If You've Got A Bad Google

By Megan Last edited 161 months ago
If You've Got A Bad Google

Years ago, when I was a teenager and new to the Internet, I posted on a fan bulletin board my undying love for James Marsters, Spike from Buffy. Foolishly, I included my full name and hometown, so there's no mistaking who wrote the post. And now, years later, the message is still there! How can I get rid of it? I’m so embarrassed about potential dates Googling me. –CP

I recently discovered through an internet search that there is another person with exactly my (very unusual) first and last name. Amazingly, he also lives in the UK and appears to be about my age. My problem is that he maintains a crazy-obsessive blog of topless celebrity photos. I’ve worked very hard for my professional reputation, and I feel this might affect it negatively. What can I do? –ME

Unfortunately, there isn’t a reliable way to delete or change content on the Internet. Google apparently gets this question a lot, but they only remove pages from their search results if it's a question of legality, like if you discovered naked pictures of yourself that you didn't consent to being posted. Otherwise your only option is to contact the webmaster of the offending page and ask that it be removed or modified –though don’t count on them agreeing to it.

As there’s no sure fix, you have to assume the embarrassing item is not going away. The key now is damage control. The experts advise that you should establish a new web identity by getting more flattering information about yourself out there. A blog or a homepage for your business will sufficiently distance you from an embarrassing past or an Internet twin. The goal is to use the new page to push the ugly pages further down in the order of Google’s search results. Here's a Wikipedia article explaining the mathematics of Google’s indexing system, PageRank, and here’s another paper explaining how to manipulate it. It’s all quite technical, we warn you.

But if you’re not interested in all that effort, then we’d recommend you just shrug off a bad Internet image. Sorry we can't offer a more gratifying solution. Keep in mind nowadays we’re all living with the “permanent record” we so dreaded in childhood. People are used to it. As our mother always said, “If they judge you by your Google results alone, you don’t want them as friends anyway!”

To get your own question answered, email asklondonist(at)gmail(dot)com

Last Updated 21 November 2005