In an article on Small Busi­ness Computing, Michael Zammuto, president of Brand.com, offers small busi­ness owners advice on how to protect their online reputation.

Don’t Ignore the Internet

Online research is king, and small business owners sim­ply don’t recognize its impor­tance. Even a business that has nothing to do with the online world can find its reputation smeared across the Internet. Your business may not rely on the Internet, but your custom­ers—and your competitors—go online. What are they saying about you?

Know What You Can Control

When potential customers ask to know more about your business, it may seem sensible to refer them to online review sites. Don’t do it. Simply stated, you can’t control what people say about you on those sites.

A better course of action: fo­cus on improving your ranking in Google search results. Post articles with informative, useful content that helps your cus­tomers. Share your expertise and make yourself a trusted resource for your customers. It may take a bit longer, but the results will be worth your effort.

Guard Your Reputation

Use free tools and services to help you track your compa­ny’s reputation. Google Alerts, TweetBeep, Naymz, Social Men­tion, and MonitorThis are but a few examples.

If you choose to hire a rrepu­tation management company, avoid any company that cre­ates multiple Twitter accounts and microsites to flood the Web with good feedback and positive content about your company. Google frowns upon those dubious tactics, and you risk a precipitous fall to the bottom of the search results rankings.

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