Whether you are a big or small business, if you are not properly managing your online reputation and interaction with your clientele and/or readers, then you’re simply not doing it right. When an eager customer, employee or client hops online and searches for you, what exactly is it that they’re going to see? Something like a hate site, or some sort of rip off report would not be ideal. What of course would be ideal is a news report stating the incredible growth and success your business has managed to cultivate. There are a growing number of opportunities, now more than ever, to quickly rank unfavorable or even flat-out slanderous results. If your enterprise – whether it is a massive website or a small new social app – is not well maintained and protected, anyone can easily post a comment, upload a video or their own blog post, or just simply create their own site where they can promote your competition and spew hatred in your direction as much as they please. Managing your online reputation is a means of defense and best practice. #1. Who really cares about your reputation on the internet? You’re completely exposed on the internet, and that means that your business’ online reputation can be viewed and interpreted in a variety of ways. If you’re looking for steady employment, offering a product for sale, looking for someone trustworthy to invest or attempting to land a hot date, someone is going to jump to their search engine and discover more about you. How can a negative online reputation affect you? Besides the obvious financial implications, other potential legal ramifications may dominate your time and really put a stranglehold on your financial sustainability. This keeps the trusted news and legal results in the top search rankings, so even if a particular case manages to resolve itself somehow, the consequences will leave a digital water mark, a stain on your online permanent record for years to come. How do you better assess your online reputation? Most people surfing through the web will not read past the first page or two of search results, so you only need to look at a couple of pages for each keyword on the major search engines. Starting with the basic searches on Google and Yahoo, for your name, the company, products, usernames and so on, is key, whether you are representing a car dealership or otherwise. #2. Positive Impressions Getting help and assistance from recognized reputation management firms is a first and smart step in the right direction. When anyone is seeking information about you, it is best that you lead them to the relevant and positive results. If the search results are overstuffed with irrelevant sites that discuss competitive research and company profiles, the user will most likely not find something they are interested in. People will expect that you at least have a Wikipedia page, but if that is all they see, then there is not much credibility they can attribute to you and your business. Another question you must ask yourself is, how many of those search results are you able to have control of? If you own a website or social profile, the more results you see that you have control over, the better. This can allow you to have more control over how your reputation is perceived online. Job changes, name changes, doppelgangers, corporate scandals, fake profiles, and dead domains are among the most common reputation management issues that arise. These are problems of course that need to be immediately addressed. This is where professional online reputation management services can come in real handy and be quite effective in guiding you through these virtual obstacle courses. Allowing yourself to receive notifications every time your name, or a keyword of your choice, is mentioned online is also very effective. It can be extremely helpful to gain that kind of information before a problem grows too large or enters the top search results. #3. Engage and Network Throwing yourself into the online discussion is the next necessary step. In some way or another, you have to be a part of the conversation. Read what people are saying about you. Besides properly putting together your credibility, there are more steps one can take to strengthen rankings on the search engines. Gather your professional and personal networks. Locate your co-workers and colleagues, friends, clientele and business partners, and befriend them. Join in on their conversations, answers some of their questions, and also keep them informed of your online life or business. This can be done through the more professional social networking websites like LinkedIn. Also: Personal and popular social interaction sites such as Facebook and Twitter. School-related sites like Classmates and Reunion Review sites like Yelp and Amazon Media sites like Flickr, YouTube and Vimeo Bookmarking sites like StumbleUpon or Reddit And so forth. Then, establish yourself as a legitimate authority in your realm. When you become an authority, the online community is more motivated to link to you, email business opportunities and partnerships, refer you to a number of media outlets, etc. Several ways you can expand and solidify your authority: Start a group, or an online social organization Participate in Q&A sites like Yahoo Answers Optimize your corporate profile on the company site (if applicable) Creating a personal Web site Place your business in appropriate local listings Publish and upload videos Record online podcasts Create a personal blog or Tumblr Having a large list of client or customer testimonials can also be an advantage. If you don’t already have those testimonials, make an effort to collect them in the future. Then, take all of those testimonials, whether they are good or bad, and publish them on the site. Allowing an open forum where users can be completely honest about their experience with your business can allow online users to feel that you are, at the very least, honest. You can also track the positive comments on websites or apps like Twitter or LinkedIn, and add those to your site. Allow customers the freedom to publish product reviews on your website. All of these tricks and tips can engage your community, to give them recognition for finding you. Images: ”Reputation Management Concept on the Mechanism of Metal Cogwheels./Shutterstock.com“ ______________________________________________________________________________ Tweak Your Biz is a thought leader global publication and online business community. 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