Poor or negative results for your company, organization, or executives that appear on the first page of Google, Bing or Yahoo! — from a long-ago dismissed lawsuit, negative media story, or unflattering yourbusinesssucks.com site created by a disgruntled customer or former employee — can cost plenty in lost opportunities and unrealized business.

A recent national poll of U.S.-based business decision-makers revealed that more than 80% of those polled said they would avoid a company or individual because of damaging search results.

What actions can a business owner or manager take to clean up unwanted or unwarranted search results? Here are seven steps you can follow to improve search results and better manage your organization’s digital reputation:

1. Conduct a comprehensive digital audit to determine what negative or potentially damaging information appears on search results of key terms related to your business, its leaders, or even products or services, on the three major search engines. You or a professional advisor should develop a plan to remediate the first page, at least.

2. A good offense is built on a good defense. Own your domain. Prepare your business’s own digital name space for use as a weapon against negative search results by creating relevant content on your owned and managed websites. Learn more by reviewing the whitepaper: “How to Make the Right Impression: A Guide to Digital Reputation Management.

3. Buy and register potentially negative company-specific domain names like yourbusinesssucks.com before critics can beat you to the punch. Think about other terms, misspellings, common typos, or similar domain names that can be negatively attached to your company and its leaders. Make them off-limits as the cost is probably minimal.

4. Investigate removal of existing damaging content generating negative search results. You or your professional advisors should investigate if the damaging content can be deleted altogether. In some instances, publishers of damaging content can be compelled to remove it for legal reasons.

5. Don’t discount social media. At minimum, own a business-related Twitter profile and business-related LinkedIn page. For most names, LinkedIn is ranked at the top of the first page of search results on search engines; this makes a LinkedIn profile one of your most powerful, but overlooked, tools for managing your online reputation. Facebook and YouTube are important, but create only as many social media profiles as you can regularly maintain and keep active.

6. Report, create and post new, positive news. Search engines highly rank timely information from respected authoritative sources and tend to list them higher in relation to related search queries. Create a company newsroom on your business site and use it to regularly distribute search engine-optimized press releases, videos or linked positive third-party press about the business.

7. Ensure the positive content you create is optimized, so that search engines can properly pick it up and rank the material as high as possible on search engine result pages. Not taking this important step could result in negative content showing up on the first page of search results about your business instead.