Before the days of the World Wide Web, an embarrassing moment was just that -- a moment of embarrassment. Nowadays, however, embarrassing moments or mistakes can live forever on the internet, making lasting, negative impacts on your reputation. As a business, your online reputation greatly affects consumers' choices to use your products or services. In fact, according to a recent study conducted by Society of New Communications Research, 74% of consumers choose companies or brands based on the online reviews of others' customer care experiences. Mistakes happen. Therefore, online reputation management needs to be a primary concern for business owners. Know The Goals of Online Reputation Management The main goal of online reputation management is to control what potential customers see when they search for your business online. With so many consumer review sites and personal blogs, there are many forums where customers can give both positive and negative feedback on your company. This information can appear as simple search results in Google, Yahoo, MSN, Bing or other search engines. When people search for your company, you want the top 10 results to be positive. Most people don't look beyond the first page of search results, so if you can control what is seen there, you are likely to have a better online reputation. You can increase the amount of positive content that is linked to your company name using: multiple company websites and blogs social media profiles positive posts on review sites press releases Related: Hire an online marketing company to manage your online reputation for you. Monitor Search Results Regularly Do you know how your business looks when someone "Googles" it? Online reputation experts suggest reviewing the search results for your company name at least once per month. Although people rarely look at the second and third page of results, it is wise to review these pages for negative feedback. Search results can change quickly, so information on pages two and three can easily become the top result in a matter of days or even hours. Once you have negative entries in those top 10 spots, it can be very difficult to push them back down. Track the search results in a spreadsheet so you can appropriately and quickly respond to any negative entries. There are a variety of ways to handle negative content, depending on the website where it's posted, who it was posted by and the nature of the comment or review. Responding to Negative Search Result Entries Contact the blogger, reviewer or other person to ask how you can help change their negative sentiment to a positive one. Where possible, write your side of the story in a comment and explain what you are doing or have done to correct the situation. Pay attention to how your clients and customers are feeling in the offline world. Correct problems and encourage happy customers to leave positive reviews on Yelp or other review sites. Review the Wikipedia entry for your business. Suggest changes to the Wikipedia community if you notice incorrect or unfavorable information. Related: Fake Reviws: What You Need to Know Third Party Dispute Resolution You can also file a claim with an online dispute resolution company such as PeopleClaim.com. This allows you to challenge bad BBB ratings as well as anonymous or defaming reviews on Yelp, eBay, TripAdvisor or other sites. You simply tell your side of the story, state your demands and let PeopleClaim handle the rest. Despite your best efforts, you might not always be able to resolve a customer's displeasure with your company. Their negative review might stay online, but PeopleClaim can make both sides of the story available when someone does an online search for your name. Put Your Best Face Forward For many consumers, the face of your company is what they find upon a simple search for your company name online. Stay in control of what that face looks like by making your online reputation a central concern in your marketing strategies. Photo credit: sharynsheldon.com Bio: Robert Cordray is a freelance writer and expert in small business marketing. With over 20 years of business experience, Robert is now retired and hopes others can benefit from his writing.