7 cheap ways to manage your online reputation

Managing what's said about you and your company online (especially what a Google search says about you) is becoming increasingly important in the business world. But online reputation management services are expensive; one provider estimates $15,000 to $100,000 for a six- to 12-month campaign. (See related story.)

So what's the little guy supposed to do?

If you're an average Joe or a company with limited resources, there are techniques you can apply to manage and monitor your online reputation without spending thousands of dollars, according to several industry experts we interviewed, including search engine optimization executives, research analysts, reputation management specialists and public relations professionals.

In fact, most of these methods are free.

1. Use free online tools. Experts recommend a variety of free online tools and information sites such as the Google WebMaster Central Blog, BlogPatrol and Technorati that can be used to gauge what people are saying about you or who is reading your content.

2. Regularly Google your name or the name of your company and see what appears.

3. Set up a Google Alert to be notified when you or your organization has been mentioned in a blog, by the media or in an online forum.

4. Create a profile of your interests and expertise using social bookmarking tools and news aggregators such as del.icio.us and Newsvine. Contribute to online forums, write an article for a user-generated knowledge base such as Squidoo or create an Amazon.com product review to demonstrate that you're somewhat of an authority on a particular topic. Create a free blog on Blogger. Once you've got them launched, cross-link them to one another.

5. Tap into social media sites such as YouTube, Facebook and MySpace to create or expand positive online content about you or your organization.

6. Buy paid links for your online content. If you're an individual, you can pay to have keywords linked to your MySpace or LinkedIn page to help improve your ranking on search results when someone launches a search of your name or a topic you're closely associated with.

7. Be aware of the online content you've created or that has been created about you. Do you really want a search on your name to bring up a drunken, naked photo of you for the world to see? If you wouldn't paste it onto a highway billboard, don't post it on your Facebook page -- and don't let your friends do it either.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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