The tricky thing about the Internet is that even if you haven’t invested resources into building your brand online, it’s still out there. And even if you have spent a good deal of time shaping and building your brand online, you aren’t the only contributor. One of the most powerful features of the Internet is that it gives everyone a voice and a platform to express that voice. People you have never met have the ability to shape your brand, and more importantly, other’s perceptions of you. So whether or not you include digital efforts in your overall marketing strategy, you should, at the very least, be aware of your online reputation.

At the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in 2013, Realtor.com’s Max Pigman conducted a simple demonstration that highlights the importance of your online reputation. On stage, he pulled out his iPhone and asked Siri where to find a good real estate agent. Siri responded by identifying 15 agents close to his location, sorted by rating. This is even more important given that 90% of homebuyers start their search online and 89% of new home shoppers use a mobile search engine throughout their research.

Managing your online reputation is not as hard, or daunting, as it may seem. Here are a few simple tips to get you started:

Start by finding out what you don’t know. It may seem a scary, but the first thing you need to do is find out what others are saying about you. Google your name and a get a feel for what’s out there.

Be proactive. Use information you already have available to your advantage. Add positive reviews to your website & social channels. Start with testimonials you already have and ask the source permission to publish it. Moving forward, email your clients at the end of the transaction and ask for a review, along with permission to publish it. These reviews will help boost your reputation, and give potential clients a better feel for who you are. You can list your qualifications all day, but having third-party reviews will infinitely increase your credibility.

Don’t ignore the negative. In a perfect world, we would never have to worry about negative feedback. Reality tells a much different story. While it can be hard to swallow, the worst thing you can do is just ignore negative feedback, especially when it’s in writing. Other people are going to see the review, so you might as well make the best of it. Leave a response to the review, acknowledging it and stating that you will follow up with the reviewer off line. At the very least, you are showing potential clients that you are not only responsive, but invested in your business and your clients’ happiness.

Earn it. At the end of the day, you have to earn your reputation, and the positive reviews that come along with it. Put in the work & provide a level of service that will make your clients want to leave you feedback.

Your online reputation will have an effect on your business. It’s best to find out what kind of sentiment is associated with your brand, and use it to your advantage. Managing your reputation is just one piece of your digital efforts. After people find out who you are, they are likely to head to your website to learn more – make sure they have somewhere nice to land!