There’s an old proverb that says, “The reputation of a thousand years may be determined by the conduct of one hour.” Never before has it been so clear as in the digital age, when a single mistake can be blown up to epic proportions and haunt a company forever.

Today, a single complaint or negative news story can snowball, causing an avalanche of negative comments re-hashed on blogs, linked to in Yelp reviews and chatted about on Twitter, Facebook and other social media. As the indignant tweets and Facebook posts pile on, they can even put a company out of business.

There are steps you can take to proactively manage your online reputation, bolstering your company for the worst-case scenario and making the business more visible to potential customers online. Here are three:

Protect your name and position in search results

If you haven’t taken steps to boost your brand’s position in search results, then it will be easier for one bad incident to come up in the top sources if someone files a complaint or a negative news story comes out about your company.

Develop a company website, and keep it updated – posting regularly on a blog or news page on the site will push you higher in Google search results.

In addition, make sure to take control of your company’s name with Yelp, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google+ accounts, at a minimum. Provide accurate information on these channels and keep it up to date. This is content you can control, after all – unlike a news story broadcast on TV or printed in the paper.

Share good news

As mentioned above, your website and social channels allow you to control the content people see. Be proactive by posting positive news about your company and engaging with customers online.

Respond to negative Yelp reviews promptly, and respond to the positive reviews too. Send out press releases highlighting your company’s good news and amplify the effects by posting links across social media. Encourage your employees to share those links with their networks as well.

If you’ve been a target of negative coverage in the past, this positive news, over time, will help to bury the bad.

Address problems

Even the best online reputation management strategy can be hindered if you don’t address the problems leading people to criticize your business. Learn about and resolve any underlying customer service or other issues. That’s the most fail-safe approach to ensure you don’t see additional complaints in the future.