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Tips for Search Results

When a search is done for your name online, it’s possible that unflattering information will come up about you- an embarrassing news story, an untruthful blog post, a picture from that party in high school you’d hope never come back to you.

There are three main approaches in dealing with unwanted online content about you.

1. Removing it at the source

If a website has posted something about you that you don’t want to show up in internet search results, your best bet is to go the source and politely (but persistently) ask them to remove it from their site. If you’re having trouble finding someone to contact from their web page, try doing aWhois search for the site’s registration records. If a negative news story or blog has been posted about you, the author will be unlikely to remove it just because it puts you in a negative light. In these cases, you’re more likely to succeed by asking them to amend the news story with updates or relevant details, or if possible by leaving a polite and informative comment to correct the story.

Keep in mind that search engines like Google are not responsible for removing unwanted pages from their search results, even in cases of defamation. Only in specific cases, such as someone posting your Social Security #, signature, or credit card info online will they consider removing results. And even if Google does remove the page from their results, know that every other search engine will still have it, so your best bet is always to go to the source (the people who posted it online in the first place).

2. Outdoing the negative with the positive

When the websites you’re trying to remove yourself from won’t cooperate with your requests, you can’t force them to do otherwise (unless they’re breaking the law, see below). What you have to do instead is counteract their negative content with positive content about yourself. Search engines will then pick up on this positive content, and it will hopefully drown out the negative results.

There are two main approaches to getting positive content about yourself online. One is to create informative and friendly profiles of yourself on popular social networks, making sure to use your real name. A few of the most popular social networks are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, Google+, Meetup, Quora, and YouTube.

The other way to get positive content about yourself online is to participate in organizations that have an online presence. Here are some examples of things you can do that will project a positive image to people searching for you on the internet:

  • Contribute some supportive comments to a popular petition.
  • Take part in web forums, and use your real name to give helpful answers to people on a subject you’re knowledgeable about.
  • Take part in real world events that are catalogued on the internet. Is a local organization holding an event? Get photographed and featured on their website.

If you want to go the extra mile, you can create a website about yourself. If the website’s address is [yourfullname].com, it’s almost guaranteed to show in the top results for searches of your name.

3. If need be, talk to a lawyer

Most negative content on the internet is not illegal, and can’t be challenged in court. However, if someone is truly defaming you (intentionally spreading lies intended to severely harm your reputation), then you should consult a lawyer.

We hope this part of the Steps to Privacy guide helps you manage your identity online. If you are a SafeShepherd user, feel free to contact us at any time with help in protecting yourself and your identity online.

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Guides to deal with specific websites