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Reputation management can be quite expensive and time consuming–especially if you’re not clear on what your objectives are. Some companies just want negative comments and sites to drop out of the top 20 Google search results. Some companies want to monitor all of the conversations taking place in the World Wide Web (er, I mean Web 2.0, or Web 3.0?)

There have been plenty of posts by industry experts on the process of online reputation management. I’m not trying to re invent the wheel. I want to give you an idea of what it’s like to actually carry out a reputation management campaign so you can decide whether it’s worth it to do it yourself or pay someone to do it for you, or a mix of both.

For starters, you need to decide if you just want to bump down negative results or just monitor the conversation.

Scenario A: Bumping Negative Results

What keyword(s) do you want to focus on that are showing the negative results?

Try and focus on just one or two main keywords to begin with. Now, go through all of the results in the top 5 pages, and see which are positive, neutral, or negative. Decide on the top 10 neutral and positive results that you want to show up for your search term. Now start linking to those articles or sites with your main keyword as the anchor text or title. Creating social media profiles and other things will come in down the road, but using sites that are already showing up will give you much quicker results. Then create your wordpress, squidoo, blogger, typepad, facebook and myspace profiles, but don’t count on them showing up too quickly for your keyword(s), especially if there are already a lot of other pages showing up. Be sure to create unique, useful content on each of these blogs/profile pages. You’re not just trying to spam the index, you’re trying to add valuable new content to increase your exposure in the SERPS.

Another of the easy way to get links is by using social bookmarking sites. Here’s a list of social bookmarking sites that are perfect for this.

Scenario B: Monitoring the Conversation

How much monitoring do you want to do?

There are at least 20 different blog/article search sites out there from which you can see what others are saying about your keyword(s). I would say Technorati and Google Blog Search are your best bets to find most of the prominent results. Just enter in your search term in the respective search boxes on those two sites, and then subscribe to the feed of the results. Another option is to sign up for a Google Alert on your name and Google will email you updates whenever your name is mentioned.

Now, once you find some good reviews or posts about your keyword, leave those alone. Or you might write an email or post a comment thanking the author for the positive review.

On the other hand, when you find a negative review or post, don’t get emotional or angry. Get smart. These posts or reviews won’t always show up near the top search results in a regular Google search, so you don’t necessarily need to worry about bumping these results. So your strategy should just be to make sure that an overall positive (or at least neutral) message is presented (which is pretty hard to do if you’re reacting instead of interacting).