It is estimated that at least 88% of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Your online reputation is literally the first impression that new customers will get of your business. There is no way around it—if this is tampered with, you will lose revenue.

The problem here is that your online reputation can be easily tampered with. All it takes is one disgruntled customer or a fraudulent competitor to create a blog or a review that shoots to the top of Google search results. Negative reviews definitely move faster than positive ones, because they create more engagement and tend to get more attention overall. People naturally have a bias towards the negative. So what can you do when your company has received negative attention like this online?

If you want to keep your online reputation clean, get proactive.

Reputation monitoring is the process of real-time reputation management. This is the best kind of reputation management, because it allows you to respond to negative things about your reputation in real time. The faster that you respond, the less powerful that negative comments become about you online.

However, you should definitely start with basic reputation management. Reputation management occurs when you either try to create positive content or promote positive content to outweigh the negative content that is on the Internet about you. This is a discipline that nearly every business with the knowledge and the budget engages in. It is not cheating. You are simply presenting the best perspective of yourself so that people do not immediately have a bad impression of you based on the opinion of one customer or fraudulent competitor.

There is also something to say for using negative comments about your business as an opportunity. One of the best ways to engage in reputation management is to simply (and politely) ask the webmaster hosting the negative comment to take it down. In most cases, this involves some kind of negotiation. If you are able to negotiate it down, it will usually disappear from the major search engine rankings within the day. This will keep you from having to deal with the technical issues that occur in search engine rankings when you are trying to force content out of the top spot with other content.

One of the most important steps you can take to manage your reputation, however, is to listen to criticism. Listen to dissatisfied customers. Try to connect with them on an emotional level and to understand their perspective. Review the actions of your business, and if necessary, make changes. Do what can be done to redress wrongs that your business is responsible for. Making these efforts will go a long way to repair the social standing of your business, especially if you are able to successfully reach out and make amends with the original critics.

Whichever way you choose to make this happen, it is very important that your reputation remain clean online. The best thing is usually to incorporate many methods into your reputation management. That way, you get the best chance of creating a positive perspective about your brand online, giving you the opportunity for more business.

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