ANNACOLIBRI, reputation risk, web presence, values-based marketing, tech savvy coaching
ANNCOLIBRI: Shares a Reputation With Hummingbirds – Screenshot: Google Search (

I asked my little boy today if his online reputation is safe. He said, without a trace of doubt in his voice, “I don’t know and I don’t care.”

Such is the luxury of extreme youth.

However. In your business, your reputation — online and off — is gold and for that reason you have to treasure it. Or at least value it more than your typical eight year-old!

What is an Online Reputation?

Let’s start with reputation. In the, erm, old days, your reputation was what the people you knew, including customers and vendors, thought about you. Today, of course, you have an online reputation as well.

Your online reputation is part of your web presence and can be built — or broken — long before you ever meet or interact with anyone directly.

Reputation is what people think of you (or your company) and forms the basis of whether they believe they can trust you.

Online, it comes from your web presence (what your web site and other online collateral look like as well as what people are saying about you on social media channels and sites like Klout that aim to quantify your web presence and influence). Offline it tends to come from personal interactions and word of mouth.

If you are a small business, chances are your online reputation will not go viral. But, still, it will show up when anyone does a web search for you, variations of your name, your company name or your website or blog.

And you can be sure that people, especially employers, will do a web search and also look up your social media profiles.

Quick story: Several years ago I was on the phone with a project collaborator for a job I had at the time.

During the course of conversation, the man I was speaking with mentioned some facts about me, including where I went to college and how many children I have. I was a little surprised — not to say worried he was a stalker — so I asked him how he knew these things about me.

He said, “I Googled you.” That was my introduction to online reputation and how easy it is for people to learn a lot about you in no time at all.

I’m pleased to report that I have never seen — knock wood — anything negative about myself on the web. But that does bring us to reputation risk.

What is Reputation Risk?

Reputation risk is what you have to lose or gain as a result of your online reputation. In other words, if people think you are shmuck, how negatively will that affect your bottom line and what do you stand to gain if people think you are as fabulous as you and I both know you are?

Businesses with large budgets and lots of time try to quantify these things with mathematical models and you may want to do that.

However. We will stick with, for the moment, how to monitor your online reputation on the cheap.

How do I Monitor my Online Reputation?

First of all, you can hire a company that handles online reputation and they can do this for you. If you have reason to believe that your online reputation is especially valuable — for example, if you are in a sensitive business like finance — this may be worthwhile.

For the rest of us, there are free tools available online.

The first one is Google Alerts. You can set as many as you want, so be sure to set variations of your name as well as your company name, blog, website, etc. Google will, of course, alert you if these search terms come up.

Then you can follow the links and see what people are saying.

Another free online tool is socialmention, a free service specifically designed to monitor social media.

How do I Manage my Online Reputation?

This may be a no-brainer, but the most important thing you can do to manage your reputation is the following:

  • Provide high quality products and services
  • Do what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it
  • Employ ethical (and legal!) business practices and
  • Be courteous to customers, employees and competitors

If you do that, it will be enough to use free tools to monitor your reputation and, if and when you either make a mistake or find that for any reason someone has said something negative about you online, you can do the following:

  • Address it quickly, politely and publicly
  • Admit it when you make mistakes and
  • Provide high quality customer service policies and practices

It is useless to try to keep secrets online, so don’t. Everyone knows mistakes and mix ups happen, and they will applaud you for being brave enough to ‘fess up and make amends.

Just FYI, there are also paid reputation management firms that do things like plant positive yelp reviews or add a lot of positive comments on the web to push negative search results down in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

That is an expensive — and unethical — way to go.

So I suggest you play nice and earn your reputation the old-fashioned way.

Your Turn

Have you ever had a negative experience with your online reputation? A positive one? Let us know in the comments!


Honey, Gary: Reputation Risk PDF

Marketing Pilgrim: Marketing Pilgrim Online Reputation Monitoring Infographic

Wikipedia: Reputation Management

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