I Googled myself – and I don’t like what I saw! What should I do?

by Gravity on April 25, 2009

Googling ourselves. We’ve all done it – and privacy experts agree that it should be done on a regular basis. But if the results that come up on Google when you search for your own name are less-than-flattering, you may be scrambling for a solution.

These days, potential employers (and mothers-in-law) are checking Google results for your name rather than just reading your resume. Whether it’s outdated contact info, unprofessional forum postings from 10 years ago, or a photo of you in a wet g-string contest (and you’re aguy!) you may be in need of a personal Google make-over.  Here are a few tips to improve your personal presence on this important search engine:

  • Set up a Google Profile. Google will sometimes display your profile picture and link in the search results for your name. Although the listing may not be prominent, it’s accompanied by a thumbnail photo, which goes a long way toward getting people to notice it! Even better, you have 100% control over your profile contents – how much does that rock? It’s very easy to set up a Google Profile. Just go to http://www.google.com/profiles and click on the big “create a profile” link.
  • Regularly review Google’s ORM (online reputation management) tool, called “Me on the Web.”  Read Google’s June, 2011 Me on the Web announcement for more info.
  • See something bad? Ask the owner of the page to update or remove it. Almost anything can be removed from a website – if the site owner is accessible and agreeable.  After all, most website owners want updated information just as badly as you do. If you can find contact information for the website that bears outdated or improper information about you, obtaining an update or removal may be as simple as asking for it.  Be sure that you are very specific about the page or pages that contain the problem, and clear about why you want it changed.   If removal is not an option, you might request that the site owner add text such as “This information was last updated March 1996.  ZappyCo cannot vouch for the current status of this information” or “This page is no longer maintained.”
  • Crowd out the results. It’s likely that you won’t find anyone who’s willing or able to change the offending content for you. Items such as archived forums, news and media content, and postings by people that simply hate your guts are destined to stay out there indefinitely.  Your best bet will be to try to outrank them on the search engines. Strategies for outranking your competitors can – and do – fill many websites and books.  Some quick and easy ways to start are:
    • Start posting comments in blogs or forums using your full name.  Choose big, popular forums that are likely to have a good presence, and make sure that the pages are accessible without a login.  (And, before you get any big ideas, make sure they’re relevant comments, or else when you Google yourself you’ll be embarrassed by your own spam messages.)
    • If you have a business or personal website, you can make your name one of your top target keywords and proceed with an SEO plan like the one described in our book, Search Engine Optimization: An Hour a Day.
    • If you have the opportunity to build your own web page within the website of your school, employer, or any organization of which you are a member (many schools offer this to their students and staff), be sure to do so. A nicely written bio page would be a welcome result on a Google search for your name!
    • If you don’t have a website or bio page, build one on any of the zillions of free website services out there (you can experiment with Google’s own here: [Google Link]) and make a page that’s all about you! (Also see the “pay your way to the top” bullet below – Naymz offers a free profile page.)
    • Get active on Linkedin or another business networking site.
  • Use your middle name. Often, problems with Googling yourself arise because there are other people sharing the same first and last name.  For example, there are two authors on Amazon.com named Jennifer Grappone! If you are plagued by this type of problem, you might wish to incorporate your middle name into business correspondence, add it to your personal signature on emails, use it in forum and blog postings, and be sure that it is included on any web content about you.  In the long run, this will help to distinguish you from all of those online doppelgangers.
  • …or no name at all. Some content stays on the internet for a surprisingly long time. Use your full name as described in the previous bullet when you’re making professional postings, but consider using a “pen name” for dating profiles or other material that you may not want to show up in 10 years when a potential employer is Googling you. And go anonymous for some of those those rants that you can’t resist!
  • If all else fails, consider paying your way to the top. There’s even a company designed specifically to help you with this: Naymz, at https://www.naymz.com. (special thanks to Andy Beal for this suggestion from his blog). The basic service allows you to create a free personal profile page on their domain. The premium service will sponsor ads listing your profile page in Google, MSN, and Yahoo! (Be warned, as reader Darin Newberry points out: “Naymz web site is for the personal use of individual members only and may not be used in connection with any commercial endeavors.”)
  • If pictures are poisoning your reputation, read more about image search at our post: How To Improve Image Ranks

Follow these steps to improve your Google self-esteem.  It’s a lot easier than changing your name!

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