Today, consumers typically form first impressions of businesses based on what they read about them on the internet, particularly on search engines such as Google. In fact, according to a study released by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2012, 80 percent of the 7,005 consumers interviewed worldwide indicated they researched products online before making purchases. And this figure was even higher, at 88 percent, among U.S. respondents. Naturally, given the rise in use of and reliance on smartphones since 2012, these numbers may be even greater.

But more than consumers research businesses online; other parties including prospective employees/job seekers, investors, and even other businesses seeking B2B relationships do too. A business’s online reputation often is that business’s reputation. As such, online reputations truly matter, and – to the extent possible – businesses must try to limit or mitigate the effects of negative content that is published about them online.

The problem, of course, is that businesses do not have as much control over their online reputations as they might have had several years ago. Given the rise in social media and the ability of anyone with internet access to publish content online – whether on social media, a review website, a blog, or the comments section of a news article, for example – businesses are incredibly vulnerable online today. This is because virtually anyone with a motive can seriously harm a business and its online reputation: competitors, former employees, disgruntled customers, ex-business partners and many others.

With all of this in mind, it is critical that businesses work to prevent, plan for, and protect themselves against online reputation attacks, such as false reviews. However, most businesses are not using best practices, as they are lacking the necessary knowledge or experience when faced with a dilemma. Moreover, the online reputation management market is filled with service providers, many of whom offer ineffective services or ones that create legal risks.

Given the speed with which information can travel online, the tendency of bad news to spread virally, and the permanency of information online, responding to online reputation attacks is necessary – even if often quite challenging.  Thus, businesses must prepare for the fact that it may not be possible to stop others from attacking their reputations online, and that harmful information may be difficult to remove.

Click on the following hyperlink to download the white paper entitled “Protecting Against, Preventing and Planning for Online Reputation Attacks.”