In an age when you are whatever Google says you are, online reputation management business is booming.
U.S. Small and mid size businesses spent about $1.6 billion managing their online reputations in 2011. The figure will grow to more than $5 biliion by 2015, according to media consultant BIA/Kelsey.
Many 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.
Companies like ReputationChanger.com, Elixir Interactive and Reputation offer to police search results and cleanse your profile.
But here is the problem: mostly these are false claims. In other words, scam. Negative content remains online.
You are charged $3,000 per year and often many times that.
Experts say reputation management is harder than that. Federal law says websites aren't liable for comments and other information posted by users, and that means that you have few options other than creating or promoting positive content on behalf of a client in hopes of burying negative mentions. In addition, Google says it detects aggressive tactics such as loading pages with irrelevant keywords or websites.
Bloomberg Businessweek wrote recently a revealing article about it.