Cutting Online Reputation Management Costs: A Small Business Guide

In today’s digital world, online reputation management (ORM) is more important than ever for small businesses. A company’s online reputation impacts everything from its ability to attract customers to hiring new employees. With the rise of review sites, social media, and other online platforms, customers have more influence than ever on a business’s brand perception and success.

Online reputation management refers to the ongoing process of monitoring, managing, and improving a business’s reputation online. This process includes reviewing mentions and reviews across various sites, addressing negative content, pushing positive and authoritative content to the top of search results, and proactively building your brand through social media and other channels. The goal is to shape the narrative about your company and establish a positive reputation that converts prospects into customers.

For small businesses with limited resources, investing in professional online reputation management may seem daunting. The costs associated with ignoring your reputation, however, could be far greater in the long run. This article will provide an overview of typical ORM costs for small businesses and tips for budgeting and choosing the right provider for your needs.

What is Online Reputation Management?

Online reputation management (ORM) is the practice of monitoring, managing, and improving a brand’s reputation online. It involves a combination of strategies to shape how a business is perceived across various channels like search engines, review sites, and social media.

Some key services that online reputation management agencies provide include:

  • Monitoring brand mentions across the web to spot issues early
  • Content removal for taking down negative or inaccurate information
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) to push positive content higher in search rankings
  • Social media management to maintain a consistent brand image
  • Online PR and thought leadership content creation
  • Review generation and management to get more 5-star ratings
  • Crisis PR to respond to reputational threats or PR disasters

The main goal of online reputation management is to create a predominantly positive presence for a brand across all platforms where stakeholders may search for or engage with the business online. This practice attracts customers, talent, partners, and investors.

Typical Cost Ranges

The cost of online reputation management services can vary greatly depending on the scope of work, experience level of the provider, and types of services they offer. Here are typical monthly price ranges:

  • Low-end services ($500-$2,500 per month): Usually include basic monitoring of review sites and search results. May only cover a few key platforms like Google and Facebook. Often use more automated removal of negative content. Best for those with mostly positive reputations.
  • Mid-tier services ($2,500-$10,000 per month): Expanded monitoring that includes social media platforms like X (formerly Twitter) and Instagram. More hands-on reputation repair with customized outreach for removal of negative content. Some proactive content development included. Ideal for those with some reputation issues to clean up.
  • High-end/comprehensive services ($10,000+ per month): Full service reputation management across all key platforms, including press and blogs. Very hands-on reputation repair and crisis response. Heavy focus on pushing positive content and outranking negative material. Best for prominent brands and public figures or those with major reputation issues.

Most small businesses can expect to invest between $500 to $2,500 per month for basic online reputation management services.

Number of Platforms Monitored

The number of platforms monitored is one of the biggest factors that impacts the monthly cost of reputation management services. More platforms means more work for the reputation management provider, which translates to higher monthly fees.

At a minimum, most reputation management campaigns will monitor core review sites like Google, Facebook, and Yelp. For businesses with an established web presence, however, they may want to expand monitoring to industry forums, X, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, blogs, and other niche platforms relevant to their customers.

According to NetReputation, basic packages typically cover about 10 platforms while larger packages can cover 25 or more. Each additional platform adds to the monthly costs, but provides a more comprehensive view of your online reputation.

The key is identifying the high-value platforms where most of your current and potential customers are likely to search for reviews. Monitoring every possible site is overkill for many small businesses. Focus on your top 5-10 most important platforms to balance coverage and costs.

Amount of Negative Content

The more negative content there is about your brand online, the more time and effort you will need to clean up your reputation. This time and effort directly impacts the monthly fees reputation management companies charge.

If there are only a few negative reviews or scattered complaints on minor websites, costs will be lower. Reputation management software can handle simple removal requests quickly. If there are numerous damaging posts on high-authority sites like Ripoff Report or Pissed Consumer, however, you may need extensive legal work to get them taken down. This work can cost thousands per negative page.

According to WebFX, reputation cleanup for businesses with major reputation issues starts around $5,000/month. This price covers the legal demands, staff time, and monitoring needed to continually improve search results.

The reputation management company will audit and quantify your negative content during an initial assessment. This audit allows them to tailor a monthly price based on the projected workload for suppressing harmful content. Expect fees to rise if new negatives emerge requiring clean-up.

