An overwhelming 92 per cent of 790 respondents to a YouGov survey said that finding negative information online would taint their perception of a business contact.
Participants were gleaned from a variety of backgrounds and a range of sectors including business, media, politics and NGOs.
Company websites and national media coverage were deemed to be the most used and trusted sources of information about prospective business contacts.
LinkedIn was reported to be the most trusted social platform, with over a third (33.8 per cent) of respondents confident that information on the site was accurate. Wikipedia was also cited as a popular source of information, with 67 per cent of business leaders clicking through to it. However, only 26 per cent said they trusted the online encyclopaedia.
Digitalis chief executive Dave King stressed the importance of keeping track of your online presence.
"We have always known how important one’s search engine profile can be – whether in the context of a job interview, due diligence or cursory research by clients and customers – but this research demonstrates that checking someone out online before and after a meeting really is now the norm in business," he said.
"It is surprising to see which sources different users trust but one thing is for sure – the first page of Google is hugely influential. Since the major search engines have effectively become filters that allow the outdated, negative stuff to rise to dominance in anyone’s profile, this research is something everyone should think about in relation to their own online profile."