Reputation Management Basics: Google Search
Whether you’re a narcissist or not, you need to search for yourself on Google regularly. And while you’re at it, set up email alerts.
This isn’t (only) narcissism, it’s basic reputation management. If you don’t know what the Internet thinks of you, it will come back and bite you in the ass.
“But I am not a Kardashian, politician or special snowflake worthy of being in Google, why do I need to Google myself regularly?”
Maybe not, but Google doesn’t care about that. Google cares about keywords, (website) reputation and a whole host of other things that you fit into.
Here are the three most common ways you are already in Google Search results:
- Social Media. You have a social media account. Twitter accounts are public. As are LinkedIn accounts. And many more. There are ways to lock them down, but that’s not very ‘social’ is it.
- Video. You were in a video for work. That training video your team produced, yeah it’s now on Youtube/Vimeo/Whatever and the uploader forgot to set the privacy settings. Or worse they blurbed you. “And here’s Jane Smith giving a training session.”
- PDFs. You are mentioned in a document that was published on a website. So common. Work for a government department or NGO? Those organisations are prolific sharers. Even if you weren’t the author, you could be all over a pdf that sits on the website of your organisation. Or former organisation. Google can read PDFs. Especially newer ones.
You are on Google Search whether you want to be or not. But before I get to what to do about it, let me save you some money.
Free Media Monitoring with Google Alerts
Those special snowflakes mentioned above, they all pay for professional media monitoring. You don’t need to; you can get an almost as good solution for free. From Google. Of course.
Google Alerts will let you get emails about whatever search terms you put in. Your name for example. Or the community group you run. Or your seahorse fascination. Whatever.
For bonus points, add your home address, email and mobile as search terms. This will let you know as soon as some dumbass (probably you) puts those details somewhere on the internet that Google can find.
Google Alerts is about what happens in the future, what about now? Here are a few options.
I Am Not On Google Search
You just got me all worried about this, and now I am not there! Maybe not, but maybe your name is Alex Hamilton and there is a smash-hit Broadway musical featuring your name all over the media.
This is where keywords and basic searching comes in. Try your name and add your profession or your expertise.
Searching for ‘Alex Hamilton’ is hit and miss for me, but do a search for ‘Alex Hamilton social media’ and bam!
This is needed, obviously, for us common name people. If you really are a special snowflake you will pop up in results quickly.
The other thing you can try is adding your country or city to your name search. Google already tailors search results based on where you are, but give this a go.
You should repeat the addition of other variables to surface more obscure results. High School reunion photos that are on some random ex-classmate’s blog. Yeah, that weirdo captioned the photo with your name. And so on.
I Am There, But I Don’t Like It!
Aren’t you glad you read this post? You’re welcome. Seriously, though, there are things you can do.
Major caveat one: Google controls search results, not me. Or some company you may hire. No one can promise to ‘remove’ a search result for you. We can give you some tips to help make things better.
The three most common examples above are easy enough.
Social media sites in search results. Easy. You control them. So you can change them.
Major caveat two: Any changes you make to anything you control (social media, your website, etc.) will take a while to flow through on Google. Up to several weeks, but often sooner.
If you’re happy being listed as a LinkedIn member but not that your whole profile is listed, then that’s an easy fix, LinkedIn lets you selectively make private parts of your profile to Google (not to other LinkedIn users though).
Other sites have differing levels of this. Play around with them.
Video results usually take an email. The most common one I see is a video uploaded for work purposes. So, depending on the video and its relevance, you can get it taken down, made private or just have your name removed from the blurb.
This can get messy and take a while. Video accounts are often set up by people and then they leave the company/department/organisation and take with them the login credentials. Very annoying.
Best case scenario is you still work for the organisation and can visit the communications team and ask them to do it for you.
PDFs are essentially the same as videos, just lower risk. Who wants that crap training video with the poor production quality being the result people find first.
PDFs are lower risk, but much more common. You might have written a section of a report, or were quoted, or just listed as an employee (NGO Annual Reports do this sometimes).
This post isn’t about freaking out; it’s about informing yourself what Google knows. So what that Google has a PDF with you in it on a search result. No harm. Probably. But it is essential you know it is there.
What You Can Do
Whether you’re missing from Google and not happy about it, or you are there and don’t like it, there’s lots you can do. Start with these two posts of mine:
And remember, do this now, not when things go bad. This is reputation management basics, not crisis management basics.