Online Reputation

Imagine your small business rented one room office space in another state just to establish a presence for tax purposes. Then the tax loophole disappeared (as they usually do) so you let the lease lapse at term’s end. So the “business” you conducted in that state ended as quietly as it had begun.
Unfortunately, you didn’t realize under that state’s law the lease didn’t lapse but instead turned into a month-to-month tenancy. Your bookkeeper had stopped the recurring lease payments and in an unfortunate bit of timing, your PO box for mail had recently changed.
As a result, you didn’t make 3 months of lease payments and an unlawful detainer action and judgment against your business ensued. You only learned about the snafu when a process server showed up with the judgment at your business.
After a few phone calls to the landlord’s attorney, you reached a fair compromise to settle the judgment. At the end of the day, you filed the incident in the “cost of doing business” folder in your brain.
Years later you read in a trade journal about the value in “Googling” your business name and so you try it. Predictably, your own bare bones website is the top result, followed by your paid listing in the online Yellow Pages. But the next 3 search results are legal notices regarding that judgment for a “failure to pay rent”.
The earlier lesson you learned about being more careful when changing mailing addresses is an easy one compared to what you’ll learn about the long, long memory of the Internet. Similar to the Bob Seger song “Rock and Roll Never Forgets”, neither does the Internet.
Although as a result of a European Union (EU) court ruling, there is some misinformation circulating on that point. That case involved the 1998 debt problems of a Spanish man that resulted in online legal notices for an auction to recover monies. He resolved the debts at the time, but as of 2014 the notices still appeared when his name was searched via Google.
The European Court of Justice found that a “right to be forgotten” exists. It ordered Google to remove the links since, “An Internet search engine operator is responsible for the processing that it carries out of personal data which appear on web pages published by third parties.” As the controller of information, search engines operating in the EU are responsible for removing unwanted links if requested.
Two points are important to note about that EU decision. First, that the online legal notices themselves did not have to be removed, but only the links to them via Google. The more important point to United States’ small businesses is that no such right to be forgotten exists here. As a result, managing your online reputation is of critical importance since nowadays the vast majority of people seek out information on a business via the Internet.
And as a result of the ever growing amount of information proliferating online via website, blogs and social networks, managing your online reputation isn’t as simple as paying more attention to your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. There needs to be a more holistic approach that accounts for both the social and technological aspects of the Internet. A few of the basic items to be considered when you’re trying to either maintain, repair or remake the online reputation of your small business:
Optimize your Website: Search Engine Optimizing your business name for its site is very important since it should be THE online authority when it comes to the business. Keeping your site at or near the top of search engine results will help with pushing further down any negative content about the business.
Diversify your Web Presence: You want positive and informative content about your business on its blog, social network profiles and from outside authoritative sources. For example, showcase your professional services via LinkedIn and other professional sites.
Addressing Negative Content: Depending on circumstances, it may be an option to seek to have negative content about your business taken down from other sites (e.g., incorrect information in your Better Business Bureau profile). There may also be opportunities to present your side of the story regarding a situation (as with Yelp reviews).
The need to monitor the online reputation of your business will only increase in the future since the amount of information online just continues to expand. By the way, legal experts do not foresee a right to be forgotten similar to that of the EU being adopted anytime soon (if ever) in the United States. And what business wants to be forgettable anyway?
LAD Solutions has a team of professionals that can assist you with Online Reputation Management and SEO. To learn more about these services, please call (888) 523-2926 or submit your request and one of our representatives will be in touch with you shortly!

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