Repairing Your Online Reputation Using Social Media

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.

Where Your Online Presence Really Comes From

People are often unhappy with what they find about themselves in Google’s search results, so that wasn’t a surprise.  But I wasn’t prepared for what he told me next.

After he saw his search results, he said that 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 in 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.

Google was not the source of the problem.  Google was just making the problem visible through what was cataloged and displayed in the search results.  And search results are controlled by an algorithm, largely independent of human intervention.

Bury The Dead

If you find an article or image you don’t want, you can always email the source making it available on the web to see if they will take it down.  In most cases, websites that publish content about you aren’t going to be amenable to taking it down.

But, often an effective approach is to simply publish more – and more positive – content about yourself. 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 your 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 or Google-owned content distribution communities:

  • Slides can get posted on
  • Photos can get posted on Picasa.
  • Articles can get posted on
  • Videos can get posted on

Link to these from Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.  After a few weeks, you should start to see some of these new documents on Google’s first page, pushing the bad stuff out of site, or at least, off the first page of Google’s search results.

Bottom Line

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.

About the author…

Joshua Waldman, author of Job Searching with Social Media For Dummies, is a recognized expert on Social Media Career Advancement.  Joshua Waldman is also a speaker and trainer specializing in helping people re-gain control of their careers in today’s economic and technology climate.Connect with Joshua on his website, and on social media through Twitter (@JoshuaWaldman), LinkedIn, Facebook, and his Career Enlightenment Channel on YouTube.

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