Consider this: At this very moment, a bored teenager could be posting a flaming — and entirely fabricated — review of your business on an online referral site such as Yelp or Google +.  Or, perhaps a disgruntled client could be mocking you in an online discussion group.  Or a former roommate from college could be posting unflattering mid-1980s party pictures of you to Facebook.

Online reputation:  Take control before someone else does

Due to the uncensored and mostly unregulated world of the Internet, all of these scenarios are entirely possible.  And that makes online reputation management something you can’t afford to ignore.

What can be done?  Well, you could hire a company that specializes in online reputation management and repair.  While they can certainly be effective, they’re not inexpensive — their fees can quickly climb into the six-figure range!

But don’t worry, they aren’t your only option.  In fact, there are 3 simple steps you can take to manage your company’s online reputation.

ONE: Listen

You need to know what people are saying about you or your business before you prepare a response.  The best way is to search for yourself or your business with Google, Bing or another search engines.  You can also set up keyword alerts for mentions of your name on the Internet.  And there are many more sophisticated approaches, including dashboard-style tools that notify you when your personal or business information appears on the Internet and in social media mentions.

TWO: Take an offensive position

Ever heard of the old saying “the best defense is a good offense”?  Well, it certainly applies here.  A solid SEO strategy can help ensure that your company’s website appears at or near the top of search engine results.  Similarly, search engines look for original, fresh content, so adding articles or videos, blogging regularly, and staying active with social media can help fortify your reputation.  The core idea is to offset negative or false statements about your business with regular waves of positive information.

THREE:  Plan your response

The primary objective is to put yourself in control of your online reputation.  Unfortunately, you can’t control everything.  That’s why you need a plan for how to respond if or when your name gets dragged through the digital mud.  For example, what happens if you find a negative review of your business?  Do you ignore it?  Do you post a reply on the review site?  Or do you address it in a blog post or via social media channels?  You will also want to lay out such items as who will serve as the company’s voice, and how quickly you will take action.

Another important point to consider:  The major search engines allow you to request that false or misleading information be removed from websites.  You can also contact the webmasters of individual review sites and ask them to delete misleading or inflammatory comments.  Be prepared to back up your request with clear details, however.  Also be careful to pick your battles carefully — today’s hyper-savvy Web users have little tolerance for anything that hints at censorship.

The bottom line:  You most likely will not be able to remove all potentially damaging content from the Internet, but the steps outlined above can help you reduce its impact on your reputation.

To learn more about how Petaluma, CA based Buchanan Web Marketing can help your San Fransico bay area Business with online reputation management, website development and SEO, SUBSCRIBE to this blog and start by requesting a FREE website audit today!