ReputationChanger.com and Elixir Interactive are among dozens of companies that promise to help businesses and individuals control what Web searchers find when Googling a name. Search for Reputation Changer, though, and in some parts of the U.S. the first results page contains a link to a post saying the company “makes false claims.” And the No. 2 result for Elixir is an anonymous review that calls the company a “total scam.” Both companies blame unscrupulous rivals for the slights and insist their services are effective. “It’s a dog-eat-dog industry,” says Rich Gorman, Reputation Changer’s chief marketing officer.
In an age when you are whatever Google says you are, online reputation management is booming. These companies promise to enhance a client’s standing on the Internet by promoting or creating positive content, which pushes negative mentions lower in search engine results. Media consultant BIA/Kelsey estimates that small and medium-size businesses spent about $1.6 billion managing their online reputations in 2011. It expects the figure to grow to more than $5 billion by 2015.