Sue Scheff: Google, Yahoo, MSN, Bing and more! What are they saying about your business?

search-enginesInternet safety is not only about parenting, kids and teens; it is about you and your profession. Are you a small business owner or are you a professional in a competitive field? First and foremost you need to own your own name and business name virtually.

Here are some Cyber Tips to help protect your good name, reputation and expand your personal branding online.  Being proactive can not only build your business, it can help prevent you from being hit with a Google bomb.

Sign up for personal branding services and post your resume (if applicable) and information that pertains to your services, business, profession etc. Some of these personal branding sites are Naymz.com, LookUpPage.com, Ziggs.com, LinkedIn.com.

Own your name and business name on Blogs. Sign up for free services on Blogs with your business name and your name as the URL. Blogger.com and WordPress.com are two that are most frequently used. (For example: www.suescheff.blogspot.com and www.suescheff.wordpress.com) Try to keep them updated as time permits, however owning them is most important. Keeping them updated will help your search engine rankings and that is what you are aiming for.

Set up your Google Alerts. You want to know when your name or businesses name it being used online. This is another free service that will take you minutes to set up and keep you informed when your name is posted on the Internet. Twilert.com is used for Twitter Alerts. This is also a free service to be alerted if people are using your name on Twitter. Keep in mind, an early alert system can help you to be proactive before it escalates out of control.

Buy your domain name. Most businesses already have a website, however if you don’t, this is critical to your  virtual image and will offer your customers/clients your information firsthand rather than on forums that are not moderated or regulated. This can be minimal in costs and the return will be priceless. Purchasing your URL can cost you a little as 7.99 a year (for example: www.suescheff.com). Building a small website can also be cost effective and every business today, small or large, needs to have a virtual presence. You need to own it and be in control of it. If you already have a website – it is important you keep it fresh and updated. This not only helps your rankings in search engines, it also let your clients/customers know you are in business.

Social Networking. Back to owning your own name, and/or business name; create your online presence with Social Networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace etc. Social media can actually grow your business and brand your name. Just remember, you need to be the one creating the brand! Keeping your information updated, as I said above, not only improves your search engine rankings, it shows your potential clients/customers you are active in your industry.

Create anchors with your name/business name. Every time you post your business name, hyperlink it back to your website and a specific page about the general content, such as Teen Depression. Another example, my organization is Parents’ Universal Resource Experts, click on it, it will bring you to my website. If you have a slogan for your business, such as, “parents helping parents” hyperlink it back to your site. These are “anchor links” and will also improve your search engine rankings.

Google yourself and your business name frequently. Always being aware of your virtual image can save you hours/days/weeks of correcting it. The earlier you see a negative post, the sooner you can address it. Depending on the post, you have methods you can take to correct it. In some cases you may know the client that wrote the unflattering post and you can contact them and ask what you can do to make it right. (Unfortunately, many are not that easy). If it is slanderous and abusive towards your small business or yourself, you can review the TOS (Terms of Service) or Code of Conduct and see if the post violates their guidelines. These are usually found at the bottom of the web page, or search the help box for that website.  Once you find the TOS or Code of Conduct, a simple note to the site moderator may get the post removed. Most important, is to be proactive.

Reputation Management Online Services. Today more and more businesses are hiring online reputation management services and viritual assistants (also know as VA’s).  These seem to be replacing many public relation services, or in many cases, public relations are expanding their services to online reputation management.  This is a person decision depending on your budget and your business.  Whether you hire one or not, it is important you take action and be proactive to insure your online profile for both you and your business.

For more info: ReputationDefender, Google Bomb book, Stay Safe Online, Do You Know What Google is Saying About You? Also refer to my article about maintaining your Online Image.

Also on Examiner.com

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