Web Watch

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The long tail of the Internet has been mentioned a few times in this column over the past few years. The long tail actually refers to all the people and businesses near the tail end of the Internet food chain that make money by leveraging what the Internet has to offer, in a million different ways. Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, AOL, eBay and other market leaders are pushing the Internet in new directions. At the tail end some interesting business models have emerged.

One of the more interesting businesses spawned by the Internet is the area of reputation management. Wikipedia defines it as the process of tracking an entity's actions and other entities' opinions about those actions, reporting on those actions and opinions; and reacting to that report creating a feedback loop. Got that?

Physicians that have had problem patients sometimes find themselves in a position where they need to do some online damage control. Perhaps a dissatisfied patient posted her displeasure in an online forum or wrote a letter of complaint to a physician review website. The patient may have a legitimate gripe or received excellent treatment but expected a miracle. No matter. Once the search engines pick up the bad news it can be quite difficult to undo the mess.

That's where companies like ReputationHawk.com and ReputationManager.com can help.The best way to deal with a negative search result for your company is to work with a reputation management company. They write white papers, blogs, send comments to opinion sites, comment in appropriate forums, visit ranking sites, and do whatever they can to move your negative listing to page 22 of Google's search results. Only about 8% of people go beyond page three of search results anyway. It's a lot of work but in many cases it may be worth the trouble.

Dan McKillen is the CEO of the HealthDay news service
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