Search Engine Reputation Management (SERM) Market Size?

Andy Beal has taken a stab at estimating the market size for online reputation management.

As a niche marketer, considering the niche for promotion of various products, I thought I would take a closer look.

The Overview Approach

  • Do you classify things like issuing press releases as SEO, PR or SERM?
  • How much does it cost a VC and a company CEO to spend time engaging in comments on blog posts about a company, and is that SERM or something else such as a marketing activity engaging an audience?
  • Are the creation of linkbait and viral marketing campaigns looked on as preventative SERM or marketing? They can certainly be a liability if they go wrong, but when they are successful, there is the opposite effect

In many ways Andy’s estimates could be on the low side, and Trackur, a tool Andy has created and actively markets could be a good solution to monitor your brand online.

The Forensic Approach

This is an industry which is just bubbling to the surface, how can we determine whether it is a viable niche to be involved with?

Google Trends

I would love to show you some graphs, but Google trends doesn’t have enough data for some of the primary keywords

Google Adwords Keywords Tool

If Online Reputaion Management or Search Engine Reputation Management is a market with money in it, then there should be some aggressive advertising in Google. Most of the people involved should be highly proficient in Adwords already as many of them offer Adwords management as a service as well.

Search Engine Reputation Management

There is certainly some growth, but a large proportion of the search volume might be companies offering this service checking out their competitors, and their own rankings in Google.

The Adwords keyword tool does highlight quite a wide range of related search terms, but nothing compared to SEO, SEM, PR etc.

Confusing Niche

I know companies where if I apply the time they spend on reputation management based upon my overview approach, their costs for a single company might be as much as $300,000, without allowing for whatever time or money they have spent on custom tool development to service at least in part their own need.
At the same time they have reduced marketing costs – controversy is free advertising, and as the saying goes, the biggest problem is if no one is talking about you.

Based upon that information alone, Andy’s estimate of the ORM or SERM market size I would think is conservative, but Adwords tells a different story.

There are Adwords bids, but nowhere near the competition I would have expected if firms are really making a huge amount of money in reputation management. Maybe they all have as much work as they can handle, or they gain enough visibility through other marketing channels not to even bother with Adwords on keyword terms which are showing buying intent.

Based upon the Adwords market, I would almost pass on the niche as being one which doesn’t have enough search volume and marketing spend to be one worth entering under normal circumstances.

But it is a fairly new niche market, with unrefined terminology – potential customers might not necessarily use obvious search terms, and business is mainly on a referral basis or with existing clients as an upsell.

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  1. says

    It certainly makes sense for a company (like ours for instance) to a have unified approach in engaging the web and I’m impressed that the estimated spending for Search Engine Reputation Management industry is at $100 million in 2008 with a projected 40% annual growth in the next 2 years. I’m sure the industry will evolve and terminologies and phrasing will be associated exclusively with it. In my opinion, if one looks at the very concept of SERM, then such SEO, PR, and marketing activities like you mentioned (press releases, viral marketing campaigns, etc) will have to be part of the overall SERM or ORM strategy.

  2. says

    My POV on the market is that there seems to be a growing demand for the service but most potential clients get cold feet once you tell them how much it will cost and how much time it will take. But the trend is definitely upwards.

  3. says

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  4. says

    I believe Andrew is correct. Every one is motivated until they see what the cost is. These things usually take a lot of time and effort, but many just can’t the value of a good reputation.

  5. says


    Thanks for the great post. I’m sure you’re right about a lot of the increase in volume being from people checking their own rankings (I know I’m guilty of this) but at the same time I can testify that this is definitely the biggest area of growth for us and it is also where we’re sinking most of our marketing dollars and efforts.

    I hope your growth stats are correct, I’ll finally be able to get that Ferrari!!