To manage your search engine reputation, Google suggests saying less is more, except when saying more is more.
Google on Thursday offered a reminder to Internet users that they shouldn't try to contact the company to complain about embarrassing search results.
"Google doesn't own the Internet; our search results simply reflect what's already out there on the Web," said Google Webmaster trends analyst Susan Moskwa in a blog post.
The latest figures show that Google only owns 6% of Internet traffic, but that's beside the point, which is that you should complain to the owners of Web sites hosting unwanted content rather than to Google.
Nonetheless, Moskwa is sympathetic to those saddled with unflattering search results, having had personal experience being linked to an embarrassing picture from college. The first step in managing one's online reputation, she insists, is to "think twice before putting your personal information online."
That's not something often heard from Google, which has consistently pushed to get more information online -- to make search more valuable -- and more information about users -- to better target advertising and to better compete with social sites like Facebook.
And apparently it's not an argument Moskwa cares to sustain: No sooner has she suggested withholding information from the Web than she changes tack.
If you can't get unflattering information removed from a Web site, "you can try to reduce its visibility in the search results by proactively publishing useful, positive information about yourself or your business," she suggests.
The primary Google-specific way to do this is create a Google Profile, she advises. Or if someone writes a negative review of your business, stack the deck by encouraging happy customers to write reviews.
So there you have it: Don't publish personal information online. But if you do, use a Google Profile and gather a posse to sing your praises.
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