Research from Google reveals that people conduct about a dozen searches before making a purchase. Because of this, your online presence takes on more importance than ever. Glowing endorsements will shine, but your negative reviews also cast a long shadow. The new culture of consumerism leads Forbes to ask a simple question: Does your business have a reputation strategy? The point is, whether you sell products or provide services, you need to monitor your online reviews and take deliberate steps to manage what folks see as they conduct their dozen or so searches prior to making purchases. The easiest way to begin tracking your reputation is with Google Alerts. This allows you to get notifications when your business is mentioned - for better or worse - across the Internet. Of course, tracking your mentions will only be nominally effective if you’re not listed on popular review sites such as Yelp and Google. And as reviews appear on these platforms, take the time to respond. That may sound tedious, but it’s a great way to take part in the narrative. Think of it this way: potential customers are going to read your reviews whether you like it or not… so why wouldn’t you want to have a voice in what they’re seeing? For positive reviews, be sure to thank the reviewer for taking the time to share their experience with your business. Reaffirm your commitment to whatever it was they liked about your business. In a nutshell, double down on the good. When you encounter a sour review, don’t ignore it. If the reviewer makes valid complaints against your business, apologize and tell them how you’ll improve things in the future. Most people are willing to move past mistakes if they see some ownership and regret. If the reviewer is just being mean or unreasonable, don’t sink to their level. Stay respectful in your responses, as hard as that may be. If you want to gather more positive reviews, foster a community of communication for your customers. Engage with them on social media and encourage them to leave reviews. Include the links to prominent review sites on your social platforms and business website. Remember, 90% of shoppers say their purchasing choices are influenced by online reviews. And 88% of those shoppers trust online reviews just as much as if they were getting a personal recommendation from a friend. By encouraging people to leave reviews and then taking part in the conversation, you can leverage the power of your online reputation. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it.