Let’s face it: Most renting consumers only provide online feedback when they are dissatisfied. Rarely will you see positive comments offered up by renters in chat rooms, blogs or travel-related Web sites. Renters review and bash all the major car rental companies, as well as the discounters, on Web sites such as My3Cents.com, Complaints.com, Epinions.com, Planetfeedback.com and many others.

Major search engines index these third-party Web sites and in many cases, display the results. Based on various circumstances, the negative comments can organically climb to page one or two in Google, Yahoo, AOL or Bing. This can tarnish your company’s online reputation and adversely affect your business.

The best way to protect your brand from unwarranted complaints and ensure repeat business is to be proactive and deploy a marketing strategy that promotes and protects your positive online image.

Top 7 Rules for Online Reputation Management 1. Act ASAP. Before you can manage an online branding issue, you should first be aware that your brand can be attacked. Smart rental car operators are watching consumer-generated content and listening to what their customers are saying. One of the easiest ways to resolve the majority of brand attacks is to respond rapidly. A company that shows it is listening and does care will go far in positively reinforcing the brand’s image. Renters who complain are actively keeping an eye out for your reaction.

2. Effectively manage customer service complaints from your Web site or call center. Establish a system or process to communicate with your customers and answer initial complaints promptly and courteously. Insert your terms and conditions within the body of the e-mail confirmations that are sent to renters. Try to resolve the issue before it becomes larger than it should. In many cases it can be a basic misunderstanding of policy, rates, billing or a rental car-related misinterpretation.

3. Create and promote your own blog and communicate directly to your customers. A blog will provide the ability to inform your customers of any changes, new services, “hot deal” offers and much more. This, in turn, can lead to enhanced organic search engine optimization (SEO), satisfied renters and repeat business. Captivate your audience with compelling content about your locations, vehicle additions and local attractions.

4. Improve your Web site SEO efforts and freshen up your home page with content and optimized graphics. Investing in SEO not only provides more organic traffic to your Web site, it also protects your online reputation by placing your brand name on top-ranked pages in Google. Maximizing this online real estate is essential to promote your online brand. 5. Search the Internet for travel Web sites and blogs where renters review car rental companies. Read and review the feedback—this is invaluable information that provides insight into what people are saying. You can learn from your competitors’ comments and get a better understanding of renter concerns and explanations.

6. Learn about social media! It’s not a simple endeavor, but if deployed correctly it can produce substantial branding dividends and increased traffic. Sites include Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Digg. It’s useful to fill out the profile with as much information as you can, including a unique bio or “About Us” information. In order to achieve success, be aware that deploying and managing social profiles takes time, effort and commitment.

7. Distribute press releases online. Writing press releases to aid brand reputation means optimizing specific keywords that mention explicit attributes of your branding efforts. Avoid fluff and useless information that has no value for the reader. Find good distribution partners such as BusinessWire, PRNewswire and MarketWire. The price is right for free PR distribution providers; however the performance may not be inadequate. Deliver Top-notch Service

The dynamics of how well your brand succeeds online can change in a New York minute. Brand reputation marketing provides one of the best returns on investment when it comes to Internet marketing. Its value is reinforced by converting new reservations, retaining renters, improving customer satisfaction and developing a sustainable brand. Over the long run, brand marketing can be tailored to your company size, budget and organizational goals. Renter behavior is evident, but your brand marketing efforts should reflect a mutually beneficial relationship with your customers.

When it comes to your brand, reputation is everything. Ultimately the true mark of a professional brand is to not only initiate offline and online marketing strategies, but also consistent delivery of top-notch service.

Robert Rogener is founder and president of AvalonMarketingUSA.com, a search engine advertising agency and marketing firm. Rogener has more than 15 years of experience in the rental car industry.