"Could Your Online Reputation Drive Customers Away? "Critically important for the success of your business is the awareness and monitoring of your business’s online reputation. More and more consumers are doing their research on a company before deciding whether to purchase their products. In fact, a study by Fleishman-Hillard reports that “89 percent of consumers turn to Google, Bing, or another search engine to find information on products, services or businesses prior to making purchases.”

Additionally, according to Holmes Report , “More than two-thirds of consumers report avoiding products made by companies they do not like and checking labels to see who the parent company is: 70 percent avoid buying a product if they don’t like the company behind the product. As one consumer said, ‘It is the company you are financially supporting when you buy its product. We have too many choices to buy a product from a company we don’t like.’”

So what is a business to do if it finds its online reputation in ill repair? Fortunately, there are now many options for managing bad online press. Online reputation management services are a great option for starters. These services not only monitor and report out on new search engine results with regular frequency, but they can also help a business to suppress links that they feel impacts them negatively.

One way to do this is to invest some time in building out your business’s social media profiles. Because social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and many more have such strong search engine optimization, if you have an active profile on these sites, over time a link to that profile page will likely appear relatively high in search engine results for your business. This will serve to push other negative links onto subsequent search engine result pages, and create a higher likelihood that consumers do not see them.

Taking care of your customers and providing great customer service is another great way to build a positive online reputation. Happy customers who spend time on blogs and social media sites will often report on the great customer service experience they had with a business. Likewise, if the experience with customer service was not good, frustrated customers can easily take to forums to complain. This, too, can show up in search results.

Be sure to be responsive both to customers who call in, and to those who post questions or comments to your social media sites. Nothing is more frustrating than feeling as though your questions or concerns aren’t being heard or met with a useful response.

It is important to remember that consumers today have a great deal of choice available to them for almost every type of product they can buy. They can and do actively decide to support businesses they believe in and trust, and they do their research before making purchasing decisions. So taking the time to build a positive online profile and ensure that it stays that way could be a critical business decision that you make that will have a lasting effect.

Cara Aley is a freelance writer who covers a wide variety of topics from digital marketing strategy to health and wellness to digital marketing strategies.