Your online reputation can have a big influence on your life. A negative reputation can follow you forever and damage potential relationships, including both professional and personal relationships. The Internet rarely forgets negative reviews and embarrassing moments, regardless of how well these things accurately portray your real self. Fortunately, I have worked with many reputation management consultants and here are a number of methods that even novices can use to protect their online reputations.

Take Control of Your Name
Your name is your own personal brand, and taking an active role in managing your brand is the best way to protect your online reputation. If you don’t want to invest any money, simply sign up for free social media networks in your name or your company’s name. Facebook and Twitter are great places to start. Be sure to present yourself professionally to make the best impression; avoid spelling and grammar errors in your profiles and posts. After you’ve established yourself on social media networks, consider buying a website address with your name in it. You can use this website as a weblog for posting positive news about yourself or your business.

Monitor Your Name Online
Before you can defend your name, you need to know where you’ve been mentioned on the Internet. You can use search engines to look up your name. If you find incorrect information, you can try getting in touch with the owner of the website where the mistaken information was posted. It’s also a good idea to use free monitoring services, such as Google Alerts, to watch for any new mentions of your name. This will give you a chance to respond immediately to false information or negative reviews.

Invest In Your Community
Actively taking a role in your community is a good way to generate positive feelings towards you or your business. If you own a company, consider sponsoring a local youth team or collecting donations for a charity. You can also volunteer your time at events, such as serving food at the homeless shelter or working in a booth at a fundraising event for a school.

Encourage Positive Reviews
Bribing people to leave positive reviews is generally frowned upon by most review sites, but you can certainly remind people to rate your business positively. Tell customers that your business or practice is listed on major review websites. However, the best way to encourage positive reviews is to make your business the best it can be. Customers who have an exceptional experience are more likely to want to tell others about your business.

Address Criticism Politely
Negative online reviews are a fact of life; everyone has a bad day from time to time. If you find a negative online review, don’t ignore it. Address the comments with respect, and make a promise to do a better job in the future. If the review mentions a problem that you can reasonably fix, make an effort to do so. By responding to online feedback, you show potential customers and employers that you’re willing to face criticism and learn from it. On platforms that you can control, such as your own blog or Facebook page, don’t delete harsh reviews or comments; deleting comments makes you look unprofessional.