Google Launches Online Reputation Management Tool That Isn’t Anything of the Sort

Google has launched a new tool in the hopes that you’ll either sign up for (or finish filling out) your Google Profile so they can catch up on the social networking game they’ve been so unable to capitalize on. They’re calling it “Me on the Web”.

Me on the Web is Google Alerts paired with a few of Google’s how-to articles on managing your online presence. There’s no actual new technology or service or software; it’s just another (perhaps simpler) way to sign up for Google alerts for any personal information you want – or anyone else’s personal information that you know.

Me on the Web says it can help you manage any personal information on the web (your name, phone number, address, etc.) but I can just as easily put in my neighbor’s address or my boss’ phone number – just like I can do with any string of characters with Google Alerts.

I hope I’m being clear here. For those of us who have any interest in maintaining our online reputation – like writers with especially weird last names – we’ve had a Google Alert on our personal information for years and Me on the Web doesn’t provide us with anything new. Now, this service may evolve into something more; but for now, if you’re already got a Google Alert for your name or address or phone number you don’t need to do anything.

So why would Google roll out this new “service”?  The same reason they rolled out +1, acquired PostRank, and invested in Backplane – to try to get into the social networking game. More specifically, they want you to sign up for a Google Profile (a prerequisite for using Me on the Web) and/or update all your information on your Google Profile. And why do they want you to fill out more of your information on your profile? Not just so they can improve their social network, but also (probably) so they can tell Facebook – who has accused Google of scraping Facebook’s data – to back off.

So if you’re really interested in managing your online reputation – for your name, your company’s name, or for anything else – forget about Me on the Web and instead do this:

  • Set up a Google Alert for any relevant terms – your name, your company name, etc. These alerts can be e-mailed to you every day or turned into an RSS feed or accessed in many other ways. You can also customize exactly what sources you’re interested in (blogs vs. news vs. something else), but you’re likely interested in anything.
  • Whenever you receive those alerts, visit the relevant link and check out what’s going on. If the information there is inconsequential, there’s nothing to worry about it. But if there’s private information you don’t want public, take the necessary steps to get it removed.
  • And there are two ways to get it removed. You can either contact the website and demand they take the information down, or you can contact Google and have them remove the page or site from their search results. (There is no guarantee that either of these things will be successful)

All in all, it’s up to you to maintain your own online reputation. While you can do a lot by not putting any private information online in the first place, there are plenty of ways to maintain your reputation even if some information does get out.

Scott Spjut is a writer and editor who has written for several publications, including Newsweek, CBS News, and the Washington Post. He currently writes for PMI.