If you’re only just now beginning to manage your online reputation, then you probably have several questions about how to get started. Thankfully, it’s easier to get started than you may think at first. Here are a few answers about reputation management that will help you on your way to a good online reputation.

First, take stock by doing a Google search for your company. The first page of results is the most important. What are people saying about you? While news articles are generally looked upon more seriously than blog posts, even a random small blog can have an enormous negative impact if that blog shows up in the first page of search results.

Second, set up Google alerts on keywords relevant to your business. Don’t be too vague with your search terms; try to make them appropriate to what a consumer would actually type if they were writing about your organization. Set up these results to forward to an RSS reader that will be checked often.

If you get too many hits, try restricting your search terms in the Google alert; if you get too few, try broadening your search results a bit. The important point is to ensure that every time someone posts something new and relevant about your business online, you’re immediately aware of it.

Third, get proactive on review sites. Whether they’re Amazon reviews, Google Maps reviews, or even TripAdvisor comments, you need to respond quickly to any potential problems that occur online. Anytime someone complains online, your goal is to be the first person to see and respond to their complaint.

Try your best to resolve any issues immediately. Amazingly, a quick response to a complaint that fixes the problem is often rewarded with more goodwill than if no complaint had been issued at all. Responding to such complaints is definitely a good use of your time.

Fourth, reserve your business name in as many places as possible. It’s not enough to just have the “dot com” version of your business name. You also need the Twitter handle, Facebook id, and the login on any other online site that might become popular. Reserving your business name as the login on up and coming sites may seem like a waste of time, but it’s a small price to pay to keep from regretting it when the next big thing comes out and someone else has your business name reserved.

Finally, if you’re already finding yourself inundated with negative exposure online, it may be time to turn to professionals to help. Attempting to fix an already damaged reputation can be very difficult and time-consuming. Do yourself a favor and get professional advice if you find yourself in such a bind.