Recently I discovered that my name, address and phone number were coming up in Google searches of my name, without my knowledge. It took me a couple of hours of searching, reading, testing and more testing to have that personal information removed. If you've had the same thing happen to you, listen up because I'm about to share my valuable, Yoda-like knowledge with you.
First a little background, I've been working on my own professional website for the last couple of months. It's a site with links to my writing, an about page, a page with my video work and a page with a copy of my resume, including a link to a resume PDF so prospective employers can download it. Because the site is still a work in progress, I put a password on it.
I also Google myself and my blog URL on a fairly regular basis. It's how I find out if someone's stealing my posts, and how I find out if someone's saying good things about me or, God forbid, bad things about me.
So there I am, Googling myself, and among the results is the PDF file I uploaded of my resume, with an excerpt of the top of the page, including my name, address and phone number.
As an example, let's say my name is Jane Doe and my professional site is JaneDoe.com. The Google search for Jane Doe came up like this:
Notice how Jane's address, phone number and email address are included in the excerpt of the search result. Not what she or I wanted.
The first thing I did was delete the PDF resume file from my site and upload a PDF resume that did not have an address and phone number. I then did another search only to find that the address and phone number still came up because they were in the Google cache.
After searching the topic "how to remove a web page from Google search results" I was relieved to findI could remedy the situation. Here's an excerpt from Google's instructions:
When a page is updated or removed, it will automatically fall out of our search results. You don’t need to do anything to make this happen.
However, if you urgently need to remove content from Google's search results (for example, if you’ve already removed, updated, or blocked a page accidentally displaying confidential information like credit card numbers), you can request expedited removal of those URLs.
You do this by using Google's URL Removal Tool. But beware, Google has specific instructions on when NOT to use the URL Removal Tooland it's never a good idea to upset the Google overlords.
So let's say, like me, you've determined you must use the tool. Before you can do that, you have to verify ownership of your site.
If you have a Blogger blog or a WordPress.org blog, verification is easy.
If you have a Blogger site, good news, Google already knows about it because it's a Google blog. So if you sign in to your Google account and go to Google's Webmaster Tools home page, you'll see your Blogger site already listed.
Typepad or Other Blogs
Verifying blogs from other services is a bit more complicated. First go to your Webmaster Tools home page. Click on the button that says "Add a site" and then enter the URL of your site in the box and click "Continue." You'll then be on a page where you can choose the way you'd like to verify your site.
Under the "Recommended method" tab are instructions to upload an html file to your site. The second tab, "Alternate methods," lets you choose to either:
- Add a meta tag to your site
- Use your Google Analytics account
- Sign-in to your domain name provider
Google's Webmaster Tools support has instructions for all four methods.
For example, my site Megan's Minute is a Typepad blog. When I decided to verify Megan's Minute a couple of years ago, even though I followed Google's and TypePad's instructions for uploading an html file, that method didn't work for me. Instead, I added a meta tag.
Since I use Advanced Templates for Megan's Minute, I have access to the html code for all the pages on my site, and after a couple of tries, I was able to add the Webmaster Tool generated meta tag to the <head> section of the home page for Megan's Minute.
But beware! Before making any changes to your blogs templates, make copies so that you can change them back if you mess up. I learned that the hard way.
Now back to getting Jane's name, address and phone number off her Google results. Let's say we've verified JaneDoe.com and it now shows up in the website list on Jane's Webmaster Tools home page.
The next steps are simple. First click on the link of the verified site, in this case JaneDoe.com. Then click the "Optimization" link on the left. When that link expands, click "Remove URLs."
On the next page, click on the button that says, "create a new removal request." Now type in the URL of the page you want removed, but remember, the URL can't be the one you see during a Google search. You must use the URL of the original page.
The page you want removed will then be in the queue for the Google overlords to examine and once they see the personal information, they will delete the page from the Google cache.
It took less than 24 hours for my cached, PDF resume file to be deleted and my name, address and phone number were no longer visible to the whole internet.
Finally, I discovered a way to tell Google not to excerpt certain pages on my site in Google search results. That allowed me to use my original PDF resume file that includes my name, address and phone number.
Do you Google yourself? If you don't, you should.
Megan Smith is the BlogHer Contributing Editor covering Television/Online Video. Her personal entertainment blog is Megan's Minute.
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