“And I’ve seen it all, I’ve seen it all…Through the yellow windows of the evening train…” Tom Waits, 9th & Hennepin

In the Tom Waits song “9th & Hennepin”, the narrator looks out the window from his train seat and creates his own story from the images that he is seeing. His story is unique to him because though others might see the exact same scene, they will process the information differently and come up with their own unique portrait. However, Waits defines his landscape very starkly “…And the steam comes out of the grill like the whole goddamn town’s ready to blow…” that should slant each viewer’s perspective of the scene towards painting a picture of despair instead one of hope.

Google’s mission “is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” and they fulfill it by returning the most relevant search results to any query asked. A consequence of Google’s mission is that that they inadvertently (or deliberately depending on your point of view) editorialize the subject of each query by algorithmically (most of the time) controlling the choice, order & presentation of the returned results.

Google does not return a fully realized illustration of each query, leaving the searcher to instinctively complete the picture that Google starts and from that, draw their own conclusions from the information presented. Different people will finish their portraits in their own way… people do not process information the same plus there always is distinct differences as to how deep in the SERPS each person will look and in how many / which documents are clicked on and examined in detail. Yet, Google’s bias on some subjects can come across quite clearly…no matter how many people examine the top Google results for “Multi-level Marketing”, it would be pretty hard for anyone to perceive that there’s much good about the topic.

Generally when people refer to the critical importance of “Online Reputation Management”, they’re talking about burying individual pieces of bad information since negative SERPS affect the portrait that’s being painted. However, each returned result is only a small part of the totality of the picture and many SERPS can’t simply be labeled “bad” or “not bad”. Like any painting, SERPS (individually and collectively) can offer searchers a plethora of colors and textures that will appeal to some and turn others away. If your online reputation is important to your life, you should develop it by painting your picture well before others seek it out and develop within your SERPS a level of depth and breadth worthy of your own self image.

As you look critically at your Google Portrait, remember that it isn’t just about avoiding the blues…a little jazz or funk might just be the rhythm to getting others to catch your vibe.

One thought on “Your Google Portrait

  1. Nice post Todd. I have clients all the time ask me how they can get a single item that is negative removed from the Internet. I tell them you’re not likely to get it removed. Instead you should focus on developing a positive reputation on the web. So that the one negative is lost among the many positives. I like the analogy of a painting. You can overcome a bad brush stroke if art lovers like the rest of the work.

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