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November 12, 2013
How to Improve Your Online Brand for Small Business Owners
If you've recently started a small business, whether it's service-oriented, a web-based e-commerce venture, or a traditional brick-and-mortar establishment, today's business landscape dictates that managing your online brand is a necessity. Because of its tremendous reach and potential to convert sales, your online reputation trumps whatever standing you may have in your local community. The PR and marketing efforts you may be engaging in locally, likewise, are going to pale in comparison to the tremendous potential of an effective presence on the web. To improve your business's online brand, read on for some helpful tips.

1. Check Yourself
The first step to improving your brand requires checking out what other people are saying about you, the business owner. The best way to do this is to check out the website Reputation.com. Type in your name and see if there are any negative comments posted about you. If you find any, contact the owner of the blog or website that posted them and work to get them removed.

2. Get Involved
If your business isn't already on Facebook and Twitter, that's your first stop on the social media train. Work to build a following by posting informative and compelling content. Engage your readers and followers by responding to each and every comment. Then, check out some of the newer social media websites like Pinterest and Google+. Follow the same strategies on those websites and watch your online brand expand and improve.

3. Review All Social Media Profiles
If you already have an established social media presence, check all your accounts, both personal and professional. Review your personal profiles for any photos or comments that could be viewed by potential customers as negative. Then, dig a little deeper. Review people you follow and like, and make sure there are no controversial figures on either list. Check your professional profiles for negative commentary, especially if it hasn't been responded to. This step should be performed on an ongoing basis, both to improve your brand and keep your customers happy.

4. Post High-Quality Content
Content is king, and if yours is high quality you're sure to improve your online brand. Your articles are going to appear higher in Google Search results, your current customers are going to spread the word about your business, and you're sure to attract lots of new ones as a result. Draw upon your personal experiences and provide your readers with expert tips they're less likely to find on other websites. Keep your posts short and to the point, and make them creative as well. Writing about things you can tie in with current events can boost your readership and strengthen your web presence, potentially more so than any other strategy. Just make sure every post is factually accurate and grammatically correct.

5. Investigate Your Competitors
The final step in improving your online brand is to review your competitors. First, they may be doing something to improve their online brand that you can adopt as part of your strategy, such as offering new products or services, or certain discounts and promotions. More importantly, though, do this to figure out what your business offers that differentiates it from the competition and feature that in your online postings. This can not only improve your online brand, it can increase your revenues, too.

As soon as you've beefed up your online reputation as much as possible, commit to improving your customer service. Train your team to take care of all customers in a stellar fashion, conduct meetings and solicit advice for ideas to get better, and live and breathe quality customer care each and every day. This is going to make managing your business's online brand that much easier moving forward.

What are you doing to improve your small business's online brand?

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James Martell runs a small business in New York and writes tips for online marketing, money management, and more.
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