The Online Reputation Management Economy
There is an interesting article on Cnet about online reputation management. The article by Tom Krazit is mostly about the many ways that online reputation companies help people manage their reputations online. There have been many articles on online reputation management but I suspect that the reason this article appeared when it did was due to the change in name at ReputationDefender to Reputation.com. Why did ReputationDefender changes its name? It says on their website the following: “It also better communicates the scope of our solutions, beyond the “defensive” and onto the “proactive” face of reputation and privacy management. Through Reputation.com, we will continue to focus on delivering high-quality reputation management and privacy products, but we will also focus more broadly on the issue of Internet identity and proactive reputation building.”
When you read Krazit’s article, it reviews the savory and less savory ways that one’s reputation can be improved online or somewhat buried in the rankings lineup on search engines. And of course, some of the methods are not revealed because that is the secret sauce of these firms.
The founder of Reputation.com, Michael Fertik, defends people’s rights to put their best foot (face?) forward in his brash quote: “Google is not God, it is not the First Amendment, and it’s not the truth. It’s probably the best machine of the last 10 years, but it’s just a machine.” I met Michael about two years ago because of our mutual interest in reputation. I am sure he said the same thing to me about Google at our first meeting. He has a good point. Just because something surfaces at the top of Google does not necessarily make it absolutely true or the last word on an issue or topic or person. I sincerely admire what Michael has built and the passion he puts into his business and people’s right to defend themselves when they have been wronged or privacy is invaded in harmful ways (they have a product for cyberbullying, MyChild). He has built a business from the ground up and I applaud that. I am glad that his business is doing so well.
Interestingly, the writer asked Google for its opinion on reputation management online and they forwarded the following comment:
Our goal is to help people find relevant information. So, we don’t condone reputation management campaigns that attempt to hide relevant information. While there is nothing in our guidelines that explicitly forbids reputation management, if we uncover link schemes or other violations, we reserve the right to take action in response. We are constantly working to improve our algorithms to ensure people find the most relevant information possible for their searches.
Ultimately, I agree with the author who at the end of the article concludes:
This will definitely continue to be a balancing act between those who want to be seen as the arbiters of what is relevant on the Web and those who want greater control of how their identity is presented to the world: for both good reasons and bad.