Whether you’re a small business or a large corporation, managing your online reputation is a task that cannot be ignored. An extremely large percentage of consumers turn to the web for research before purchasing a product, and what they find can either make or break their next decision. Something as simple as a tweet about your product, a comment on Facebook, or a review on Yelp can hold a lot of value in your potential customers’ minds. 90% of customers say their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews (Source: Dimensional Research, April 2013). It is your duty as a business to manage what information is out there. In order to guard your businesses’ reputation, there are a few steps you must follow. 1. Find out what information is currently available. Perform periodic Google searches on your business. Search for complaints. Use specific, negative words involving your business name. Such as: “ Sucks” “…is terrible,” “…is awful,” “…is bad” (etc). Some companies don’t even realize that there are negative reviews pertaining to their business on the Internet. Look for customer reviews and comments on sites such as Yelp, Google Local, Google Blog Search, Foursquare and Twitter Search to evaluate what customers are saying about your brand. 2. Download free tools that help with reputation management. There are plenty of free social listening tools and services that can aid you in tracking your reputation. Some of these include: a. Google Alerts – This tool sends emails to you when Google finds new results – such as web pages, newspaper articles, or blogs – that match your specific search term. For example, if your search term is , you will automatically find out when something new and relevant to your search term is published. b. TweetBeep – This tool will notify you via email whenever your selected word, name, or phrase appears anywhere on Twitter, even if the query is used in a URL-shortening service like TinyURL. c. Social Mention – This tool allows you to explore or opt to receive social media alerts on your brand, company, marketing campaign, or any topic relating to your business. d. Mention – Similar to Google Alerts, Mention alerts you in real-time when your search terms are mentioned on the web. It allows you to connect your social accounts to your alerts and react without leaving the application, such as re-tweeting a mention or liking a comment within the application. e. Google Analytics – This popular tool monitors referring traffic metrics from all search engines and social networks, which allows you to analyze how your website, social network accounts, or search results are performing on the web. 3. Focus on improving your ranking in Google search results. One way you can do this is by developing a search marketing strategy that increases the ranking of positive content while decreasing the ranking of not-so-positive content. This is not to say you should ever develop your own, fake results, but instead encourage others to provide their own feedback if they were pleased with your service. With positive feedback on your Google results search page your business will be able to showcase it’s industry know-how and customer service. Also, sending out press releases will aid in the opportunity for being seen within the search engines. Responding to negative feedback is a delicate process, which needs to be handled in the most professional way possible. Consider reaching out to the individual publicly. Statements like “Thank you for your feedback, . Can I attempt to call or email you to discuss this further?” Next, whether you receive a response or not, privately reach out to the customer that left the negative feedback, in an effort to “make things right.” This act could potentially lead them to remove the comment while salvaging the relationship. Although it may be a bit draining to receive criticism from your customers, you must realize that they potentially hold more power than you. Most of the time you can learn of ways to better your business through the complaints of your consumers. Leave your ego at the door. On no account should you ever bash your customers when you don’t like their reviews. The words they write online will not go unnoticed, and if you provide one customer with a sour experience, more may join in on the fight. Check out Amy’s Baking Company for what NOT to do when communicating with your customers. If these efforts are not enough to restore your business’ image online, you should contact a professional like D4 Creative Group for additional assistance. It can be somewhat of a challenge to alter your digital past, so always be cautious of what you share on the internet, and what others share about you. Every negative association attached to your name on the web can decrease the value of your brand.