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Many of you don't have to imagine what it's like to type your name or your company's name in Google and find search results that paint you in, shall I say, a less than positive light. And none of you have to imagine the kind of impression this leaves with people who are looking you up.

Your online reputation doesn't just depend on the press releases you send out, which journalists or bloggers they reach and how these outlets spin your brand. The real battleground for your online reputation is across the online arena in almost all the places where you or your industry are topics of debate, discussion or competition.

Circumvent the Democracy

This online battle is more democratic than ever. These days any individual with a grudge can have one of the loudest voices when it comes to who you are in the online arena.

So how does one battle against the tyranny of this online democracy? If it's a person with a grudge, It's always advisable to start with contacting them and trying to reach an agreement or understanding. If that doesn't work, or if your online image is tarnished by unflattering news articles, then its time to implement a more aggressive campaign.

Outrank negative search results with pages of your own until the bad publicity is pushed down to pages that most people just don't look at. You do this by optimizing your existing pages for the search engines, and creating even more pages that will outrank and quell the banter that's harming your online reputation.

Always Tread Carefully

You don't want to make this investment and have it backfire on you. Search Engines rank pages on the basis of relevance and trust; the pages you optimize have to communicate this not only to the search engines, but to users.

If you're going to dominate the first pages of search engine rankings with your own results, make sure your pages are worth being there. Crowding Google's results with pages that are juiced with links but deliver no real value to the people who will be consuming the information is spamming, which is invariably BAD 'netiquette'. You need to put in your time and understand how to play within the guidelines of the unspoken laws of the web.

Be truthful regarding the content of the pages you are optimizing and engage people in honest conversation; that's how you develop real trust online. This is doubly important in the more social aspects of online communications. More to come on that soon…