If there’s one area where the Internet has made a huge difference in our everyday lives, it’s with the amount of information that is now freely available to and about us. Just type some keyword phrases into Google and you can be privy to almost everything that’s ever been written about a person or company.

Yet this isn’t always a good thing, as a friend of mine recently found out.

Typing her name into Google, she found herself on the Rip Off Report website, under a list of false accusations about her. What makes it worse with the Rip Off Report website is that the owner protects the names of the accusers yet will quite happily publish any story or complaint without checking the facts.

Instead, the accused can issue a rebuttal but that’s it – the complaint (false or otherwise) stays on the site for the whole world to see.

This seems morally and ethically wrong to me. Unfortunately, it also seems fairly common when it comes to your online reputation. If anyone can go online and post lies about you or your business, the results can obviously be extremely damaging. While you can certainly take out a lengthy and potentially costly lawsuit, the damage has been done.

This is why it’s so important to keep tabs on what’s being said about you online. Although you may not be able to prevent something from being written, you can react to it a lot quicker. Some of the best methods of monitoring your online presence include:

  • Google Alerts. Still in Beta, Google Alerts allow you to type in a certain keyword or phrase and whenever that’s referred to online, you’ll be alerted.
  • Social Mention. Excellent tool that searches the web for any mention of you, your business or brand. Can take its time to find all the results but the information it retrieves makes the wait worthwhile.
  • Technorati. The “blog bible”, this site allows you to type in keywords, URL’s or tags and any posts that make a mention of these words will show up.

These are just some of the free methods you can use to keep track of what’s being said about you online. There are various professional business services available as well, if you need a more corporate-led approach.

Whichever one you choose to use, make sure you use it regularly. Otherwise you may find yourself in the same situation as my friend currently does – and a reputation can be a hard thing to rebuild once tarnished.

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