Online reputation has become big business. The notion that someone can do a Google search and find quite a bit about you, or anyone else for that matter, makes online reputation very real and of importance. Pretty remarkable seeing that many people would have laughed at the notion that a search on the Internet would be so valuable for business purposes. There are services out there that will claim to clean up your online reputation, but the truth is that they’re doing things that you could easily do, but probably with less quality.

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Having experience with online reputation service companies, as well as doing it on my own, there are a few essential and proven steps to take.

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1 — Claim Your Reputation

To get started, it’s crucial to go out and claim your personal or business name. If you don’t someone else certainly can. With all of the social, user-generated content sites on the web, it’s just as easy for your competitor or a shady someone from your past to go out and associate your name with whatever they so choose. The good news is that when you’re proactive and take it into your own hands, it’s just as easy for you to claim.

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Start with the big, popular social networks — those sites have tremendous authority with the search engines and will rank well. Ideally, the first 3-5 pages of search results in Google, Bing or any other popular search engine should be populated by a majority of sites that you either setup or they picked up content that you published. Either way, it’s your messaging that your reputation is built upon.

2 — Have a Hub

While having social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and the rest is great for your brand, you should have one central hub that everything leads back to. I would recommend that this be a blog, if you’re so inclined. Blogging full time isn’t a requirement, but a few pieces of quality content here and there with some promotion via your social channels should do the trick. If a handful of other sites are all linking back to your hub, it will become stronger in search and in representing your online reputation.

Specialty Sites

Going above and beyond the big and popular social sites is great if your niche has any type of online locations to hang out. This could be a site where you can become an expert contributor, a message board or forum where you can lend your expertise, or anything else that is focused on your market. Combining this with your other efforts will position you positively in your industry.

Tie Them Together

Allow all of these online properties that tell your story to support one another by cross-linking and refer visitors to the other sites and sources of information about you or your brand.

While it does take some work, claiming and protecting your online reputation is certainly doable and is time well spent considering the value of our reputations.