“The best defense is good offense,” an adage that can be applied to both football and business. Good online reputation management should begin long before a crisis hits.

Both small and midsize businesses and savvy marketers can take strategic steps to ensure that their companies’ reputation is protected and crisis situations are handled in an effective and thoughtful manner.

The following are several tips to consider as a proactive approach to protecting your brand’s online reputation.


1. Take a look at the first three pages of your search results

Do a Google search to see what review sites are showing up when users search for your brand name. Indicate which results are positive, neutral, or negative as well as ones that you can control or influence and which ones you cannot. This establishes the baseline of your online reputation so that you can later access your reputation enhancement efforts later down the road.


2. Claim all the listings you can

Believe it or not, new review sites with your business name can populate on the web without your permission. So it’s important to claim all online directory and review sites. This gives you the power to own the page and reply to customer reviews (positive and negative). And it prevents the sites from falling into the wrong hands like a disgruntled employee.


3. Respond to negative reviews in a concise and thoughtful manner

Give yourself time to respond to a negative review. Try to avoid going on the defensive. Instead, try and understand why the client had a bad experience and try to respond publicly to show other customers that you own up to any mistakes and that you take customer service seriously.


4. Reward positive reviews and mentions

If someone does say something positive about you on a site, reward the customer with a freebie, coupon, or simple thank you. Customers are likely to remember your appreciative efforts and become brand evangelists. Sending feedback requests after a purchase or service can also encourage more reviews and further grow your online reputation.


5. Continue to monitor new mentions and reviews

If your customers are active on Twitter or Facebook, make sure you have a person who is dedicated to responding to them. Twitter and Facebook users expect a quick response to requests, comments, and questions. You can set up Google Alerts or a social mentions dashboard that can notify you when these requests or mentions come in.


6. Connect with the media and online influencers

Building good PR is healthy for any online reputation. Be sure to develop relationships with journalists, partners, loyal customers, and local media and organizations. These are trusted resources that can put in a good word for you, which helps you build positive media exposure.