How To Protect Your Reputation Online

A few years back, I found myself battling to have damaging information about me removed from several sites. A couple stalkers were trying to get under my skin because I would not give them attention. These girls set up complete websites about me with some really ugly stuff on them. I often wonder if services like Reputation.com would have saved me a lot of time and headache.

Reputation Snapshot - Reputation.com

Reputation.com is a site, but it’s a bit more than that, offering reputation management services with people behind them. But let’s start with why such a thing might be needed.

Online Reputation And How It Affects You

The first thing you might think of in terms of your online reputation is stuff you and your friends put online. This is the easy stuff. Weather you’re hunting for a new job, starting your own company, or just want to keep your name associated with good things for your existing business or career, you’ll need to make sure you cover all your bases. The easy stuff you can do on your own by simply removing your own content (or setting up viewing permissions for friends only) and contacting friends to eliminate that photo from New Year’s that might turn away a potential employer or client. It gets much harder from there.

After the easy stuff comes the sites you can’t control. Google, Google Places, Yahoo, and scores of other review sites, blogs, and information aggregation sites could potentially contain harmful information about you or your company. These things can be critical to address as soon as possible because every person who reads that bad review is a potential customer you may lose. Google offers tools to help you become aware of such content, but you’ll need to learn some tricks and be comfortable with them. Removing content once it has been discovered is another story, completely.

Curious about how many businesses pay attention to their online reputations, I headed to Google Places and clicked on one of my favorite restaurants. They’re a little more expensive, so I thought they would be managing their reputation online like champions. Sadly, I found the review below.

Bad Review Example

This review was a prime example of the problem I’m talking about and was the second of the top two reviews that appeared. This restaurant should have been aware of this review right away and attempted to win back the customer in some way. Instead, a month has passed and not only is the patron probably still unhappy, but they’ve likely swayed the opinions of several friends and many hungry readers of that review. One can only imagine the business lost here. This is the cost of not managing your reputation online.

What Does Reputation.com Do?

In my last example, you may wonder how a restaurant is supposed to be on online reputation expert, too. The truth is that they shouldn’t. I would bet that they have an accountant handle their bookkeeping, and I would suggest they hire a professional to manage their reputation online as well. This is where a service like Reputation.com enters the picture. Reputation.com has software in place to automatically find and report any mention of you or your company and people in place to help you improve potential customer perception.

They start by building up a profile for you. With a little help from you, they find and confirm existing information about you and set up real-time monitoring to alert you to anything new. Some things, like a bad review on Google Places, can’t be removed directly. However, if you’re aware of a bad review and react professionally to it, you greatly increase the chance that the customer will remove, amend or respond more positively to their own review. And let’s not forget that your customers are your bread and butter, so you should want to make them happy regardless of public perception.

Of course, there will be times that you simply can’t do anything to get negative material about you removed from the web. After all, everyone has a right to their opinion. Additionally, some information will be about someone with the same name or similar company name, completely unrelated to you. What you can do is help guide the information that reaches more people. Just as you would want your company’s site to appear higher in search results than that of a competitor, you also want positive information about you or your company to appear before negative information. One great way to accomplish this is to make sure there’s more positive things about you online. Reputation.com employs professional writers to generate positive content that they then optimize to show up higher in search results. That bad review is a lot less harmful on the second page of Google.

Addresses - Reputation.com

Finally, Reputation.com reports on privacy issues and helps you remove your name, address, phone number, etc. from all kinds of sites. This happens on an ongoing basis to ensure that problem data doesn’t pop up again. When I set up my free trial account, they found 9 addresses online for me, all of them relevant to where I live, have lived, or work, and I don’t move around much. It can be creepy to think of who could just type in your name and show up at your house an hour from now. Beyond just looking out for listings of your phone number and address online, they also offer to do the following:
– Optimize your web browser’s privacy settings
– Block ad tracking software
– Filter unwanted email for you

In Summary

To sum it all up, you should be aware of your online reputation at the very least and if you run a business, you need to be on top of your reputation, alone or with professional assistance. Reputation.com looks to be pretty solid and is sure to make things a lot easier. How much does it cost, you ask? The trial is free and pretty limited, but the pricing for one year is $99, which was a lot less than I thought it would be. By contrast, a dinner for my wife and I at the restaurant mentioned in the negative review above was about $130, which has happened several times, but may not have if I’d read that review and had no other information. For most businesses, this seems like an obvious decision.

The preceding is a sponsored review. As always, all opinions are honest and my own.

Build A Custom Car Online With Local Motors

Have you ever wanted a car that none of your friends have? How about one that you helped design and build and is super rare? A car company by the name of Local Motors has combined web technology and real-world micro factories to provide us with the most interactive and unique car buying experience I’ve seen and they invited me to tour the Arizona micro factory and talk about how it all works.

Rally Fighter
(Rally Fighter – view the full photo gallery)

The car shown above is LM’s Rally Fighter, the first in what Local Motors hopes will be a growing line of kick-ass cars that turn heads.

Design Your Dream Car Online

When asked, most people can tell you, without much hesitation, what their dream car is. Mine’s a Ferrari F430, but I have always loved the concept cars I see at the auto shows every year. Unfortunately, most of the concept cars remain just that… concepts. This is where Local Motors has found a niche.

Local Motors

Rather than creating concepts and never building anything, Local Motors decided to open the game up to the public to come up with the next winning car design. You start by joining the Local Motors website and if you’re creative enough, you can submit your own original car design. From the submitted designs, the community votes on what should be built. The most popular ideas then move on to co-creation, where the community helps decide the body, interior details, etc. Together, the community of site members design an awesome car from the ground up.

