How to Clean Up Your Online Reputation

For a small business, reputation is everything. You depend on satisfied customers to not only return, but to tell their friends and family about how wonderful you are. While reputation used to depend solely on word-of-mouth, the image of today’s small business is largely created by what is found on the Internet. In order to help your company succeed, it is important that you take the time to clean up your online reputation. To help you get started, we recommend following these 5 steps:

1. Know what is being said about your small business

There are two parts to this knowledge. The first is what comes up when people search for your company online. The easiest way to know what other people see is to Google yourself (and Bing and Yahoo). Search for your company name (including common mispellings) and any of your product names. Whatever is making the first page of your search, is what all your potential customers are seeing. You can keep yourself updated with newly published material by setting up a Google Alert with your company and product names. (Bonus Tip:  It is also wise to see what happens when you do an image search.) The second part of this knowledge has to do with what is being said on social media. The best way to find out is to do searches on sites such as TweetAlarm (for Twitter mentions) and Boardreader (for Internet forums).

2. Clean up your website

The hope is that people searching for information about your company will come first to your company’s website. Encourage traffic by making sure that your website is aesthetically pleasing, easy to navigate, and full of clear brand messaging that lets people know exactly who you are and what you sell. You also want to make sure that your url is easy to find (ideally it is “”) and that you also own any variations of your url (such as .net or .org).

3. Create positive content

The best way to control what is being said online is to create a large, positive web presence. Your website is the place to start. You should also consider a blog (which can be on your website), and various social media accounts (such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter). You don’t want to create accounts that are unnecessary or that will be inactive, but the more content you create for these different web spaces, the higher you will push positive information about your company in any search results. (Bonus Tip: While you are creating content about your company, do your best to make it extremely shareable. After all, if you can get people re-posting or re-tweeting what you write, the more your company’s name and image will spread.)

4. Don’t engage with negative reviews

Review sites like Yelp can be both extremely helpful and extremely hurtful. It can be tempting to start a conversation or offer explanations to anyone who writes a negative review. However, all you are really doing is signaling to Google that this review is important and that they should rank it higher in their searches. It is best to take what is said, learn from it, and make any necessary changes. If the negative comments are posted on your website or social media accounts, there are two ways to handle it. The first is to delete it (though this can cause people to uproar about free speech). The second is to simply bury it. After all, if someone puts a negative comment on your Facebook page and then you promptly post 12 different updates, no one is going to see what the angry person said.

5. Get help

If your small business is plagued with a negative online reputation, it might be time to bring in some outside help. There are many different companies whose missions are to clean up the reputations of other businesses. Most will concentrate on trying to get negative content removed and creating new positive content. If you are concerned that your online image is too damaged to fix on your own, check and see what these companies (such as Integrity Defenders, and many more) can do for you.