A friend advertised on Craigslist for a housekeeper. Three interesting resumes came to the top. She googled each person’s name.
The first search turned up a MySpace page. There was a picture of the applicant, drinking beer from a funnel. Under hobbies, the first entry was, "binge drinking."
The second search turned up a personal blog (a good one, actually). The most recent entry said something like, "I am applying for some menial jobs that are below me, and I’m annoyed by it. I’ll certainly quit the minute I sell a few paintings."
And the third? There were only six matches, and the sixth was from the local police department, indicating that the applicant had been arrested for shoplifting two years earlier.
Three for three.
Google never forgets.
Of course, you don’t have to be a drunk, a thief or a bitter failure for this to backfire. Everything you do now ends up in your permanent record. The best plan is to overload Google with a long tail of good stuff and to always act as if you’re on Candid Camera, because you are.
This cautionary tale is just as relevant to authors as it is to job-seekers. Whenever someone reads or hears about your work and would like to learn more, Google is likely to be the first stop on the fact-finding mission. All authors want to present a polished, professional web presence to the world, but it’s even more critical for indie authors to do so because indies are still working to gain mainstream acceptance and a wider readership.
So take a long, hard look at your Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, blog and personal website pages, and ask yourself if the content there will leave viewers with a positive impression of you as an author. If not, edit and clean up accordingly, but don’t expect those skeletons in your web closet to vanish the moment you hit the Delete key; Google and other search engines can keep archive copies of web pages for years.
As Mr. Godin suggests, the best you can do following an online image scrubbing is to load any search engine results with pages and references that do you proud. Post fresh content on your site(s) and blog(s), and post comments to popular online discussion boards, sites and blogs—under the same name as that under which you publish, since that’s the name interested parties are most likely to type into a search engine when seeking more information about you. In a day or two, the new content and comments will turn up in web searches of your name, pushing the old, archived stuff you no longer want so prominently displayed further down the list of search results. Continue with your front-loading mission, daily if necessary, until the undesirable, archived content is buried at least a couple of pages down in web search results for your name.