Since December of 2001, I have been working on the company that became Text Link Ads. I feel you should calculate years for Internet companies in a similar fashion to dog years–in this instance, I worked on TLA for over 77 years! After deliberating for a few months, I made the decision to move on from TLA near the end of last year. In doing so, I’m leaving the company in great hands, to be led by Brock Boser, whom I’ve known since he ‘discovered’ the Spice Girls while we were freshmen in college. I care about that TLA team greatly and wish them all the continued success in the world.

When I decided to step away, I knew I wanted to get back to a situation where I could help build something special from the ground up while taking advantage of the skillset I have built over the years. Therefore, I felt this opportunity with was something I couldn’t pass up.

As the web has evolved over the last decade, we have seen a cosmic shift as to how it is used and who the players are. I had the perfect seat for this evolution by having the privilege to follow the over 35,000 unique sites we worked with at TLA. Fashions on the web have changed dramatically over the years in regards to trying to make money. We have gone from seeing customers selling things as varied as debt consolidation leads to Acai berries, to even World of Warcraft gold, but in the end, 99% of clients were looking to increase the visibility of their site with the goal being to promote their products or services.

That slowly began to change around 2007, as blogs started to become a bit more mainstream. I saw it as the second stage of the ‘user generated content era’. To me, it began with AOL rooms, then on to message boards, and then to blogs, and gradually into the social media explosion we are seeing today.

In the last four years, the way we digest media and information has shifted unlike anything since cable television. Four years ago, few people even knew of Twitter, and today you don’t even blink an eye when you see someone’s name on television followed by their Twitter handle. While the roots of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. may have come from those early message boards, the result is simple: everyone now has a voice. This phenomenon is only going to grow as we fine-tune how we properly take advantage of social media in our daily lives. The search engines are well aware of this, and are constantly tweaking the algorithm to show relevant postings from social media in their search results.

As much as this user-generated content era has sped up the way we digest information, there can be a downside. We are no longer receiving our news from Brian Williams on the 6:30 nightly news; now we are hearing about it from @cooldude2008 on Twitter. This obviously creates a situation where the quality and reliability of the information we are receiving is not going to be what it was when we received our content from traditional sources. There is nothing stopping someone from writing something blatantly false and posting it on the web as the truth. While everyone laughs at the phrase of  ‘I read it on the internet, it has to be true’, unfortunately many people will believe what they read, and that can immediately negatively affect what people think of you our your company.

I gradually began to see people not only interested in promoting the website that showcases their products and services, but rather wanting to promote other web properties to achieve page one rankings to push down unfair content that they did not want their savvy shoppers to easily see, as part of their reputation management initiatives. The number of people aware of and interested in that need of protecting themselves online has grown at the same rate as the growth of user-generated content, and it is only going to continue to grow.

That is exactly why protecting yourself on the web is more important than ever, and why I am so excited to be part of Our goal is a simple one:

To provide the best free resource related to Reputation Management on the web.

We want our users, whether they are running a Fortune 500 company, or someone simply looking to go on a date, to be able to come to this site to educate themselves as to what they can do to protect their name on the Internet. I’m going to be working alongside a team of proven experts in brand and reputation management to put together manuals, case studies, tools, and more, so that you can hopefully be proactive in protecting your good name.

I know I can speak for the team when I say we are excited to get down and dirty and provide our users with valuable guidance to guard their reputation. Please check back regularly, as we will be updating quite often.