One of the scariest aspects of being online is a lack of control over one’s brand. Through the miracle of the Internet, anyone can say anything at any time. This can be especially challenging for those in the financial industry, as there are often barriers to interacting on the web.

We have seen this used as an excuse not to get involved with social media and digital marketing, but the truth is that these conversations are occurring whether you’re online to manage them or not. Black marks — from a criticism on a review site to a negative newspaper editorial — can appear anywhere on the web and threaten your business’s online reputation. So what can you do about it?

The trick to combating an unfavorable reputation is to build up a contrasting positive one. The good news is that if you’re an advisor who has taken steps to construct a positive digital presence and offer valuable content on your website, you’re already on the right track to having an unblemished online persona.

While you can’t simply erase negative online comments, there are ways to push them out of search engines’ top results by building up more positive content.

Alert yourself. First you need to know what is being said about you, so you can take action as soon as possible. Set up Google Alerts to get updated information on where and what is being said about you. If you are looking for an additional in-depth tool for social-media mentions, give Mention a try. It often catches social-media conversations missed by Google Alerts.

How many times to we have to say it? Get social! Get all your social profiles up and optimized. These platforms are important because they let you show off a positive persona, and they will show up higher in search rankings when complete and optimized. Having many social profiles appear on the first page of a Google search leaves less room for the bad stuff. Think outside the box and create profiles for less common (but important) networks such as Google+ or sites just for advisors such as FPAnet, NAPFA (for annuity providers) and BrightScope.

Blog, blog and blog some more. Utilize your advisor blog. Not only is the blog on your website a great resource for content that you control, but it also provides an incredible SEO opportunity. Make sure you’re cranking out original content to reflect your trustworthiness. Instead of posting only one blog entry per week, up your content to twice a week during times of reputation crisis. Make sure to include lots of links back to your website and use those long-tail keywords to get your blog and website to show up in search results. You can also take advantage of partnerships and arrange to guest blog on others’ websites. The more content you have online, the better your chances of pushing negative comments off the initial page of results.

Unfortunately, there could be many reasons you need to step up your online reputation-management game, but there are ways to compliantly combat digital downers, even for advisors. One of the overarching benefits of utilizing social media is that it allows you to create, grow and manage your brand in a positive and genuine light. If social media weren’t already a priority for your firm, we hope, for the sake of your online reputation, it will be now.

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Amy McIlwain is a professional speaker on social media and President of Financial Social Media, an online marketing firm specializing in the financial industry. She can be reached through her website www.financialsocialmedia.com and on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.