The launch of a new start-up called Applicatr highlights the rise in online reputation management as a business sector, according to tech industry figures.
Applicatr is a web application that provides an effective way to review resumes, applications and interviews, and collate the feedback for the benefit of the employer.
Applicatr co-founder Dominik Grabiec says he and his business partner drew inspiration from the hiring processes at their day jobs, developing ways in which to improve them.
Verifying potential staff via the internet is a growth industry in Australia, says Foad Fadaghi, research director of market analyst firm Telsyte, who says that online reputation management is a relatively new concept but one that was “born out of necessity”.
“Online reputation management services are typically for people who have held senior roles, such as managers or CEOs, who may have left [their previous position] under a cloud or surrounded by media hysteria,” Fadaghi says.
“Some of these services can be quite helpful when it comes to media allegations or speculation, particularly in the blogosphere where the content is often less ethical than journalists’ [content].”
Online reputation management means manipulating Google searches that could return damaging news stories, social media posts and forum reviews relating to an individual.
Techniques include using positive key words associated with the individual or generating positive media releases on their behalf.
Google search rankings are based on a combination of most visited sites and the most trusted or authentic sites, which means highly valued, authoritative websites – such as news or government sites – are harder to push down the ranks.
James Griffin, a partner at social media monitoring agency SR7, says the best way to combat negative content is to put up some positive content.
Dan Petrovic, director of SEO service provider Dejan SEO, says apart from bad reviews and forum complaints, Google news results and auto-suggestions represent two of the biggest online threats.
“Much worse than any mention on a website is when Google thinks you’re a dodgy operator. Someone starts typing ‘Bob Smith’ and Google’s auto-complete starts suggesting ‘Bob Smith scammer’,” he says.
Petrovic says online reputation management services can cost up to $50,000 depending on the extent of the negative information.
According to Fadaghi, there is not a lot employers can do to separate “authentic” content from paid content when doing a search on a prospective employee.
He says businesses should conduct proper reference checks on prospective employees rather than rely on online content as a true indication of a person’s history.