Even if you don’t plan to buy one, there’s plenty of incentive to join in and contribute. Local Motors hosts design contests in which the winners can win prizes or cash amounts up to $20,000, which is a great start towards buying the car you design or can just pay some bills.

Own One

When Local Motors decides to build one of the community designed cars, they begin accepting reservations. A reservation requires a $1,000 deposit, and gets your name on a list of future owners. When it’s your turn, you give them another deposit, this one for $5,000, to lock down your build date, and the remaining balance is due when you arrive to start building. After the two weekends of building, you get to take your car home with you.

Local Motors

At the time of this writing, the Rally Fighter, the first car available from Local Motors, is priced around $60,000, but I’m told this may go up with a move to higher-end parts being included next year. The cost, well above your standard sedan, buys you a car that looks like no other and is limited to only 2,000 built. To make your car even more unique, you’re encouraged to design a custom skin for your car. This can be accomplished solo or with the help of a Local Motors designer. This car is for the collector or enthusiast who wants something truly unique.

Get Your Hands Dirty

For some, the experience is pretty much complete at the time of purchase. For others, a big part of the experience is building the car yourself. While you don’t have to spend weeks painstakingly sweating over every little nut and bolt or even weld, part of your purchase is the experience of the build, itself. Over two three-day weekends and with the assistance of a builder, you put it all together in a Local Motors micro factory.

Local Motors

Local Motors provides a cafeteria, RV parking, the space, parts, and tools, and all you bring is some elbow grease and a desire to be immersed in the process. They encourage you to bring a friend, too, to help build and join in the experience.

Local Motors

From the outside, it looks like just a big warehouse with a car painted on the side, but inside is a well-lit, air-conditioned shop with all the tools and tech needed to get the job done. In addition to the human help, there’s also a couple large screens connected to computers with a specialized wiki detailing every step for your particular car.

Conclusions

As huge as the Rally Fighter is, it’s not very practical, but would make a great toy. The next car, I’m told, will be an electric vehicle, and I’m hoping it will be based on the Miami Roadster. For the auto enthusiast, this is a great package and unique experience, but the cost will leave the rest of us designing.

How To Save Money On Gas

As I filled up my gas tank the other day, I was saddened that the reliably cheapest gas station near my office had gone up ten cents since my last refill and people were still lined up waiting for an open pump. This was not a good sign. Sure enough, prices had gone up all over town. Some people are calling it a fuel crisis, but whatever it is, it’s getting expensive. With prices expected to go up considerably more through the beginning of summer, there are ways to save a lot of money on your fuel spending that you might not be aware of.

Gas Prices
(Photo: Scott Hadfield)

Find The Cheapest Gas Online

While some people drive around looking for the cheapest gas, even going as far as using their passenger as a price spotter, I’ve found a better way. It’s more efficient, less frustrating, and the bottom line is that it will save more money. I check my GasBuddy iPhone app before I even start the car. The GasBuddy app is available for the Android and Windows smartphones, too. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can look up the best prices near you on GasBuddy.com. Depending on the size of your tank, you could save $2 to $5 right at the pump. Personally, I like the app over the site. It’s very compact and simple. In no time, I have the closest prices and don’t even need to be near a computer.

US Gas Prices Heat Map

GasBuddy.com has a ton of fuel-related tools and information on the website, too. One frightening example is the US Gas Prices Heat Map, which shows the gas prices as colors on a US map. Clearly California’s higher gas tax has a visible impact on the prices in that state.

Shop Online First

I’ve found myself wanting to buy things in stores (especially electronic gadgety goodness) because I could have those things right away even if it was cheaper to buy online. More than ever, buying online can save you a few bucks compared to driving to the mall and back. Sometimes it’s just cheaper and these days, what you buy online often arrives pretty quickly in your mailbox. Have it shipped to your work and you won’t have to drive to UPS, FedEX, or your post office to pick up a missed delivery.

Sure, some stuff is cheaper in the store, so the gas savings realized by shopping online aren’t really a savings, but is it in stock? I don’t know how many times I’ve driven to the store with a specific need, only to find it was out of stock. Shop online for the best price and call the store to verify stock of those needed items before heading out. The fastest, thus my favorite, online shopping is Amazon.com, eBay, and a simple Google search. I’ll have another post up soon on ways to save money shopping online at various sites, so watch for that.

Plan Your Driving

Above, I pointed out the benefit of knowing if something is in stock before driving to buy it. This helps because it reduces unnecessary driving. Another way to cut down on wasted miles is to plan out your trips. Obviously, if you have to visit two different places in North Phoenix this weekend and one in South Phoenix, you’re probably already planning to make both North Phoenix stops while on that side of town, but are you thinking this way for smaller trips? Maybe you can get shopping done near the place you get your hair cut. Is a your bank in the same store? Plan your activities and get things done more efficiently. Not only will this save you gas, but it will save you time and put less wear on your car.

Know Your Fuel Efficiency

When you bought your car, I’m sure it indicated the Miles Per Gallon as a range, rather than just a solid number. This is because there are ways to get the most mileage out of your car. You may have heard a few tales of fuel efficiency already. They range from making only right-hand turns (which Myth Busters even tested) to the speed at which you drive. One of the more widely known factors in fuel consumption is highway versus city street driving. Try different things and figure out what works for you. If you want to make it easy, try a tool like EconoDriver, which monitors your driving and fuel consumption and tells you how you’re doing.

More Ways To Save Money On Gas

I’m sure there’s even more ways to save money on your gas that I haven’t covered here. The best way to find them is to think about things you do that involve driving and any other factors that contribute to your use of or spending on gas. I’d love to hear any tips you have on saving your gas money. If you have one, share it in the comments.