Steven W. Giovinco is an online reputation management and repair specialist holding Master’s degrees from New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program and Yale University.
Steven has been interviewed by The New York Times, Tribune Media/WGN, Inc., Martindale/Lawyers.com and given numerous talks on online reputation management.
He started Recover Reputation because of the need to build his own online presence and saw the value of focusing on high quality work that is completely hands-on.
He repairs, improves and protects online reputations for professionals, CEOs, small to medium size companies, brands and individuals in law, finance, banking, hedge funds, the arts.
Previously, Steven ran a social media and SEO business working with small businesses in creative and marketing fields (photography, fashion/beauty, etc.). Steve was asked by his client who had a negative link that severely damaged their business, and was asked to repair it–he did, and this is when he realized the importance of online reputation management.
Giovinco ran Lifetime Television’s intranet and other applications, connecting over 500 users across the country.
At the financial firm Lehman Brothers, Steven was a consultant where he redesigned their sites to be more user friendly for 10,000 employees. Working at Citibank, Thompson Financial, and E&Y, Giovinco gained extensive financial and law-related experience.
Steven is an avid fan of tennis, British television shows and is a minor art collector.
How did you get started in this business? What inspired you to start this business?
Besides needing to build my own online reputation, the “light bulb” moment came when someone asked if I could delete a severely damaging news link. Since this appeared at the very top of Google search for their business, this was hurting their bottom line dramatically, costing them immediate and lasting declining sales. After a few weeks, I successfully deleted it. The client was ecstatic.
With that, I immediately saw value of online reputation management repair. If negative links appear on the first page of Google, this damages the business; if pushed down, the business thrives. Unlike SEO and social media where the business value can be hard measure, reputation repair success is very clear. I also calculated that just one negative link could cost a firm $30,000 or more in lost business.
How do you make money?
If a client has a negative reputation needing to be repaired or has minimal web presence that needs to be built, I provide a detailed proposal outlining what I’ll do. This is not just a list where tasks will be checked-off; instead, since each case is unique, the approach is customized. If hired, I spend a large amount of time researching the issue, my client, their online history and understand where they want to go.
My background as a business analyst in previous careers comes in handy, and helps to construct a online reputation management strategy. This usually is made up of excellent content creation–blogs, white papers, videos, photos, presentations, etc.–social media platforms where the content is shared, and repeating the process daily. An average repair process takes about six months or more, and for this service I get paid monthly.
There is no “magic bullet” solution–just hard work requiring hands-on attention, and frequently pivoting to the right solution, since Google is always changing their search algorithm.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
It was fairly quick to be profitable since I sell a service, have minimal costs, and work only with a handful of clients at a time. Although time consuming, the biggest challenge is managing and keeping track of all of the detailed tasks required for repairing a reputation.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
Of course, I fully admit to being petrified at many times. Initially, there were several“white knuckle” moments where I was uncertain if the business would work.
The solution, however, was to follow my intuition, which is something I continue to do. Although this has taken a while to trust, this has become one of my most important business “tools.” I always conduct extensive research and gather facts, but make the final decision based on my instinct.
By the way, this is is especially helpful when deciding what trends follow, where to shift priorities, and what new repair solutions that are important to explore.
How did you get your first customer?
The first client came from a recommendation. They were a non-profit organization who did excellent work supporting 9/11 victims in Downtown New York. However, one negative news story spread virally, flooding almost all of the first five pages of Google search pages for the business. Even though it was my first client, it was one of the hardest cases. I was able to repair the damage by suppressing the negative links down, removing some dead links, and by adding extensive positive content.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
Writing blogs or articles that answer real problems generates new clients. I spend as much time as possible crafting original articles, white papers and presentations that gives solutions. Giving away information help others. This shows expertise, builds trust, and improves Google search rankings, leading to more business. I always suggest this to my clients too.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
I had to fire a client, which was painful. They had an online negative reputation, but in order to repair it, there needed to be a partnership with their webmaster and other internal marketing personal to make crucial changes. Since they got burned by another online reputation management firm, they wanted to lock down access to their site and social media platforms, which I completely understand and work with any organization.
However, even though I presented a series of clear step-by-step instructions, they were not followed and this severely delayed the success of the project. So, when time came to renew the agreement, I told them of the frustrating problems, and suggested it was better for them to streamline their internal process before continuing. I strive for success every time, but some things are out of my control, and feel it is always better to be honest than take a client’s money.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
Always focusing on the client and being of service. Whenever I speak to a prospect, I give away as much information as possible, especially if it provides a quick solution to an easy to solve problem; I would never charge for something they can easily do on their own.
It’s something I like doing but it’s also good business. Because of this, I often get referrals from people I help or the original prospect comes back months later. Also, by sharing real solutions via blog articles, it builds trust which translates into more leads and clients.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
As always, it’s most satisfying seeing the negative links go down month by month, and successfully completing a repair project. This happens about 90% or more of the time. One case that had an especially excellent result was for a client with a very hard case. They had a very damaging articles from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Gawker which appeared at the very top of Google searches. This normally would take at least six months to a year to fix; I was able to repair it in a little more than three months. He was ecstatic, and this enabled him to get a new six figure executive position.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
Things that I am most excited by are how new technologies will impact online reputation management. One that is happening now are the explosive use of SmartSpeakers; another is blockchain. Being known as a “thought leader” or expert in a niche field will continue to expand further into many other industries beyond traditional ones such as finance, law and other professionals. Online reputation management will continue to be a great way draw clients towards your business.
What business books have inspired you?
It’s not a business book, but it’s one that I remember from freshman English class. The Elements of Style, by William Strunk and E. B. White is something I still think about frequently. The book’s focus is to constantly hone language down to it’s essential core ideas. As an entrepreneur, this is a great mantra to follow: continue to simplify ideas, tasks and goals.
What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?
One that has been very helpful has also been extremely cost effective at about only $5 per month: Virtual Private Network (VPN). This gives me the ability to work This allows me to accurately and quickly check the reputation of clients in other cities, states and countries.
How Do You Work to Repair a Damaged Reputation?
Building or repairing an online reputation starts with research and analysis. From there, I construct a custom approach to highlight any existing accomplishments, create new ones, and share on online platforms.
The real key is identifying who are the readers/clients, finding where they are online, and craft a compelling message that resonates for them.
I handle every project personally. Unlike big companies, this allows me to be nimble in responding to Google’s frequent search algorithm changes, as well as to be very hands-on, offering a personal approach. My background in finance at Citibank and at several investment banks could make this a perfect fit.
The keys to a success are research, hard work, tweaking the strategy, and most importantly, continued excellent content creation placed on the right platforms.
Usually, this includes:
● Understand the business through business analysis (50+ hours)
● Optimize for search engines (10-30+ hours)
● Create platforms and backlinks (50+ hours)
● Generate excellent content (30+ hours)
● Share on targeted social media (50+ hours)
● Continue to generate excellent content, constantly sharing (100+ hours)
Everything I do is completely customized. And frankly, this is the only way to be effective. With this approach, 95% of my projects are successful.
Given that Google stresses quality content, I focus on excellent, hand-crafted solutions. And since Google is always changing their algorithm, and am flexible, and pivot to find the best solution. Large companies don’t–and can’t–do this.