For every freelance blogger, social media can be Pandora’s box.
There’s the good:
- The ability to send pitches and letters of introduction at warp speed
- Instant access to bucketloads of research
- The potential to connect with clients, readers, and other writers worldwide
There’s also the bad. Come on. You know what I’m talking about. The video where you’re dancing drunk on a table singing an off-key version of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” The quickie post you passionately wrote, didn’t proofread, but still pressed publish.
Then there’s the ugly. Personal information — social security numbers or credit reports — leaked to the masses. Off-color comments trolls made about your writing or business that haunt the first page of Google.
And worst of all: the shiver-worthy nude photos and sex videos uploaded to the cybersphere by vengeful ex-lovers. (Let’s all hope that never happens to us.)
Worried your negative search results will have your clients pushing the escape key? Don’t fret.
1: Hit the delete key
Do you own the offensive content and control the site it’s on? Wait, you do? What are you waiting for?
Go take it down immediately!
Don’t know how?
Here’s a quick-n-dirty guide to help you delete nose-wrinkling content from a few of the web’s “king” social media sites. [Note: These example screenshots feature content that I wouldn’t ever want to delete!]
- Click on your profile. The profile button is currently located to the left of the “compose a new tweet” button.
- Scroll down your profile page and find the tweet that you want to delete.
- Click on the ellipses (…) button. It’s on the far right side — beside the bar graph icon — at the bottom of your tweet.
- Scroll down and select the “Delete Tweet” command, which you’ll find below “Pin to Your Profile Page”.
- Go to your profile page. The profile button is located to the left of the “Search Facebook” bar.
- Scroll down and find the post you want to delete.
- Click on the downward arrow (∨). at the top, right-hand corner of your post.
- Then scroll down and click “Delete”. It’s below the “Hide from Timeline” option.
- Go to your profile by clicking the profile button, located beside the home button.
- Scroll down and click on “Your Updates”, which is the third option you see.
- Click on the downward arrow (∨). It’s located at the top, right-hand corner of your update. Then select the first option: “Delete”.
- Go to the “Posts” button, located between the “About” and “Collections” buttons.
- Click on the downward arrow (∨). Like on Facebook and LinkedIn, it’s located at the top, right-hand corner of your post.
- Then select “Delete Post”. It’s directly underneath the “Edit Post” option.
2: Ask the owner to take it down
If your social media faux pas is floating around on a site that doesn’t belong to you, you can respectfully ask the owner to remove it.
That’s impossible if you don’t know who owns the site, but you can find out by punching its URL into Whois Domain Tools – here’s an example of the results page.
Of course, there’s always the chance that if you’re dealing with someone particularly spiteful — say a jealous ex-boyfriend, dissatisfied customer, or an internet troll — they’ll retaliate by increasing their internet activity and dragging your name through the mud. But most decent, sane people will just be nice and take it down.
3: Contact the hosting company
If you hear crickets, it’s time to pull out the big guns and contact the site’s hosting company. To locate a website’s host, look for the words “powered by” at the bottom of the home page or use Who’s Hosting This. Then contact them via live chat, email, or social media.
Most web hosts don’t allow libel, copyright infringement, or unauthorized personal material: the use of your name, contact information, or any other “personal material” by the author without your written permission.
Some hosts will even disable the content immediately. Others will need gentle prodding. So you may need to send a couple of follow-up emails and a hard copy to their physical address.
4: Ask Google to hide it
In May 2014, Europe’s top court approved the highly controversial right to be forgotten law. It forces Google —which owns approximately 90% of the UK’s search market — to remove out of date, excessive, inadequate, or irrelevant data that are not in the public’s best interest. Even though there’s no guarantee Google will act on your removal request, there’s no harm in filing a free privacy request if you live in Europe.
If you live in the United States, Google’s removal rules are stricter. They’ll delete posts on inappropriate, malicious, pornographic, and spammy sites. They’ll also remove your basic contact information, inappropriate or unflattering selfies, and handwritten signature from the cybersphere.
5: Cover it up with something better
Sometimes — no matter how hard you try — you can’t get offensive content removed.
Luckily, according to Hubspot, 75% of people (for example, your clients) never scroll past the first page of search results. The remaining quarter usually don’t click past the third page.
That means if the offending item isn’t on the first three pages of any search engine, just fuhgeddaboudit. It’s basically in Google’s wasteland.
Even better, the number of clicks per link, according to an AOL study, decreases dramatically based on its position. A link in the first position receives a 53% click rate while a link in the fifth position only gets clicked 4% of the time.
In other words, if there’s negative stuff showing up on search engine results pages about you, then you need to push those links further down by cranking out killer content (preferably in exchange for cash!), posting thoughtful comments on high-ranking blogs, and launching profiles on popular social media platforms.
Not sure where to begin? Download my free handout “50 High-Ranking SEO Sites: Bury Your Negative Search Results in Google’s Wasteland” and start building your kick ass online presence.
6: Pay for professional help
Companies like Reputation (1K/mo), Metal Rabbit (10K/mo), or BrandYourself ($399/mo) can clean up your online reputation. Their services are tax deductible, but they’re still expensive, costing $120K-5K per year. However, BrandYourself does offer a free, DIY three link booster program.
Regardless of which reputation company you choose, buyer beware. If an agency says they can erase your scandalous rep overnight, run for the hills. They’re likely using black-hat SEO techniques: paid links, spam comments, duplicate content, invisible text, keyword stuffing, and cloaking–creating different content for readers and Googlebot. While effective, these dark-side techniques might get your blog banned from search engines. Cringe.
7: Mind your digital footprint
Repeat after me: ‘The Internet is forever. Nothing you post online is truly ever private.’
Today’s mental meltdown or soapbox fest can become tomorrow’s monster.
That’s because anything you post — whether it’s in an email, text message, or private message — could potentially fall into the hands of hackers or be archived by groups like Politwoops.
Even after you click delete, most social media sites will hold on to your data. And, unfortunately, there are no loopholes. When you agree to Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, and other platform’s terms, you allow “search engines and other third parties…[to] retain copies of your public information” and store data “ for a commercially reasonable time for backup, archival, and/or audit purposes.” However, you can download Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban’s free Cyberdust app. It destroys messages, even from company servers, 100 seconds after the recipient reads it.
The moral of the story: think before you post. If you do that, you’ll won’t have to spend time digging graves for your social media skeletons. And you’ll have more time to spend doing what you love — blogging.
Has your reputation ever flatlined? Were you able to jolt it back to life? Share your social media snafus and tips with me in the comments, or tweet me, @Poemgirl88, with the hashtag #PandorasBox.