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Of all the categories involved in managing a business’s online reputation, reputation repair is the one most fraught with confusion.

Humans hate criticism - founded or unfounded. Any sort of negativity directed toward your business—earned or otherwise—holds an immense power to inflict damage in both the present and the future. How you respond can either mollify the situation or exacerbate it, and with the stakes so high, not many businesses can afford a misstep.

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Reputation and reviews drive the success of businesses worldwide. Every month, approximately 543,000 new businesses open up. 70% of them survive at least two years, half at least five years, and a third at least ten years. Just a quarter of all new businesses survive for 15 years or more. 

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Which search phrases are killing your business?

Imagine your customer gets your business’s address from a friend, comes to your storefront, and every single negative review from the last ten years is taped to the windows. At the same time, someone on the sidewalk yells through a megaphone, “don’t shop here even if it’s the last store on earth!” while a video showcases old footage of an employee stealing from a customer. Ouch.

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One of the biggest mistakes people make when performing online reputation management is to build a bunch of different web profiles and fill them with sloppy content. Worse, all these properties often can't be effectively maintained over time, and so lose relevance. The best way to manage reputation is to understand prospective customers, similar companies, and what search engines are looking for.

One of the first steps is to perform a form of competitive research called the search result audit. Here's why. 

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What's the difference between branded and non-branded content? Branded content is clearly about you or your company. Non-branded content is not necessarily about you or your company at all, but it contains references to either. Both types of content include your search phrase and assist in your online reputation strategy, but are structured differently. Both types of content require freshness updates.

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A search result audit is part of any reputation management plan, and can make your business better by revealing the strengths and weaknesses of your online brand as seen by your prospective customers. Warning: sometimes it can be a little scary. Search results can be an excellent tool for marketing, research, and development. But their utility goes far beyond into the realm of human intent, understanding, decisions and actions. Every page of search results tells you a story about your customer and what they’re really looking for. The trick is in seeing the intent behind the search results. 

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