As most business owners are aware, the reputation a company develops in the real world can have a very big impact on sales. The business that has safe and useful products, excellent customer service, and a history of social responsibility can become a pillar of the community, trusted and patronized by a fair portion of the population, whereas those that put the bottom line ahead of consumers aren’t likely to last very long.

What you may not realize is that your online reputation can also impact your business in a very real way. Even if you make no efforts at all to build an online presence, you might find that one has grown in the vacuum, with consumers complaining that you have no website, or competitors posting malicious commentary or false statements regarding your company. So you definitely need to take action in order to build and safeguard your online reputation. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you create the positive online image that will ensure your virtual success.

  • Make inroads. The place to start when it comes to building an online reputation is by creating and expanding your online presence. This begins with a designing a website that represents your brand and acts as a hub for all of your online efforts. Considering how many people now look for products and services online rather than thumbing through the Yellow Pages, this is an absolute must. You should also consider listing with online directories so that potential customers can find you more easily. From there you need to join the community by participating in forums and blogs (or even penning your own on-site blog), and you should definitely set up social media accounts in order to connect with consumers on a more personal level and push content in a non-threatening manner. Creating this foundation is essential to developing the positive presence you want in the online arena.
  • Provide quality content. It can be tempting to engage in corner-cutting practices like keyword stuffing and linking schemes, but these will almost certainly put you on Google’s black list before long, potentially resulting in your site being delisted. Instead, try to follow the rules in their current algorithm by creating the high-quality content that consumers (and web crawlers) are seeking. It will benefit your business in the long run.
  • Utilize SEO. Creative web design and quality content are only useful insomuch as they can be found by prospective customers. So if you want to build an online reputation of your choosing it’s in your best interest to engage in SEO practices that will ensure your positive efforts rise to the top of Google’s list for targeted searches. In this way you can displace any negative commentary that has thus far dominated.
  • Beef up customer service. One of the best ways to safeguard your online reputation is to ensure that customers are satisfied so that they aren’t inclined to put negative information out there. With customer service options that include, say, prompt email assistance, an automated phone service (with actual operators available as needed), or even live chat, you’ll ensure that consumers have a chance to address grievances directly with your representatives rather than airing them publicly.
  • Hire professional help. You have a business to run, which means you may not have time to manage your reputation on your own. It is for exactly this reason that online reputation management services exist. These professionals can help to erase negative content (to some degree), but they also have the resources and expertise to build and protect a positive brand image for you. It may cost you, but a boost in recognition and sales should sweeten the pot.

Leon Harris is a contributing writer for Harris lives in Southern California, and enjoys eating healthy and exercising with his two Golden Retrievers.