Yesterday Brand.com announced its new Google eraser service, in which the company will remove libelous or false information about you or your company from Google, Bing, and Yahoo search results, for a $5,000 fee.
Today, competitor BrandYourself called BS on the offering, in no uncertain terms.
“This claim is literally outrageous,” BrandYourself CEO Patrick Ambron told me this morning. “Anyone can do this for free.”
One of the reasons Ambron started his company, in fact, is that his cofounder has the same name as a notorious drug dealer and was having trouble getting a job or even an interview. When he researched the reputation management he found himself being quoted tens of thousands of dollars.
So the two friends started their own reputation management service.
“Obviously I’m biased … I run a competing company,” Ambron admits. “But the reason we got into the industry is that it was broken.”
Ambron says that there’s no magic, no science, and no silver bullet to online reputation management. If you want to hide bad content, you simply have to create lots and lots of high quality good content. And in terms of removing negative content — it’s almost impossible to prove things one way or the other on the Internet, he says. To get Google to remove search engine results takes a court order, as Google explains. Anyone can get a court order, of course, with the appropriate time, money, and legal assistance, if their cause is just and the judge buys their story.
“There’s no magic formula, but reputation management companies continue to make these outrageous claims,” he says. “We’re working real hard to clean up the industry, but some people … their model is to exploit people as much as they can, as long as they can.”
Ambron highlights four things people looking for reputation management services should do:
- If anybody is telling you that you can’t do this yourself and they have a magic formula, it’s untrue … you just may not have the time or knowledge right now
- If someone’s not transparent about how their process works, that’s a big red flag
- If someone gives you any sort of guarantee, you should be very worried, because nobody can actually control Google’s results … not even Google
- If anyone pressures you to sign a contract before all your questions are answered, that’s another big red flag
I have to admit, Brand.com is not transparent about its process. I asked multiple time how the company achieved its results, and each time received a variation on “it’s a proprietary, patented process.”
BrandYourself.com offers two levels of service, Ambron says. In the first, the company helps you help yourself, guiding you through the steps you need to take to make a Google search on your name look great. In the second, with what the company calls its “concierge” service, BrandYourself.com does the work for you. But even in this case, Ambron says, it’s significantly cheaper than Brand.com — partially because the company doesn’t buy any expensive TV ads.
“Your Google is what really matters,” he told me. “We have created web-based tools to help you help yourself … like using TurboTax instead of hiring an accountant.”
I contacted Brand.com before writing this story, offering the company a chance to comment or challenge BrandYourself.com’s claims. Brand.com declined to comment.