“I have a little daughter I’m raising and trying to get into a school. I am working with a job agency but when you search my name the first thing that comes up is a web site saying that I have an STD.”
– Inquiry requesting reputation management help.
Most of us are familiar with The Scarlet Letter – a story based in Boston in the mid 1600s. A woman commits adultery and is forced to stand on a scaffold for 3 hours in the town square. They stick a red A on her dress to shame her.
The digital scarlet letter is a different beast, and I mean beast. Let’s draw some interesting comparisons. What is old Boston? The internet. The town square? search engines. The scaffold? web sites. The scarlet letter? Mistakes, lies, and allegations. 3 hours? Not even close. The shaming can be indefinite.
Times have changed, really changed. In 1650 the town of Boston had a population of 2,000 people. Mrs. Prynne could have moved a few towns over. Not so with us. Our town squares are mind boggling monstrosities. Let’s take one for example. Google receives over 1 billion searches a month. Another – Facebook, over 1 billion active users.
I am painstakingly familiar with the 21st century scarlet letter. Having run thousands of Reputation Management campaigns since 2006, those bearing the red letter have become my people. I know them and their stories. The businessman who made a mistake when he was 18. Now a leader in his community, philanthropist, longtime husband and father. His scarlet letter haunts him daily. He is terrified his son will see it – coverage of a mistake he made 30 years ago. That’s right, 30.
And if I had a dollar for the number of people who were accused and their case dismissed or found not guilty. 5 or 10 years later the allegation is at the top of their search results. Thinking of just the number of those people who have contacted us, a small company in Baton Rouge, the global number of these cases must be in the millions. If you’re one of them you probably know how difficult it can be to find a job when HR managers habitually google you.
What about you? If you don’t have a problem online, great! But let’s keep it that way – it’s not as easy as you think. Here are some quick, less obvious insider tips to help you avoid a major shite storm in your life.
Don’t act like a donkey on reality TV to drive ratings. Most people think that junk is real.
Just because it’s legal in other states doesn’t make it legal in your state. I kind of understand your point, but they don’t, not even a little bit.
Make sure you have a prescription for that medication and treat it like your phone – don’t leave home without it.
Don’t pee in public. I don’t care how bad you have to go. It’s dark and you just might be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Don’t be alone with the wrong person without any witnesses. It’s a lot easier to make stuff up.
Don’t email or text anything that would cause you to crawl into a hole if it were read aloud in front of a million people. This one could save your caboose.
Do your best to avoid any government agency that identifies itself with 3 letters. Remember hall monitors? They got old and have a lot more power.
Smile for your mugshot. You may as well go big. It’s going to be all over the place – even web sites in Russia.
My #1 tip
Don’t think it can’t happen to you.
This affects every one of us. Even if today all is peaches and chardonnay, tomorrow you could blow a .09 in a breathalyzer, get bashed online by an old acquaintance, glance at your phone while driving and cause a major accident. If that happens and you apologize, promise not to make the same mistake again, and fulfill whatever legal obligations necessary – do you then have the right to move on, or should the public shaming continue indefinitely? Spoiler alert – it never stops.
So how do we fix this? Legislation? We can just state the obvious. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Let’s keep this short and sweet. If you have a Twitter account, login and tweet “More QDF for the people” to one or all of these fine users: @google @googleideas @googlesearch @googlewmc @googleresearch
Why am I tweeting More QDF for the people?
Hang in there with me. I’m about to get all techy. So part of my world involves search engine algorithms. These are sets of rules used to determine the way web sites are ranked in search engines. QDF is short for an algorithm introduced by Google, and it stands for Query Deserves Freshness. It’s like their way of saying – when people search for things, they deserve to see fresh and relevant content. Here’s the problem. They don’t put enough emphasis on it.
If the big G would put more weight on QDF when people’s names are queried, then it would mean this:
If you make a mistake, you could move on by building fresh and relative content about your current career and interests. If someone straight up lies about you online, the lies would age and you could set the record straight with new and truthful content. If you change your career, write a book, anything you want people to see when they search for information about you, then you would have much, much more power to do so.
It’s your name. So on behalf of Leroy Jenkins and all humans in the 21st century – thumbs up, let’s do this. Tweet – More QDF for the people!