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Boost your positive web presence

The social web is increasingly a place where consumers have the power -- and the platforms -- to proclaim their displeasure with companies' bad customer service. While I don't think that's a bad thing in general, negative comments about your business can admittedly be a reputation nightmare.

Imagine: You notice that a disgruntled customer has blogged, filed a Ripoff Report, or said something online about their bad experience with your company. Worse yet, it's showing up when someone does a search for your business name or website. This can put doubt into the hearts (and pocketbooks) of potential customers doing research before they buy.
Hopefully, this hasn't happened to you yet -- and never will! But if you've got a few dings in your online reputation showing up prominently in search results, you'll want to start working to regain your brand's search real estate.

Getting some good -- or at least neutral -- web mentions, and getting them to rank high, will help push the bad mentions lower in search results, where lots of people will never even see them. It's a proven fact that many people never read further than the first four or five results. Even getting the bad stuff down to number 7 or 8 will help you. Push the negatives to the second page, and it's almost as good as disappearing them altogether.

The list below offers you ways to gain web mentions that you can control. Use enough of these, and you'll overcome any negative mentions you may have received.

As for the lucky business that's never been dissed on the web, it's still a good idea to get yourself
mentioned as much as possible. Your preventive actions could mean any negative press you might get will never rise high enough to do damage. Even if you're made of Teflon, and you never receive one negative comment, it sure can't hurt to create a bunch of high-ranking, positive mentions to bolster your online reputation.

Websites where you can add a page about your business

These sites offer free web pages, listings or profiles and give you some level of control over content. They'll help you ensure some good or neutral press for your business.

  • Facebook.com - Set up a "Page" for your business, and use it to talk with your fans. You have control over the main content, and you can remove posts on your wall that you don't like. See also: Tips on using Facebook for your business.
  • Twitter.com - Create an account for your company and "tweet" interesting things. Only people with your login can post to it. See also: Tips on using Twitter for your business.
  • AboutUs.org - Create a wiki page for your website by going to AboutUs.org/YourWebsite.com and clicking a pencil to add more information. Pages are editable to people that are logged in, and you can be notified if anyone else edits it.
  • blogspot.com - You can create a free blog with a URL like YourBusiness.blogspot.com.
  • HotFrog.com - A business directory for U.S. companies where you can add your own.
  • MerchantCircle.com - You can sign up for a free profile here.
  • Manta.com - Similar to Merchant Circle, You can register here, and create a company profile. Manta's free listing allows business owners to add a variety of content, links, and a twitter stream.
  • CrunchBase.com - This is TechCrunch's business directory that you can add your business to. Profiles are openly edited, but they only get posted once they're approved.
  • GetSatisfaction.com - This is an interesting site: it's customer service in public, along the lines of a forum. You can create a page for your company and it's a place for customers to post questions, ideas, problems and praise. This is a great place to build your reputation by responding thoughtfully to posts right there in public. GetSatisfaction is also nice because it becomes a self-building FAQ - check out our GetSatisfaction page to see what I mean.
  • MyWOT.com - This is a site to help people know which sites they can and probably shouldn't trust, complete with a free add-on that gives you a color-coded heads-up about sites. Go to MyWOT.com, search for your site, and make sure it has a green rating. Asking fans of your site to give it good rating and comments is a good idea too.
  • VentureBeatProfiles.com - Much like CrunchBase, this is a place for business profiles that get included as widgets in VentureBeat posts. AboutUs community member Matt Stephenson likes VentureBeatProfiles because it allows people to add so much content to the profiles. The profiles also have some nice community features like member's opinions of the site and Twitter streams.
  • Google Profiles - This is a free profile that you can create. People with Gmail email accounts often have one. While Google Profiles are intended for individual people, there's nothing stopping a business from adding one.
  • KillerStartups.com - If your company is a startup you can submit it for consideration and it may be reviewed. You won't have control over the final review, but they are generally pretty positive because they only review companies that they think are 'killer' in the first place.
  • Wikipedia - I wouldn't bring this up, but I hear too many people pine for it to not bring it up. If your company or website is big and 'notable' enough you may be able to get a Wikipedia page. It's a wiki that is about neutrality and not self-promotion, so don't expect (or try, please) to edit it into a marketing piece or much at all.
  • Squidoo.com - This isn't really a business directory, but you can create a "lens" for your business.

Additionally, you can create your own web presences that put your company in a good light:

  • Create a subdomain on your own site (like blog.yourwebsite.com, for example). This is helpful because Google treats subdomains as separate sites, and subdomains will show up in search results in addition to the main site.
  • Ask an ally to write a nice blog post or something about your company. A testimonial of sorts has much more cred if it's posted somewhere other than on the website of the business it's about.

Once you've established some of the above web presences it can be helpful to link to them from your site to help them get indexed sooner and to rank better. It's also important with the social sites above that you actually use them so that they don't look stale to potential customers that land there.

Make Sure You Know When Someone Talks About Your Company

The sooner you know about any reputation management issue, the better. It's also invaluable to know the good things that are being said about you so you can promote those posts and engage your allies.

These are services that will scan the interwebs for you and shoot you an email anytime something comes up. It's a good idea to set alerts for the name of your business, your domain name (yourwebsite.com), and perhaps names of key employees or product names.

Address Upset Customers in Public - Because Your Public Is Watching

How you handle bad press makes all the difference. Depending on what was said, sometimes it's best to leave it alone and sometimes it's helpful to reply with a thoughtful response. Hint: Don't sue or further tick off someone that speaks out against your company.

Of note, commenting on a negative blog post or linking to it can help it rank better in the search engines. So if you're not certain that your comment or response will help neutralize the person or situation, you might as well not give it more power.

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