A gentleman came up to me after a talk I gave at Portland Community College last month. He told me that he’d Googled himself and wasn’t happy with what he found.
I get this question all the time, so I wasn’t prepared for what he told me next.
After he saw his search results, he called Google and asked to speak with Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman and former CEO. When his call wasn’t connected (no surprise there) he then sent three certified letters to Google demanding they take the content down.
His approach is utterly absurd.
First, Google is not a publisher of content. There is no way they can be held responsible for the content they index and deliver is search results. And if Youtube is any indication, Google can’t be touched for copyright violation either.
Second, calling and demanding to speak with the CEO of one of the largest tech companies in the world in order to take care of removing some internet content is ridiculous. The CEO probably can’t even help you, and even if he could, since Google doesn’t take money from users, he would have no incentive. Google makes money from selling advertisements.
So if you are concerned about your online presence, leave Google out of it and follow the following tips to clean things up.
Bury The Dead
In most cases, websites that publish content about you aren’t going to be amenable to taking it down. If you find an article or image you don’t want, you can always email them and see if they will take it down.
But a far better approach would be to simply publish more, and more flattering, content. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to go out and write a bunch of articles, although that wouldn’t be such a bad idea.
The best way to bury the content you don’t want is to publish more, thus pushing the old stuff down.
And what better way to publish than to repurpose old stuff. Check out this list, surely you have something that would work:
- Old presentations from school or work (nonproprietary of course)
- Old photos of you looking nice and professional
- Video footage of you giving a presentation or talk
- Reports, papers or articles you’ve worked on or been quoted in
Once you dig some of this content up, it’s time to dust off the cobwebs. With a fresh pair of eyes, see if you can freshen it up. Can you make the slides stand on their own? Can you update the article?
It’s important to make sure your name appears in each of these documents somewhere, either in the content, or the file name.
These old documents can now be distributed to Google friendly content distribution communities:
- Slides can get posted on Slideshare.com
- Photos can get posted on Picasaweb.com
- Articles can get posted on Docstoc.com
- Videos can get posted on Youtube.com
After a few weeks, you should start to see some of these documents on Google’s first page.
If you are concerned about your online presence, leave Google out of it. Your best option is to follow the tips above to clean things up.