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According to a Business 2 Community article, reputation is everything. Many of the opportunities presented to us come based on our reputations. Yet reputation is an intangible, ambiguous, and complex concept. It involves impressions, emotions, and perceptions encompassing the estimation in which a business, person, or thing is held by a specific group or the public at large. Businesses grow and succeed through their reputations. A digital presence and online communication strategy are not just part of a company’s reputation, they form the firm’s foundation — the most critical component to its survival and growth. But compared with traditional brand marketing, digital reputation management is a new frontier where applicable guidance and proven research are in limited supply. How much is a reputation worth? Today, we interact with friends, family, and colleagues largely through text messages, email, and social media, where perception and reality are often confused. So both digital and in-person first impressions are critical. Traditional financial education supplies a comprehensive framework for understanding the valuation of tangible assets, including the value of public and private companies. Portfolio managers and analysts make investment decisions after thorough research into a firm’s fundamentals. However, the subjective valuation of the firm’s intangibles — brand equity, relationship capital, patents, and, of course, reputation, among them — creates a larger challenge. Beyond recognizing that it does affect a firm’s value and long-term growth prospects, we don’t understand reputation all that well. When drawing conclusions on valuation, we often lump brand value and reputation in with other components that are inherently difficult to quantify — under the balance sheet’s goodwill line item. So how can we protect our reputations? It starts with searches. Every internet search yields a search engine results page (SERP). Every second there are 63,000 Google searches, and every day there are 5.5 billion. People perform these searches for countless reasons. They may be googling themselves or looking for their next investment manager. They might even be googling you. After all, it’s a fair bet that anyone to whom we hand our business card will search online for more information. Positive online reviews from real clients will foster trust with prospects and referrals. Conversely, negative hits to our online reputation will quickly damage our offline one. Search engines employ complicated algorithms. If a negative post cites relevant links and information, it will leapfrog more laudatory results. A negative link is the last thing users should see when they search for your business. Unfortunately, most people only go through information on the first page of a search. In fact, 95% just look at that first page of Google search results, and 67% of all clicks are confined to the top five listings. So if positive information is further down, it is effectively buried.