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How to track what they're saying about you online Add to ...

In the first of two excepts from his new book, Manage Your Online Reputation, lawyer and Your Business columnist Tony Wilson suggests ways to monitor what's being said about you and your company on the Internet.

Your company, your brand, and your products or services are being talked about every day by someone – if you’re lucky, by a lot of people and it will all be favourable. But tweets can just as easily damage your reputation as something said in a newspaper, a magazine, or on a blog.

How do you monitor what is being said by others in the blogosphere or otherwise on the Internet about you, your company, your brand or your product?

One way is to simply use the advanced search section of Google. Simply put your business name, product name or brand name in the space for “this exact wording or phrase.”

If you’re an established company, there may be dozens, if not hundreds, of “hits” that cause you to dig deeper and determine whether the comments are made about your company or about someone else’s. Some of the results may be generated by your company itself, if your business has an online presence (e.g., your business’s website or advertisements).

You might be able to weed through some of your own content and discover what people are saying about your company and brand. There may even be situations where a customer tweets something about your company and you might want to respond to it directly.

Frankly, I don’t find this to be wholly effective. A better solution is to use Google Alerts to do it for you automatically, and to send you daily, weekly or “as it happens” alerts to your inbox every time Google runs across your name, brand or product on the Web.

In Google Alerts, put the words you want alerts on (for instance, your name, your company’s name or your product’s name) in quotes so Google picks up the exact word combination, but refine it further by adding a modifier word to the search criteria that relate to your business sector, and Google will e-mail you an alert when those words show up on the Web.

You might also find comments made by your employees on blogs, forums and Twitter about you and your company.

You might find favourable (or unfavourable) comments posted on sites such as TripAdvisor, restaurant or product review forums and other sites where customers are asked to rate and give comments on a product or service.

You can also subscribe to Google Reader and Google Blog Search in your monitoring. Yahoo! Alerts is another automatic monitoring service similar to Google Alerts, in which words or phrases can be entered into the Yahoo! search engine, and the service will notify you when the word or phrase combination is found.

Omgili (an acronym for “Oh my God I love it”) is another search engine for finding communities, message boards, and discussion threads about any topic. These aren’t the only services you can use to monitor your reputation or the reputation of your company, but they are a good start.

Using these types of sites to search the Web for your company or product name might also reveal trademark use by infringers who are using your brand without your knowledge or consent, negative feedback and commentary, positive feedback and commentary, as well as websites that are created specifically to besmirch and degrade your company or brand.

You can hire a company to help you monitor and protect your company’s name and reputation. For example, ReputationDefender will search for information about your business, and help you remove inappropriate, inaccurate, or otherwise slanderous information about you and your company. There are other commercial services that will assist.

Excerpt adapted from Manage Your Online Reputation by Tony Wilson, published by Self-Counsel Press , copyright 2011

Part Two: What can (and should) you do about negative publicity online?

Tony Wilson will join us for a live online discussion Friday at noon ET. Click here to participate.

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