Online reputation management is an incredibly important industry that really got started in the last five years. This is an industry that has thrived as the Internet has become more and more important in the every day life of individuals. Online reputation management is a unique industry in the history of the Internet. It involves public relations and search engine optimization work.
The online reputation management industry is new because it has not been a long time that online reputations have actually mattered in the real world. For years, of course, Internet aficionados cared about their online reputations, but it is only recently that online reputations have become important offline. These days, businesses will Google you before they hire you, blind dates will put your name into search engines in order to dig up dirt, etc. This leads people to want to be more protective of their online reputations.
Online reputation management began mostly in developed countries like the United States, United Kingdom, France, etc. It has since expanded to many of the less developed and developing countries. The industry has grown by leaps and bounds over the last couple of years. It has developed niche sectors over the years, for celebrities, famous athletes, businessmen, etc.
There are few people or businesses that could not benefit from some type of online reputation management or another. Everyone from the most famous world icons (read: David Beckham or President Obama) to the most normal individuals (e.g., me or you) needs to look after their online reputations and there is no better way to do it than that.
Ebay was one of the first companies to deal in online reputations. They created a system whereby users would rate and leave comments about other users who sold things on their website. This crowd-sourced ratings system turned out to be immensely popular and very helpful to buyers, who quickly learned who they could trust, as a community, and who they could not. This ability to have some users aid others in their buying or selling preferences would become a popular model, mimicked by Yelp and other review websites. Eventually the method would expand to include businesses and people who never signed up for this ratings system, and thus exercised no control over how they were perceived. In many cases, there were not even ways to rectify or appeal the bad ratings or comments. This is how online reputation management first came onto the scene. The industry is now worth hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide, with firms handling all different types of online reputation management issues. As the Internet changes and evolves, so will the online reputation management industry.
This is the Wikipedia page for Online Reputation Management. It isn’t exactly chocked full of information, but it’s a good start:
This is a relevant article about online identity/reputation:
This is an excellent New York Times profile of the industry. It is by no means all-encompassing, but it’s a good piece:
Reputation Hawk was one of the first companies to specialize in the field of Internet Reputation Management.