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.