Google recently launched its new online reputation management tool, “Me on the Web.” The tool seems to be targeted towards those looking to use it for personal online reputation management. It is integrated into the Google Account Dashboard and one of its features is a list of all the links shown on your Google Profile. “Me on the Web” does not provide any new functionality features. There is nothing that you could not do with your Google account prior to the release of the new tool. Instead, “Me on the Web” provides valuable information to the common Google user who could use a quick lesson on online reputation management, as well as some features that make it easier to set up Google Alerts. Below is a screenshot of my “Me on the Web” section:
One thing that caught my attention was the “How to remove unwanted content” page. The first two sentences on the page is a disclaimer which addresses the misconception that Google controls the internet:
“We run into a lot of people who think that Google runs the web and controls all the sites on it, but that’s really not the case. The sites in Google’s search results are controlled by those sites’ webmasters.”
Notice that Google does not mention who controls their search results. It seems that the objective is to implement that they are not responsible for unsatisfactory search results, but we all know Google decides what results show up on its own search engine. We cannot point the finger at Google for including results that some individuals may not be happy about. Even if they removed results instantly upon request, the content would still be easily available elsewhere online. Everyone would have to use a different search engine to discover things like “The Star Wars Kid,” and Google would be out of business. It would also lead to some very unpleased webmasters.
The “How to remove unwanted content” page has a tutorial on what to do to get unwanted content off of Google’s search results. Google advises the user to first contact the webmaster of the content and ask them to either remove it or indicate that it should not be crawled or indexed. If the webmaster is not available or unwilling to cooperate, Google provides a link to a page located in Google Webmaster Central on “keeping personal information out of Google.” Users are advised to “try to reduce its visibility in the search results by proactively publishing useful, positive information about yourself or your business.” Since Google said it themselves, I suppose this means it is not considered a form of “beating the system” to publish loads of content in order to cover up what you don’t want people to see. What do you think?
“Me on the web” also has a link to a tutorial on “how to manage your online identity.” It consists of four steps: search for yourself, create a Google Profile, remove unwanted content and the associated search results, and get notified when your personal data appears on the web.
It is interesting to see this type of tool coming from a company so focused on creating natural and accurate search results. Is this a way for Google to demonstrate its acknowledgement of the growing privacy concerns the internet has generated? Perhaps Google is trying to appeal to those who are uncertain about getting actively involved with the numerous social media sites and online communities. The web is developing rapidly and is still fairly new, which is why many people have their suspicions about it. Some people avoid making any type of social profile altogether in order to prevent any risks to their reputation or the possibility of being cyber-bullied. What many fail to realize is that just because they avoid the internet does not mean there won’t be any content online about them. Google’s “Me on the Web” tool provides a safety blanket for those who are uneasy about the idea of having information about them online. Setting up a Google Profile and utilizing the features and information on the “Me on the Web” tool is a great first step that I recommend for anyone getting started with online reputation management.
Even though the tool is part of the Google dashboard and not everyone has a Google Account tied in with their business, its resources can be directly applied to a business or organization. All of the tips for managing online identity and removing unwanted search results can be applied to any search subject on Google. Instead of setting up Google Alerts under the “Me on the Web” platform, you can set up alerts on any search term you desire through the Google Alerts main page.
It is nice to see a company like Google releasing a tool that addresses the common concern, “What happens if there is something online about me or my company that I don’t want people to see?” It will be interesting to see what will come of internet privacy and online reputation issues in the future. Will it become easier or harder to control what shows up in search results? What online reputation management tools will be released in the future, and how will they affect search engines? Will there be an increase or decline in the number of lawsuits concerning the matter? Will new laws be implemented in attempt to “control” what is published online? Only time will tell…