What do I do about 15 years of Google search history?
January 23, 2014 8:57 PM   Subscribe

My profession now requires a bit more public profile and as such people are Googling me. Instead of finding what I want them to find (linked in profile, who I am 'professionally', etc) they instead are presented with a version of me from 10 years ago. What do I do?

33 now, I've been on the internet since 15. From 15-30 I spent most of my time on music and as such my google search history reflects that. Nothing really embarrassing, but lots of old music on youtube, soundcloud account, etc, some good, most bad. But mainly, it's not really the impression I want to make today on people that are trying to find out who I am - especially professionally.

What do I do about this? Do I pay a reputation service to try to push the "professional" content to the top of the results? What do I do in 5-10 years when my children are old enough to look me up? Do I just resign myself to the fact that the 25 year old me will forever be the person Google shows other people when they look me up?

Sorry for anon, but I don't want this added to my search results also!
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Easiest thing to do would be to take down the sound cloud pages and/or take your name off of them.

Then you put up public profiles on places like linked in, about.me, google+, etc... Shouldn't take very long to get to the top for searches for your name.
posted by empath at 9:14 PM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

You need to overwhelm the old stuff with new stuff that reflects the self you want presented now, and push the old stuff down on the search results. Present and future you need to be more active than past you was on the internet.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:15 PM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

For those websites that consent to take down your material, or where you can remove it by inactivating your account, you can also request Google to stop displaying it in their search results, otherwise it continues to turn up for some time after removal.

Doesn't work for everything, but is fast & effective when it does. I have used it several times.
posted by JeanDupont at 9:32 PM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've been on the Internet just a hair longer than you have, so I know your pain. Been in (and to a small degree, still am) the same boat myself. Mostly, I'll echo what's been said so far — for anything you have control of, or if you know someone who does, just shut it down/remove it, or send requests to the parties who DO have the ability to remove it.

Then, just start putting tons of new stuff online. Make sure your name is in there somewhere. If you're able to get any sort of blog/press coverage, that'll help immensely, because that stuff weighs heavier in Google results, and consequently, pushes your old stuff farther and farther down. (This phenomenon can run the other way — for instance, some of my old stuff was related to a silly website I used to run, and Forbes.com did a story on it once. Which got translated to 4,396 other sites that syndicated their content, as well as multilingual versions of the Forbes website. And yet, even THAT stuff faded away with time. Took a few years, though.)

Finally, if your name is even REMOTELY common (and on the global scale of the Internet, chances are that it is), there's always some degree of plausible deniability (except for those pages where there's a photo of you). Even with MY name — which I thought was REALLY obscure — it turns out there's a small handful of other people on this planet who have both my first and last name. (Granted, you can count them on one hand and still have a couple of fingers left, but still — if I can do it, anyone can.)

The person who holds the real secret to this is this ex-girlfriend from college in 1995. Virtually NOTHING comes up in Google about her. I'd ask her how she does it, but . . . well, that'd require being able to find a way to contact her, so . . . yeah, kind of a catch-22 there. :-)

Good luck!
posted by CommonSense at 9:47 PM on January 23, 2014

You had me until this part: "What do I do in 5-10 years when my children are old enough to look me up?"

Huh? This doesn't strike me as anything one would imaginably want to keep from their children:

Nothing really embarrassing, but lots of old music on youtube, soundcloud account, etc, some good, most bad

Are you being straight with us (and, as an anon, I don't know why you wouldn't be)? I'd like to make suggestions, but I'm flustered as to what you're really asking here.
posted by Quisp Lover at 9:54 PM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also, as someone who once ran the sort of site that gets these sort of take-down requests all the time, I can tell you that if you ask really nicely (but tersely; folks are busy) you might get help on this. But if you come off the least bit imperious or threatening, webmasters will likely get their backs up and decline to touch a thing. Remember that they don't have to help you. And, again, they're busy.

Also, if you can simply go in and change your screen name/username, that might be easier than trying to delete accounts and data.
posted by Quisp Lover at 9:58 PM on January 23, 2014

Is yourname.com taken? Do you have a twitter account? Might be time to get those and start using them to move the other items to page 3 of tge search results. No one goes to page 3.
posted by jander03 at 10:02 PM on January 23, 2014

You don't have to pay anyone to do this for you - just create a bunch of social media accounts under your name. Use HootSuite to tie them all together, and start posting regularly (HootSuite makes the effort scalable and you can post the same content generally to each channel).

The high "Domain Authority" of these sites combined with the posts should push them all onto the front page.

Do you have a LinkedIn profile? That'll shoot to the top of search.

Same as Google Plus (you have to use it though) and YouTube (same), Facebook (create a new one just for work), Twitter (populate it with the same stuff as G+).

I have an old WordPress site that I never use that is one of the top results for my name.

Create a Disqus account.

Quora, Panoramio... all under your name.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:17 PM on January 23, 2014

If your profession really involves that public a profile, the problem should solve itself pretty quickly. The best way to hide information is in a flood of other information.
posted by dekathelon at 10:57 PM on January 23, 2014

I scrubbed my online identity a while back. If you have access to the accounts you want to hide, just delete them. Google's cache will remove dead links after a short time and every link you delete will weaken the ranking of associated links. Google prioritizes recent activity and frequency of updates in search results. If you really want to make this happen quickly, start a professional blog and post something once a week. eventually the new stuff will crowd out the old stuff, and Google will decide that your old accounts aren't very relevant.
posted by deathpanels at 4:20 AM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

And make sure you link your professional profiles together (with an actual hyperlink). Look up some SEO techniques for details on why this works. This is basically an SEO problem.
posted by deathpanels at 4:23 AM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Change the public presentation of your name - the inclusion of a middle initial, or a modification on your first name, is usual: If your name is Jonathan Jacob Smith, and you're online as Jon Smith, try recasting your professional presence as Jon J. Smith, or Jonathan Smith.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:13 AM on January 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Make sure your LinkedIn account settings aren't locked down, as well. Go to Privacy & Settings - Profile - Edit Your Public Profile and make sure that you have the "Make my public profile visible to everyone" box on the right of your public profile checked. Customize your public profile URL to your firstnamelastname if you can, and use that link on other social media sites.

I'd also recommend creating a personal website, even if it's relatively bare bones. If you can get firstnamelastname.com as a domain, do it.

Consider creating a Google+ account - Google ranks their own pages highly in search. Same with a public Twitter account.

Connect/link all your professional accounts to each other, and de-connect, rename, delete, etc. all the ones you'd rather not show up.
posted by misskaz at 7:25 AM on January 24, 2014

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