How to save yourself from bad internet searches - case study

Alone in a crowd

Let me tell you a story about a woman who sued her employer.  She felt was being discriminated against and the normal avenues of complaint weren't working.  As bad as her situation was, she had no idea how bad it could get.  The details of the case aren't important, but what is important is what happened after she lost the case.  

She lost her job.  She lost her income.  She lost her references.  She lost some credibility among her peers.  Her name was used in legal documents that were now public record.  The articles written on the subject contained her name.  Her most important asset, her name, was permanently and an easy reference via the internet as associated with a lawsuit against an employer.  

It was a big deal right?  Right.  As a result, she wasn't able to get a job.  Rarely was she able to get an interview and even then they would soon google her name afterwards and then she would get a "not interested".. "more qualified candidates" etc response.  She wasn't interested in social media, she didn't care about the internet, and she didn't understand how this was happening to her.  

This went on for years.  

When I talked to Jill the first time she had very little social media presence and knew nothing about how to fix the situation.  She wanted to forget the entire situation had happened, but the world wouldn't let her.  Jill wanted to delete all the records of the suit and move on with her life, but she couldn't.

When she came to me I was intrigued.  Mostly I get approached by companies that want to boost their search engine ranking.  Occasionally they will want to bury some terrible reviews of their products.  This was the first time I had an individual with a major life crisis that needed help.

I gave her a discounted rate on my time and we worked out a payment plan so she could get her life back on track.  I knew she wouldn't be able to pay me if we failed, but I was more interested in seeing how we would be able to fix this.  She already had a lawyer helping to get some of the documents de-listed from sites, but he wasn't making any progress.  If it is public record, there is virtually nothing you can threaten a company with to remove it.

Here is the plan that we came up with and ultimately was successful.   Hopefully you all can learn a bit about this and we can help people like Jill get their lives back.

  • The lawyer continued to solicit the sites that had links to her cases.  To my knowledge it had little effect.
  • Since we couldn't get things removed from the internet, the next best option is to hide them.
  • So we used a technique that is heavily utilized by almost every company that has a product with bad reviews.... We buried it.
  • We flooded the internet with so much information about Jill that was completely non-controversial and pointless that instead of her case being number 1 through 10 on google it dropped to page 10...
  • We made social media accounts on 10+ different sites... 
    • Youtube
    • facebook
    • linkedin
    • myspace
    • google+
  • She utilized a social media managment tool that allows posting to multiple sites sumultaniously to help manage all of them.
  • Then she started posting videos and comments.
    • Dog videos mostly
    • Lots of tagging to improve the SEO of those posts.
    • Utilized her full name the same as in the court documents...

We went out of our way to make sure that it was so easy to find those posts it was amazing... I don’t' think any of them got more that 10-20 likes... but that doesn't matter and that isn't what we were going for.

It only took a couple months for those documents to fall off of the front page. And as a result she got a job within a few months as well!

The story had a happy ending for Jill.  Of course eventually her new employer found out about her previous suit, but by then it didn't matter.  She was employed and they were happy with her.  She had built a whole persona online that was more representative of her rather than letting legal documents define her.  She has also learned to enjoy it based on the posts I see from her now... ;)

You can't stop the internet and public records from being out there about you. You can own and manage your presence online though.  If you don't, it will be defined for you.  Make sure you keep your profile online managed and positive.  Everyone is watching now.  The government, credit companies, banks, insurance companies, potential employers, criminal organizations.  The analysis and algorithms are getting more sophisticated every year.