they’re far less likely to be picked up naturally by bloggers.

So, you start with writers. You engage them to write a series of positive articles about your client – enough to outnumber the negative. High quality, well written articles, too; not just content-farm rubbish. You need them to appear on high ranking websites, respected blogs and so on, and that will only happen if the owners of those sites feel your stories make good reading.

Of course, that’s not to say they have to be long and comprehensive. Short, to the point writing is probably more effective in the blogging world. You’re aiming to chip away at the negativity a few hundred words at a time, so the bad press suffers a sort of ‘death by a thousand cuts’.

It may take a little while before you see the results, but the tide will change if you keep it up, because paid writers can stay interested in a subject for a lot longer than a gossip blogger can. They’re being paid to do it, they’re not just doing it for fun.

And remember, you don’t have to eliminate the bad press entirely. Just pushing the negative content to the second page is often enough.

Why you shouldn’t go for the cheapest copywriter

When it comes to hiring the writer for the job, you have a clear choice: Pay decent money for quality writing, or pay peanuts for rubbish. Don’t engage someone who charges a third of a cent a word. That works out at about $1 per article! It sounds tempting, especially when you require such high volume. But no writer in the English speaking world can live on that sort of rate. Not if they’re writing good quality, anyway. Even a short 200-300 word article can take an hour to write – often a lot longer. How many good writers do you think work for $1/hr? That’s $8/day! Even writers from non-English speaking countries can’t live on that. Instead, they pump out 5-10 articles per hour. Imagine the quality of 200-300 word article written in 6 minutes!

This isn’t copywriting, and it certainly isn’t going to reflect well on your client’s reputation. When it comes to reputation management, hiring bad copywriters can be disastrous, and not just because it produces results that don’t read very well.

When your writer isn’t a native English speaker, you magnify the potential for misunderstanding and meaning being lost in translation. If you’re not sure why that’s a problem, try playing with Google Translate and auto-translating a few phrases back and forth.

In fact, that’s what many of these cheaper so-called copywriting companies do: They write the original article in their own native language, then auto-translate it to English. Seriously!

Let’s take a simple phrase, a common message carried by reputation management campaigns:

“Our company’s leadership always has the consumer’s best interests in mind.”

Translated into Japanese and back to English using Babelfish, that phrase comes out as follows:

“Our company’s in the leadership of consumer. It is always the best profit of heart.”

Whatever that means, it sure isn’t the same as saying your client is taking care of his customers’ best interests. At best, you make your client look cheap. At worst, your articles say something ridiculous, offensive or illegal, and your client becomes the subject of yet more bad press.


Reputation is everything. In “The 48 Laws of Power,” author Robert Greene says, “Guard it with your life.” Truer words have never been spoken. When a client asks you to help manage their reputation, they want the very best help that they can get in presenting themselves to the public. A big part of making a good impression on the public is having the right words to do so. That’s what a skilled copywriter can provide: The right words.

Obviously if you don’t have a copywriter in-house, you’ll need to outsource, but that doesn’t mean choosing the cheapest option you can find. If there’s one truth in copywriting, it’s this: you get what you pay for. If you go for the cheapest writer available, you’re sacrificing quality in order to save a buck, which will always end in tears.

When hiring a writer or a team of writers to handle your copywriting, do yourself, your client, your career and, of course your, income a favor, and go the extra mile. Hire a skilled, qualified and experienced copywriter. They’ll do the job, quickly and without fuss, and your client’s reputation will soon be on the rise.

Feel free to comment...
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Anna Roe wrote on October 28th, 2011

Thanks for the guest post. Sometimes we need to be reminded of the obvious to create effective change. No one would underestimate the power of a good reputation but most of us underestimate the power of using a skilled writer to support this.

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affordable seo copywriter wrote on November 7th, 2011

Very interesting article. There is a definite sea-change underway, and SEO Copywriters are becoming one of the most important forces in online marketing. Traditional "non-SEO" copywriters are not only struggling to market their own businesses online, but also are ill-equipped to handle things like reputation management effectively. One day all copy will be written by SEO Copywriters, which doesn't mean it has to be any less high quality.

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Janjan wrote on November 24th, 2011

Thanks for the post. Your'e clearly right about the hiring of good copywriters. Although there are many cheap but good writers out there. But your suggestions is true, if you really want a high quality content article you have to pay for it. Anyways thanks for the advice.

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Mike Robinson wrote on January 16th, 2012

Good to hear an outside view on this, and reassuring that he's aware of the difference in quality there can be between writers.

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Francis Fox wrote on January 16th, 2012

You're right on the money when you say that quality copy is inevitably associated with quality product or reliable character. If the Great Barrier Reef were to be turned into an unrestricted commercial playground, where fishing and every water-sport under the sun, and every aqua-tourist venture imaginable were permitted, we'd soon see serious damage. Then there'd be massive public wailing and lamentation, breast-beating and confessions of regret. In fact the entire Green lobby would probably mass-suicide. Why? Because of the loss of an irreplaceable treasure. Be clear about this! The English language is a far more valuable national treasure; a vastly more complex living organism; and of immeasurably greater social and cultural significance to the world we inhabit than any mass of coral. And look what we do to it. Look at how we respect to it. The disastrous consequences of this gross abuse are probably not clear to many; not yet! The untold damage already in evidence is irreparable. Worse is just around the corner. We need to be saying to people: Don't foul the nest. Your language is your word; and your word is your honour and your identity. And therein is your dignity! So when you present yourself to the world dressed up in crap copy, you're telling us you're scum and want to be regarded as such. So be it.

