With everyone being online now, it is more important than ever to make sure you’ve got a good grasp on what is being said about you and your company on the World Wide Web. But because the web is so expansive, it can be difficult to know where to start.

Imagine a world where dissatisfied customers or your competition can write anything they want about your company wherever they can. Imagine a world where a few influential bloggers can tear down your company with a well-placed article. These negative reviews and comments can end up dominating the search results for your company. It’s called negative SEO, and it holds quite a bit of weight in the eyes of the Internet.Monitor handshake

So how can you help your business when this type of thing happens, and what are some ways you can avoid these types of things from happening?

Here are a few strategies:

BUY REAL ESTATE?

Your website may have a .com attached to it, but you should also consider buying the .net, .co. ,org and any other dot that you can. This will prevent other people from building negative sites, such as yourbusinesssucks.com? (yes, this really happens).

And, as social media continues to take a hold on the business world, make sure you’ve got all your social media ducks in a row, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Foursquare, LinkedIn, etc. Even get a MySpace. I hear it’s making a comeback. People make fake profiles on these social media sites all the time, and in the event that they make one for your company, you can quickly deny any claims the fake profile makes. This goes a long way toward securing your online reputation and your brand.

Also make sure you’ve got an active presence on review sites like Yelp, CitySearch, Google Places, Yahoo Local, and any other local review sites you can think of. By being active on these types of review sites, you can catch bad reviews in the act and work to refute them.

By creating these profiles and being active on these types of sites, you can help drive positive, optimized information back to your site. You can actively combat the un-optimized negative reviews with relative ease.

JOIN THE FORUMS. JOIN THE BLOGS

This is similar to getting on review sites. Forums are a huge gathering place for people that are like-minded and have interests in something specific. Blogs are pretty much the same thing, with the main voice being of one or a few individuals. This can be a great thing for your business and your online reputation, but it can also turn into a horror story pretty quickly.

In his book The New Rules of Marketing & PR, David Meerman Scott uses the example of a camera company that kept up with the popular forums of their customer base. There was an error with one of their orders for a new camera and the forums blew up with angry customers. But, when this happened, one of the executives of the camera company jumped on the forum and let everyone know on the forum what was happening. The customers greatly appreciated the fact that the company stepped up and understood their customer base enough to be able to respond in a timely manner.

Blogs are the same way. When someone writes a negative blog post about you, if you are engaged in the community of bloggers that are in your industry, you can quickly step up to the plate and defend or explain your position. More often than not, the people commenting on the blog and the blogger will appreciate the company’s participation in the discussion.

STEP UP TO THE PLATE

With all that said, it is important to actively seek to put squash bad reviews and negative comments before they get out of hand.

But it doesn’t have to be just online bad reviews that you need to get rid of. Imagine you got a bad review in a newspaper or on the news. You can take to YouTube to do a rebuttal video. You can hold a town meeting at your place of business to hold an open discussion about whatever issue they seem to have. You can even request a spot on the news to defend or explain your position.

By putting a face to your company, you are creating a connection to the community that many companies will refuse to do.

At some point, you and your business will probably be the target of malicious attacks or other negative reviews. But the real question is, how will you respond? Will you take a backseat and hope to ride it out? Or will you take action and begin to repair the damage yourself?

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