Protect your online reputation

Reputation Management

Reputation Management

Have you ever Googled yourself? Do you think Googling yourself is an act of extreme egotism? If so, guess again. In the age of social media, where everyone has the ability to post anything they want on the Internet, Googling yourself is a necessity.

Most businesses work very hard to get to the top of Google search results, but a commodity producer of livestock may want to be on the bottom, or not show up at all. I believe it’s important for dairy farmers to create a positive image on the Internet so consumers can hear the truth. But what happens when somebody posts negative information about you or your business, or worse yet, pictures or video that you don’t approve of? First, don’t panic. Here is what to do.

Google Alerts is a free service that sends you an email every time it indexes a page that includes your search criteria. You can use Google Alerts for many things including following your favorite sports team or news about milk & corn prices. I find it particularly useful to track information about your self.

Go to google.com/alerts. From there you can set any number of keyword searches. I created alerts for my wife as well as my kids, mother, grandmother, and myself. The list includes our names, company names, street addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, and driver’s license numbers.

You should never set Google Alerts for sensitive information like bank accounts, social security numbers, or credit cards. Though you should occasionally check these through Google’s search.

Anytime one of your keywords appears in Google’s index you will get an email alert linking you to the page. Let’s say the leader of your local 4-H club posts your child’s name, address and phone number to the club’s website. Within hours of that post, Google will inform you via your inbox.

In this example, the solution is to simply contact the person and have them take it down, but what if you don’t know the culprit or the post is somehow malicious? First, contact the owner of the website. Most sites have a “Contact Us” or “About Us” link. Call or send them an email and ask them to remove it. Most people will comply.

If this doesn’t work, you can attempt to have the page removed from the Google index. It is important to note that Google can’t remove the page in question; they can only remove it from their index so that it doesn’t show up in search results.

To start this process, Go to Google’s Webmaster Tools page. Once on the Google support page, read their removals policy. Google will not remove public information like your street address but they do have a policy against images of animal abuse. This could be useful if someone is claiming animal abuse on your farm. The site will ask you a series of questions and if your issue meets their criteria, they will remove it. You should also check Bing, Yahoo, and the other major search engines and follow the same process.

Most search engines, including Google, track what you do online and tailor your search results to what they think you want. This is creating a phenomenon known as the filter bubble. This helps you find what you want quickly but has a negative side effect of excluding something you might want. When searching for information about yourself, you should use an anonymous search engine like startpage.com or duckduckgo.com. These sites will show you what other people see when searching for you.

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