Are You Managing Your Small Business' Online Reputation?

Do you know what's being said about your small business online? Sure, you could use Google Alerts, which I would highly recommend, to get mentions of your small business' name and associated e-mail addresses sent to your inbox as they happen. But you can also do a little more--without breaking the bank.

Although there are plenty of online reputation management tools you can pay for out there, Google is offering a free options. Google on Wednesday launched an online reputation management tool for the masses. Dubbed “Me on the Web, the tool is part of the Google dashboard amid analytics and account information.

"In recent years, it’s become easier and easier to publish information about yourself online, through powerful new platforms like social networking sites and photo sharing services,” explains Andreas Tuerk, a product manager at Google.

Tuerk acknowledges that way to manage your privacy on these sites is to decide who specifically can see this information, determining whether it is visible to just a few friends, family members or everyone on the web. But Google is taking a different approach. “Me on the Web” is not a privacy tool at all.

As Tuerk sees it, another important decision when publishing information on the web is choosing how you are identified when you post that information. That’s where Google is focusing its efforts.

“We have worked hard to build various identity options into Google products. For example, while you may want to identify yourself by name when you post an answer to a question in a forum so that readers know the response is reputable, if you upload videos about a controversial cause you may prefer to post under a pseudonym,” Tuerk says.

Tuerk went on to explain that your online identity is determined not only by what you post, but also by what others post about you -- whether a mention in a blog post, a photo tag or a reply to a public status update. When someone searches for your name on a search engine like Google, Tuerk said, the results that appear are a combination of information you’ve posted and information published by others.

Google’s new tool aims to make it easier to monitor your identity on the web and to provide easy access to resources describing ways to control what information is on the web.

“Me on the Web also provides links to resources offering information on how to control what third-party information is posted about you on the web,” Tuerk says. “These include common tips like reaching out to the webmaster of a site to ask for the content to be taken down, or publishing additional information on your own to help make less relevant websites appear farther down in search results.”

So if you haven't checked into your small business' online reputation, check out these tools right away. You might be pleasantly surprised or mortified by what you find. Either way, you need to know.


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