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Glenn Murray wrote on January 16th, 2012

Thanks for your comment, Francis. Nice to have you here. Love a good chat about language (geek alert! ;-) I agree if you present yourself to the world dressed in crap copy, then that's how you'll be regarded. But I see things a little differently re the deterioration/evolution debate… I think changes to how a language is spoken are very unlikely to impact its survival. Political, economic and demographic factors are far more likely to do that. It’s the ability to communicate effectively ‘where the power is’ that’s important. In business, finance, technology, religion, movies, music and, yes, gaming (it’s a bigger industry than movies!). I personally haven't seen anything we've done to the English language that constitutes a threat in these domains. And by “communicate effectively”, I mean that we can convey our meaning and express ourselves fully and efficiently. And that we can fully understand and be moved by the expression of others. I'm no real fan of Valspeak, txt spk, or 'rap speak' (is there an accepted label for that?), but they're nonetheless very effective communication dialects. Of course, if these or other dialects impact our efficacy in the power circles, or the language somehow becomes a barrier to tourism, we might start to see it decline. But it’s important to distinguish between the PRESENCE of a dialect in a power circle and an adverse IMPACT. E.g. The increasing use of twitter/txt speak in business doesn’t necessarily spell the end. If it’s there for a reason, and it’s being used effectively and profitably, it’ll likely propagate the language, not curtail it. The English language has been changing forever. And people have been lamenting that change forever. I’m yet to see anything different in contemporary changes than what was witnessed by ‘refined’ speakers of the 1500s, who spurned Shakespeare’s lowbrow work…

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Francis Fox wrote on January 17th, 2012

Your response to my post was both swift and remarkably far-ranging for an answer penned (or should I say 'keyboarded'?) in such little time. As for the "Deterioration/evolution debate", it is very possible, even likely, that we have a different assessment of where the English language is at in its historical unfolding.Some facts pertaining to the debate, however, are worth mentioning, because it is not merely an opinion that language skills are deteriorating, it is a well-documented phenomenon that is causing great concern for contemporary educationalists. 1.The average active vocabulary of a high-school student in 2010 was between 10,000-11,000 words, compared to a range of 20,000-21,000 in the 70s and early 80s. 2. Students at school anywhere in Australia in 2012 will be taught very little about the grammar of our national language, nor about the 'mechanics' of spelling and punctuation. This is despite the fact that English curricula in NSW and Victoria ( I assume the other states would be similar, but I'm not 100% sure) both require that students between Grade 1 and Year 10 be taught grammar. 3. The reason students will actively learn little about English grammar at school is that their teachers do not have the expertise to teach them, because they themselves were not trained in grammar. I know this for a fact because I move among educators who tell me these things quite openly. 4. When students have poor language analysis skills, their reading comprehension is significantly (negatively) affected. And because their reading skills are relatively low, on average, they either read less, or read material which is not too challenging. This has a further (negative) impact upon their vocabulary development. 5. The combined effect of 1-4 (above), which is a process that has been in train for a whole generation, is that the majority of people are not language-savvy. The reason that you can read so incredibly much text in the world around you that is flawed in terms of its grammar or spelling or punctuation, or extremely limited in vocabulary and style, is simply that you can get away with inferior linguistic quality. The majority of people will accept it because they don't know better, weren't educated to know better. Glenn, I have lived in countries where pidgin is spoken.I became a highly efficient communicator in Tok Pisin (Pidgin English) when I lived in PNG. What I could say, I could say very well. But our conversations never ran to art, or philosophy, to logic or ethics, to anything that involved conceptions of an abstract nature. The vocabulary, the philosophical and linguistic distinctions between categories and orders of experience, just didn't exist for them. I'm not suggesting this has happened in English-speaking culture; our language is by no means a pidgin, but it could be headed in that direction. Meanwhile, certain things have been lost which could have been retained. If you want people to appreciate good writing, for example, you'd better make sure they get a good education.

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Marisa South wrote on September 6th, 2012

You are spot on in identifying the key differences in writing styles. SEO Copywriting is at the best of times an art form. It becomes even more complex when reputation management is involved. It really does require skill, creativity and accuracy. Hiring a qualified writer is definitely the way to go - risking your reputation further by choosing someone unfit for the task is just not worth it!

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Glenn (Owner) wrote on September 6th, 2012

Very true Marisa! :-)

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Sean Vandenberg wrote on November 18th, 2012

I totally agree here. I'm a freelance SEO writer— some of the pricing out there, it's crazy. If it takes me 1.5 hours to write a good content page, there's no way I'm charging $5. That's insanity! On the other hand, there are plenty of SEO copywriters out there charging way too much. Either way, I think it's a good idea to ask for a free sample before buying!

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Glenn Murray wrote on September 19th, 2013

I'd you're still following this thread, you'll be interested to know I stumbled across some great research that suggests kids are getting smarter, not dumber... What do you think?

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