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The internet can present a treasure trove of information on almost any subject …including you. What are your target customers finding when they type your name, company, product, or brand into search?

You have the power to influence what they see, and given that 78% of internet users claim to research products online, it’s more important than ever to assure those online signals paint a respectable picture. Doing nothing puts your good name at the mercy of what others post online—and as Murphy’s Law would have it, it’s usually the naysayers who are most eager to speak out.

It’s time to get a grip on your online reputation.

Here are some things you can do to build a favorable online profile that helps spawn trust:

  • Put yourself out there: Enable more owned listings to show up in search results by claiming your personal and company profiles on relevant social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter; Q&A forums like Quora; and local resources like Google Places, Yelp, and Angie’s List. Make sure your posted information is honest, accurate, and keyword-rich. Also try to give people a view into the relatable “human side” of your business through compelling copy and photos that convey your personality.
  • Promote your wisdom, not your wares: Position yourself as a trusted authority and thought leader in your space by creating a stream of well-written, trust-building content that shares your unique insights and demonstrates your expertise, without pushing the sale. Post that content to your website and blog (remember to optimize those pages for search) and link to it in relevant social media comments.
  • Be the savvy source: Generate good blog and press coverage by fostering relationships with journalists and influencers in your niche and reaching out to them whenever you have a story that directly pertains their audiences. Also subscribe to resources like HARO to learn about potential press opportunities. Help your media pitches stand out by always crafting a personalized response that fits the journalist’s needs.
  • Invite reviews: Make it easy for satisfied customers to post reviews and testimonials online. Add a user-friendly solution for collecting submissions on your site, and publish them without using scripts. Ask for reviews, and send email reminders with links directly to your submission page or your profile pages on Yelp and Google Places. Use point-of-sale displays and QR codes to direct in-person contacts to these online properties.
  • Look before you leap: Respond to these online conversations, questions, and reviews, but not before studying the websites where that information is posted and ensuring your response will correspond with users’ expectations. Don’t forget to proofread and scrutinize your words before adding new comments—once that information is posted online, it becomes forever accessible.
  • Show you care: Publicly respond to negative comments and reviews with professionalism and poise. Empathize with unhappy users and communicate your plans to improve your customer experience. Avoid clashing with argumentative folks and trolls in the public eye; instead, try to move those conversations offline so that their comments don’t attract as much attention.

You can’t control what people say about you online, but you can influence what people are exposed to when they research you online. Take advantage of these techniques to complement your customer service efforts and build confidence in your brand.

Now you tell us: What approaches have you found effective for managing your online reputation? Share them in the comments below.

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