Proactive Reputation Management Cost Considerations

Beyond just monitoring and responding to issues, many businesses want to take a proactive approach to shaping their online reputation. This process requires additional investment in services like SEO, content marketing, and social media management.

According to Konnect Insights, SEO and content creation services may add $1,500-2,500 per month on top of basic monitoring fees. Creating a steady stream of positive brand mentions online helps push down negative results in search.

Maintaining an active social media presence also requires dedicated resources. Statusbrew notes that social media management can cost $500-1,500 per month depending on frequency of posting and community engagement.

Businesses wanting to fully control their narrative online should budget extra for proactive reputation building. But for smaller brands, focusing on monitoring and removal may be more cost effective.

Location and Industry

The location of your business and the competitiveness of your industry impacts reputation management costs. Providers generally charge higher fees in major cities and metro areas where there is more competition. For example, managing online reputation in New York City or Los Angeles costs more than in smaller towns.

Likewise, industries that are highly competitive like law firms, hospitals, and financial services tend to have higher reputation management costs. When there are many rivals trying to attract the same customers in your area, you may need to spend more on maintaining and improving your online reputation.

According to a study by Clicta Digital, the average monthly cost for reputation management ranges from $500-$1000 in non-competitive markets to $3000-$5000 in highly competitive locations and industries. The increased monthly fees help providers better position you above competitors and aggressively counter negative content.

Provider Experience Level

The experience level of your online reputation management provider will directly impact the costs. More established agencies with veteran strategists tend to charge higher fees. For example, a solo consultant just starting out may charge $1,000 per month, while an agency handling global brands could charge over $10,000 per month. More expertise means higher fees.

As a small business, you likely don’t need an agency that works with Fortune 500 companies. There are many boutique agencies and freelancers that specialize in local business reputation management at reasonable rates. However, make sure to vet their experience. Look for case studies and client examples relevant to small businesses in your industry.

While tempting to go with an inexperienced provider for the cost savings, reputation management is a nuanced skill. Work with someone who understands the ins and outs of optimizing online profiles, suppressing negative content across platforms, and staying on top of the latest algorithm changes. They will get better results for your money.

Custom vs. Pre-Set Packages

When evaluating your reputation management options, you’ll find providers offer both custom solutions tailored to your unique needs or pre-set packages with standardized services. In general, custom packages delivered by more experienced providers come at a premium cost compared to pre-set solutions.

Custom packages allow you to hand-pick the specific platforms to monitor, amount of content creation, and level of reporting based on your individual reputation goals. This flexibility means the provider does more work upfront to analyze your existing reputation and build a strategy focused on your priorities. The benefit is the plan is optimized for your situation, although it requires a higher investment.

With pre-set packages, the provider offers tiered levels of service, like a Basic, Pro, and Premium plan. The services each tier offers are generic rather than customized. While pre-set options are more budget-friendly, they may not address your unique reputation needs and challenges. You get less strategy and specialization from the provider.

According to research, monthly fees for custom packages range from $2,500 to over $10,000 while pre-set solutions are priced from $500 to $2,500. The extra cost brings more tailored solutions from the provider.

Budgeting Tips for Small Businesses

With limited resources, small businesses need to be strategic in budgeting for online reputation management. Here are some tips:

  • Start by getting a free assessment of your current online reputation. This assessment will give you an estimate of your needs and expected costs for services.
  • Consider handling basic reputation monitoring yourself before investing in a provider. There are DIY tools like Google Alerts that can give you insights for free.
  • When hiring a provider, prioritize critical platforms like Google and Facebook. Focus on optimizing your presence on the sites most customers use to provide the biggest impact.
  • Build services over time, starting with the highest priority needs. For example, you may start with quarterly negative content removal, then add monthly social media monitoring once the budget allows.
  • Look for new customer discounts when negotiating contracts. Many providers offer first-time deals to win your business.

With some strategic planning, small businesses can find affordable ways to manage their reputations online.


Ian Kirby has been working in digital marketing for over 15 years. Having worked both with and for digital marketing agencies and in-house with multiple companies, he has a specific interest and expertise in online reputation management, online reviews, and the implementation of business systems. Ian’s writing, videos, and interviews have garnered millions of reads, views, and listens.


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