Even if you don’t have that relative in your family that is always getting into trouble, and even if you don’t have any deep dark secrets, it’s good to be aware of what is floating out there online — true or untrue — about you personally and about your business. Your online reputation impacts your personal credibility and consumer trust in your product or service.
First Assess the Problem
Once you discover what your online reputation is, you can go on to repair it if necessary. There are companies out there like us who do damage control on tarnished reputations, but you may not need any intervention at all.
Here are 9 steps to help you assess whether you have an online reputation problem or not. Be forewarned that this is a deep dive, not a “toe in the water” approach!
9 Ways to Check Your Online Reputation
Many of the tools that are available online free will send you on a wild goose chase, so we prefer to go to the source of search engines first. Most of them will soon be prompting you to upgrade to a premium plan that may or may not be effective, so we recommend getting advice from a local professional before investing there.1.If you already have a Google account and a Google profile, check these tools:
Google “About Me“2. To find out what people are saying, do a manual search for your business name and your personal name. Start with Google, the most-used search engine. Put quotes around the names to get exact matches (like “my business name“) and see what results pop up on the first 3 pages. Statistically most people won’t search beyond that unless they are unusually motivated. You might be shocked to see the kinds of information that people can easily locate in search results on sites like Spokeo. Record your searches to keep track of what you’ve covered. 3.Search for your business name in combination with words like “sucks,” “scam,” “fraud,” or “ripoff” or colorful four-letter words. You might be shocked to find some ugly results if someone in your life, like a disgruntled ex-associate or employee is out there looking for revenge.
Search for common misspellings of your company name. Try searches like “worst [your product name][your company name]“.
If you have a quality word in your domain name, like hatsmaderight.com, search for malicious versions of that, like hatsmadewrong.com. We know of a small business owner who had a very angry ex-employee destroy his reputation and his business by doing this and posting malicious comments all over the internet that still remain after years. Apparently he had a lot of time on his hands after getting fired.4.Repeat #1 and #2 using the Bing and Yahoo search engines. Record your searches for each search engine to keep track of what you’ve covered. 5.Check domain names. Go to Whois.com or our Whois Lookup page and search for domain names similar to yours that include negative and four-letter words. If the domain name has been purchased, click on the Whois button see who it is registered to. If it is available, it will be available for purchase. Also search for other extensions of your domain name. For example, if you own the name company.com, search for company.net, company.info, company.co and company.org to see if anyone has scooped those up and used them in a way that conflicts with your best interest.
You can also check Namechk to find out quickly what domain names are still available to buy.6.Search on the major social media sites for your business name. If you don’t have a business page on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter at a minimum, create those now. If there are other social media sites that you are aware of being used in your industry, check those, too. You can also check Namechk to find out quickly if your preferred user name is already taken on multiple social media sites. 7.Search on Yelp for your business name. This can be painful because Yelp is designed for consumers, not necessarily for business owners, and you don’t have much recourse if a vitriolic rant and a one-star rating appears on your Yelp page.
Since your Yelp profile is very prominent, we’ll go a step further to repair here. If you find negative posts, follow Yelp’s instructions for how to respond. Keep your composure and take the high road, no matter what was said, and do your best to make it good for that customer. If it’s within your means to give the person a refund or a second free product to make them happy, do it and patiently ask them to consider editing their review. We wish there were more options.8.Search on the major social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for your business name. If there are other social media sites that you are aware of being used in your industry, check those, too. 9.Check Google Image Search to find photos of you where you’ve been tagged on social media sites or posted on a website. Simply enter your name and see what results appear. Use the Advanced Image Search for finer detail.
…We promised 9 ways, but here is your bonus! #10:10. Search all 3 search engines for your business and personal phone numbers in the 10-digit syntax with dashes, like 123-456-7890.
By now you will know whether there is a problem or not!
Once you’ve done your research, stay informed about new postings about you. You can subscribe to Google Alerts for your personal and business names, and whenever your alert phrases are mentioned online, you should get an email from Google with the URL of the latest mentions.
Whatever you post online can come back to haunt you! So take care when posting reviews of your own.