You may not have even known about the scandal of “mug shot websites”; hopefully you never had to deal with the reputation management problem that they caused. Luckily for many people, Google solved the problem for them recently. Personal reputation management was becoming a big business for many different “mug shot websites” that were using public records to rank high for the names of anyone arrested for a crime on Google and other search engines.
These unscrupulous websites have been essentially blackmailing the people to have their names removed from the database to avoid online reputation issues. One of the significant problems is that there is not just one such website, so removing your name from one could have just meant it was the first in a long list people in line for your money.
You Were Arrested for What?
Arrest records are public record for anyone who has been arrested; we know in the United States that you are innocent until proven guilty. Even if your arrest charges were dropped, they still remain public record and many different websites were taking advantage of this and creating a reputation management issue for many people. Imagine the ensuing nightmare if a mug shot website ranked at the top of the page, or even in the paid listings, when a potential boss or future father in law searches your name on the internet.
The mug shot websites were charging people anywhere from $30 – $400 for what they describe as “cleaning up your public record”. However the questionability comes in when they are designed to rank high for the names listed on their site, and some were even paying for advertising with the arrest record names as keywords. Up until this month, they were making a hefty profit from because of their high ranking and not just because people were interested in cleaning up their name on the internet.
Google to the Rescue!
As part of the many algorithm changes Google has made in the past 2 or 3 years, the latest change was an algorithm that directly affected the page rank of types of mug shot websites that were pretty much just gaming Google’s ranking system and making a profit off of it in a pretty unscrupulous manner. These websites are no longer given priority ranking within Google’s search results.
In addition, Master Card has even cut these types of websites off from using their online payment systems.
Do No Evil?
Most people will agree that the mug shot websites are pretty underhanded and should not be doing what they were doing, even though it is perfectly “legal”. However this specific targeting from Google does still raise questions over what type of control Google has over what searchers see and what they do not see.
At the very least, Google’s page ranking adjustment will make it easier for you to outrank those sites for your name and take control of your own reputation management online.
A SearchEngineLand.com article further touches on these points and delves into the policies for both Google and Bing and how they are able to remove content from their sites that may go against terms of services or fall under duplicate content guidelines for removal. They also reported an update to the article that the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center now says it’s gotten hundreds of reports of this problem, and is seeking complaints from people who have been affected.
Manage Your Own Online Reputation
We all make mistakes, it is human nature. A mistake from your past does not have to haunt you on Google and elsewhere online though. What can you do to fix your own problem without paying extortionist websites? Take control of your own reputation management and drown out those negative results by posting your own information about yourself. Here’s how to push the bad results down and boost your own positive results:
- Fill Out Social Media Profiles: Make sure all of your social media public profiles look professional and show the person you want others to see. Fill in all available fields for each profile and set up something with as many social media channels as you can. Each one will create a Google listing that will push the mug shot website down further.
- Utilize Personal Websites: There are several different websites like About.Me and ItsMyURLs that are free. You should set up with all of them.
- Update Your Google Profile: Your Google profile is now attached to Google Plus and that should be filled out completely with as much information as you can think of and do not leave anything blank.
- Use LinkedIn: LinkedIn is there for professional networking and creating a professional profile in a social way. You can brand yourself and make yourself look great with a professional looking resume. Join professional groups on LinkedIn and post relevant articles about your industry or profession.