Tuesday, April 24, 2012
"U" is for Un-Google Yourself
Recently an old friend and I had a discussion about internet privacy. My friend wanted to pull back, be more private, and pretty much be anonymous. On the other hand, I want more publicity and name recognition, because I am an author. So for all you paranoid private people (too bad today's letter isn't "P") here are some general tips I've found. 1. Don't do stupid stuff. Do not let yourself be caught in any situation that would look really bad if someone took a picture. Do not leave ranting comments on any online site under your real name. 2. If you want an online presence, but want to be anonymous, pick a good pseudonym. (Authors have been doing this for years in print. It's a pretty trick.) Use something that, if Googled, will be hidden in an avalanche of innocuous results, like "SillyCats." 3. Google yourself. (I recommend doing this on any other search engine you can find, but "Yahoo yourself" and "Bing yourself" just don't have the same verb appeal.) See what's out there. Use all variations of your name, including middle name and/or initial. Use quotation marks to narrow down the search. If something shows up that you don't want floating around in the cloud, request that it be taken down, or that you are referred to by a nickname. 4. Bury it. If there is something out there you can't get rid of, hide it. Most people using a search engine are not going to go past the first several pages. So pick some innocuous subject (recipes, gardening, model trains) and create a very professional-looking blog, using your real name. Do a short blog post at least once a day. Use lots of keyword labels. That's what will pull your posts to the top of the search engines. Enough of that kind of thing will push what you don't want seen further and further back in the search results. For more tips, try Googling "how to un-google yourself."