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Whether it's from a disgruntled employee, an angry customer or a competitor, a negative online review can hurt your brand's reputation. 

"Unfortunately, most business owners are not even aware that these bad reviews are out there," said V. Michael Santoro, who co-authored "Niche Dominance: Creating Order Out of Your Digital Marketing Chaos" with John S. Rizzo. Santoro and Rizzo are managing partnerse of Globe On-Demand, an Internet technology company.

Seventy-two percent of buyers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations, and 70 percent trust consumer opinions posted online, according to a recent Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Survey.

"A bad review published in a newspaper, or broadcast on radio or TV, is short-lived, but a bad review posted online can live indefinitely," Rizzo said. "With consumers now researching an average of 10 reviews before making a buying decision, and 70 percent trusting a business that has a minimum of six reviews posted, business owners need to be proactive in developing their online reputation. You need several positive reviews."

Online searches have been streamlined, combining reviews with maps, pay-per-click advertising, local business directories and Facebook Fan pages, Santoro says. As damaging as bad reviews can be, positive reviews can be equally constructive, he says.

Rizzo and Santoro offer an Internet marketing strategy called "reputation marketing" that includes the four following tips:

• Develop a 5-Star Reputation: Begin by having your happy customers post great reviews about your restaurant. Strive to have at least 10. Have each post to one of the following: Google Plus Local, Yelp, CitySearch, SuperPages, YP.com, your Facebook Fan page, etc. This needs to be a continuous process. Proactively ask your customers to post reviews.

• Market Your Reputation: Once reviews are posted, use a well-designed online marketing strategy to drive targeted traffic to your website. Ensure that your website can convert this traffic into customers. Additionally, showcase these third-party reviews on your website.

Manage Your Reputation: Regularly check that the reviews being posted are positive. You can use Google Alerts for your business name; however, you will need to check the local directories, too, since they're not picked up by Google Alerts. By building up the positive reviews, you can counter a poor one by sheer volume. You should also quickly post a reply to a negative review if they occur. Always be professional and indicate what action you have taken to remedy the situation.

Create a Reputation Marketing Culture: Train your staff to proactively ask customers for reviews and to deal immediately with any customer who appears unhappy. A positive culture will encourage customers to post positive reviews about your business.

Rizzo spent three years as a consultant for Amazon.com's publishing group and has assisted several businesses with digital marketing strategy. Santoro has more than 10 years in the digital marketing field. His prior experience includes international senior marketing positions in technology fields.

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