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HOW TO PROTECT YOUR ONLINE REPUTATION

Most people who visit our Fix Your Search Results website arrive because they're in a panic after seeing the results of a Google search of their name, or their business name. They see derogatory listings on the first page of a search, and they know they need to do something to stop other searchers from seeing these negative results.

If you're fortunate enough that this isn't the case for you, you can breathe a sigh of relief. But you shouldn't be content and just go on your merry way, thankful that you aren't a victim of a bad online reputation. Instead, you need to be proactive and take some steps so that you don't, in the near or distant future, end up coming to our site because your reputation went from good to bad.

Most people are rightly concerned about what a Google search reveals about their name. Most people searching a name online know little or nothing about the person they're searching — so the results Google returns will form a large part of their judgment of that person.

Prospective customers, investors, and employers definitely will examine your existing online reputation. Whether it's an unpleasant picture on Facebook or the easily annoyed customer who gave your business a uncalled for negative review, your reputation is formed by the things that are revealed about you online in general and in search results in specific.

Consider this: will you have faith in a person or company that you are unfamiliar with if a search of Google returned your most awkward or uncomfortable times? When you notice a company that has a number of low reviews, or a troubling news story, what is your impression of that business? Assuming that you are like the 85% of people who put as much faith in online reviews as they do in personal referrals, the answer is most likely that you won't take an unnecessary chance and will take a pass at doing business with such a person or company.

If you are fortunate enough that your personal or business reputation is satisfactory you don't want to be lax — things can change quickly online. You need to be proactive to keep your hard-earned, positive reputation.

Be Vigilant Monitoring Google Results

Periodically you need to do a Google search on your name or business (depending on your particular situation) to obtain a clear picture of exactly how your present online reputation is seen by anyone else performing a similar search. Take a close look at what's returned — especially the ten listings that appear on the first page of results.

Don't just look at what's displayed on the search results page (the SERPs as there often referred to). Actually click on each listing and look over the article or post the link leads to — that's something a typical searcher might do. Keep in mind that just a single negative result could cost your business a loss of business, or if the search is on your name, could cost you that job you interviewed for or that consulting gig you thought you had wrapped up.

What if there are no search results about you or your business? "No news is good news," right? Not necessarily. It's much better if there is some positive information showing up. That makes you or your business looks good, and also may prevent searchers from paging through the results and perhaps stumbling upon negative information on the second or third page of a search.

Handle Negativity in a Positive Manner

Whatever you express online will come back to bite you if it is unfavorable. That means you should always avoid publishing adverse remarks about competitors, engaging in quarrels with trolls or debating customers who post negative reviews. Never interact unprofessionally when you're online. Even if you know you're one hundred percent in the right, resist the temptation to lash out at people you know are in the wrong.

Understandably instinctive reaction is usually to defend yourself or your business regarding online attacks. Instead, pause, count to ten, and leave alone the situation. Sleep on it. Only after giving the matter some time and thought should you respond. That way you can approach the situation analytically and dispassionately, lessening the chance of creating an online war that you can't win.

Keep in mind that most people online aren't irrational, and may themselves have been caught up in online disputes or have had people post unreasonable and incorrect things about them. Close to 40% of consumers say that if they don't see a single negative review of a business they assume that online reviews of that business may be fake — they know that every business has someone who will be disappointed with the service of that business.

If possible, extend an invitation to a complainer to speak privately in the hopes of resolving that person's issue. That moves any contentious, back-and-forth arguing out of the public eye, and also demonstrates to that individual that you are the type of person who is willing to take the time to listen and work out a difference. Resolving an issue this way might even result in the original complainer going online in support of your business. Keep in mind that over 90% of dissatisfied customers say that are willing to do repeat business with a company if they feel that a problem has been resolved satisfactorily.

Be Proactive On Social Media

One relatively easy way to get some positive information about you or your business in Google is to own your name in social media. If you don't have an account in your name, or your business name, on the main social media networks, register such accounts now. You want a twitter.com/YouName or a twitter.com/YourBusinessName account, and the same for Facebook. Other social networks are good to register accounts with as well, but at the least you want to get accounts on the two giants — Twitter and Facebook.

You can be active and engaged on social media, but you don't have to devote night and day to maintaining those accounts. You want to register them to gain control of your name, before someone else does, and you want to have at least a modest amount of information and posts on them so they don't get deactivated.

If you already have social media accounts in your name, review them now with an eye open for any potentially offensive posts or pictures. If you come across anything that might be considered embarrassing, delete them. Right or wrong, others will judge you or your business based on what in the past would have been considered private, personal or trivial details about your life or how you spend your time.

LinkedIn is a social network primarily used by professionals to promote themselves in a professional capacity and to network with other professionals. If you have a LinkedIn account, keep it strictly business — don't mix in personal and social or political comments and conversations.

Remain Vigilant

If your online reputation is in good order, consider yourself fortunate. But don't become complacent. Stay on top of things by taking control of your name on social media, and do regular Google searches to catch any negative listings right away. If you're unfortunate enough to already be a victim of bad press, contact Fix Your Search Results to get your reputation cleaned up.