I've been cc'd into an argument on a forum (not our Opentalk
) and I'm taking great care not to join in or read deeply into what looks like a feud between a couple of folks who, frankly, should agree to disagree. However, I did pick up: "Speaking for myself, I •ve never bothered Googling anyone -- my time is worth more to me than to indulge in such pointless activities."
and felt it worthy of comment.
Googling people is, at times, a far from pointless activity. Just yesterday, I was answering a training query and I wasn't sure of the physical location of my correspondent; a quick Google search indicated a probable London location and that meant that my answer was tailored towards UK courses in the knowledge that my potential delegate could attend a course in Melksham. Had I turned up New Zealand, then my answer would have had a very different slant.
But there's two sides to a coin ... and information that's placed our there, labelled up with your name and public readable, can come back to "haunt" you. I could come up with examples, especially where people have placed what's supposed to be a personal message, a joke, or a thoughtless rant when they're upset. There's other examples around where person "x" has talked about person "y".
My Web content will be read by whom?
Whenever I post with my name (Graham Ellis of Melksham, Wiltshire, England) I do so with three eyes.
One eye is for my target audience - just WHO am I writing this entry for today?
The second eye is for Joe Public, coming here accidentally - perhaps as a new potential customer of our Well House Consultants training courses
or wanting to stay at our hotel in Melksham
, but more likely sent here by a search engine that feel that we're a good site for "Clock Image", where we're #2 on Google at the moment.
The third eye is for people researching us - they may be benign in the form of someone checking up on me / us before booking a course. They may be competitors (Hello, wwwalt, xxxirect and yyyyyingtree - you watching us?). And they just could be all sorts of people I would rather NOT have seeing any soft underbelly I might have - from people looking to rubbish my Save the Train
campaign because they've a vested interest in killing the service before it gets too strong and takes passengers off their buses, through to snooping government agencies who at times seem to draw the net far too wide and wrongly assume the worst of people.
My main posting is - has to be - for my first and second eyes. For my target audience of regular readers and people who come, previously unknown to me, to our web site to look for and find tips and techniques on MySQL
or some similar topic.
Fixing my web content
What if - like the person I originally quotes - I want to squash some web content that I regret putting up, or that someone else has written. Alas, just as building up a web profile is rather like starting an oil tanker (takes a long time to see much effect), so breaking one down can be like stopping an oil tanker. Search engines cache pages and some (such as the Way Back machine
) make a point of keeping copies over the years.
a) Visit posts on forums that you wish you had not made, and where you can, edit them. Where you can't, a friendly message to the administrator - if still active - will help.
b) Alter pages that you control yourself to remove the problem content (and perhaps supply a graveyard page
. That's far better than deleting the page, as anyone who searches for the page should be given the new copy (what you want) and not the cached copy (what you don't want). With a deleted page, all the search engine CAN offer is the cache.
c) Where you don't control a page, you may control or influence some links to it. Change these!
d) If you've access to the robots.txt
file, tell the search engines to exclude pages that you no longer want indexed.
e) In an extreme case, you may wish to ask search engines to delist you; you should find details of how to request this on their web sites.
f) If you don't like content on a page that's NOT under your control, you should go through and ask the information provider, then the webmaster, then perhaps the hosting ISP to remove the content - but if your case is not compellling you may well be out of luck. Friendly is usually best, but if there are copyright or other legal issues involved pointing them out gently will usually help. (written 2006-06-13)
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