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5 Reputation Management Tips for Small Businesses

While driving to work one morning, I listened to a radio ad from a notable Silicon Valley company (which has raised somewhere in the neighborhood of $60m over the past few years), promising to help consumers monitor and manage their online reputation.

Reputation management, once a term only relevant to mid and large market businesses, has hit the mainstream.

It wasn’t too long ago that I was working for a public relations agency, helping to build and implement a reputation management product for several Fortune 500 companies with some serious reputation management issues.  It’s startling that in such a short amount of time, the media landscape has evolved to the point where companies are finding success selling reputation management to consumers.

Granted, the current value of reputation management for the majority of individuals is somewhat debatable however what is not up for debate is that reputation management has become extremely relevant to small businesses.  If you’re a local business that relies largely on word-of-mouth, a few bad Yelp reviews have the potential to impact your bottom line and this dawning realization is what has investors lining up to fund reputation management services.

However, the price tag for these services can be high and given the reality of how most reputation management services work, it can be far more economical and effective to take matters into your own hands.

Fundamentally speaking, reputation management is about exerting influence on what prospective customers see when they go online to find out about your business.  The various tactics range however these days, most still focus primarily on SEO, which means getting supportive content above the fold in search so when consumers research your company name, they will see results that you can influence – either directly or indirectly.

The following mix of tactics can be used by any small business to take control of your reputation online without having to make a significant financial investment:

1. Create a presence in Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter

If you haven’t done so already, it’s a good idea to create a company page on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.  Facebook and LinkedIn allow users to create actual company pages while on Twitter you will just want to create an account for your company.  All three of these services are high authority domains that will be instantly visible in organic search.

2. Create or claim your profile on Google Places

When it comes to local search, Google Places is the dominant player.  If Google Places already has a profile on your company, you can “claim” your profile through phone or postal verification system and update your profile with keyword-rich content.  If you don’t already have a profile on Google Places, you should create one in order to add one more piece of content on a high authority domain that you exert control over.

3. Create or claim a profile on review sites

If you are in the restaurant business, claim your profile on Yelp.  If you are in the home improvement business, you can build or claim your profile on BuildZoom (disclaimer – I co-founded BuildZoom).  There are countless other free directory sites out there that represent opportunities to create content, optimized for your brand, on domains with existing authority.

4. Syndicate content

There are a variety of services like PRWebthat will syndicate articles and stories that you write, to a network of Web sites.  These stories (either the original or the syndicate version) will often be hosted on high authority sites and you can bank on at least one of the versions showing up in organic search for your company name, provided you use your company name in the title of the story.

5. Optimize your own site

Finally, your own Web site is going to be your best shot at showing up #1 in Google for queries of your company name for a variety of reasons but most importantly, because Google wants to show your site #1 in their search results when someone is searching for your company name.

Obviously the various SEO tactics for optimizing your site can fill up a series of novels however you should at a minimum, pick a good domain name and ensure that your home page has title tags, H1 tags and page content that contain your business name.  If you can link all the other channels you are using back to your site, it will help ensure that long-term, your site will show up #1 for queries of your company name.

* * *

Jiyan Naghshineh Wei is the CEO and Co-Founder of BuildZoom, a site that helps consumers find reliable home improvement businesses.  Prior to BuildZoom, he spent four years as Director of product management at Vocus, where he helped PRWeb grow into a leading online marketing tool.

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