With old Facebook pages, forgotten blogs, tagged photos, and other casual online activity floating around the Internet like so much space junk in orbit, a person never quite knows what a search of his or her name might spit up. Reputations are at constant risk, thanks to sites like Unvarnished, where both friends and foes can post anonymous comments about others. Job seekers are at special risk: Almost 80 percent of recruiters surveyed in a recent Microsoft study checked out applicants online, and 70 percent of those eliminated candidates based on what they found. But whenever this many people have a problem, it's a sure bet that entrepreneurs are working to fix it. Here are four young companies vying in the business of polishing online personas.
The site, launched in 2006, offers four subscription services, with monthly fees starting at $8.25. MyReputation generates a monthly report showing every reference to you on the Web; MyChild notifies subscribers when their children are mentioned online; and MyEdge pushes positive Web content toward the top of search engines. MyPrivacy finds and deletes personal information online from direct-mail lists. ReputationDefender can also seek out and remove specific information about you on the Web.
Paid Subscriptions: 20,000
Even if you manage to get your online persona popping up on a Google search just as you want it, readers won't necessarily believe what you are telling them. Naymz provides a layer of legitimacy by allowing invited friends and colleagues to post references on your Naymz profile page. The free site, which has 1.8 million users, also has a scoring system, based on a background check as well as what people say about you. A paid version, at $144 a year, includes options to track visitors to your page and monitor in real time how and where your name shows up on the Web.
Paid Subscriptions: 10,000
After developing software for companies like Microsoft, Schakra launched a Parental Guidance Facebook application in June. The app alerts parents when their children make potentially damaging changes to their profiles -- like posting obscenities or inappropriate photos, or becoming friends with someone outside their age group. The service is free, but a paid premium version is set to launch next month. It will give parents the ability to know when specific words or phrases they have banned show up on their children's Facebook pages.
Paid Subscriptions: None. The paid service launches next month.
After many unsuccessful job interviews, Pete Kistler realized he was being mistaken for an ex-convict with the same name. Struck with the importance of online reputation, he joined two other students at Syracuse University to form Brand-Yourself in 2008. The service, at $9.99 a month, creates a personalized website that shows up high on a Google search of the user's name. It walks the user through search-engine-optimization techniques and suggests blogs and social sites he or she should link to or comment on in order to improve online visibility.
Paid Subscriptions: 5,000
The Line: ReputationDefender has set itself apart by patrolling and removing information from the Web. Its multiple-product model may help it pull in revenue. Naymz's reputation score and recommendations -- and the 1.8 million users who have joined its free site -- make it a LinkedIn on steroids. The challenge is persuading those users to opt for the paid version. But Schakra will never run out of parents who are concerned about what their children are posting on Facebook, and Brand-Yourself is marketing to recent college grads, perhaps giving these two late starters the long-term edge.