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How to influence Google Autocomplete to protect your online reputation

 | Updated
by Staff Writer

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A popular search feature, Google Autocomplete attempts to intuitively complete your search phrase as you type. Google Autocomplete was designed to help people search more efficiently. It can save some typing, help you with spelling, and suggest better search phrases.

Autocomplete uses complicated algorithms to make its suggestions, so it’s difficult to determine exactly just what Google is using to select a specific set of recommendations for any given search. However, Google has stated that Autocomplete combines perceived relevance with search popularity to determine the best words to complete your search phrase.

Though Autocomplete often facilitates faster searches, it does beg the question: Is anything else going on “under the hood” that you should be concerned about? Are there privacy or reputation implications to Google Autocomplete that might affect you online?

Google Autocomplete: helpful or intrusive?

When one looks more deeply into Google Autocomplete, it seems like there is a bit more going on than just returning relevant search phrases. In most cases, Google Autocomplete simply offers search suggestions. In a small percentage of randomly selected searches, however, it appears that some data is actually returned to Google, including user IP addresses.

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Though Google strives to make the data anonymous as quickly as possible, it is logged, at least temporarily. You might notice that when you are logged into your Google account, your Google Autocomplete results are sightly different. This is because the algorithm considers past searches.

Though these practices are covered in Google’s general privacy policy, there are some actions you can take to increase your privacy during Autocomplete searches.

Influence Google Autocomplete so it works for you

It’s important to remember that Google does store some search engine log data no matter what, in compliance with their general terms of service. If you want to minimize the amount of data sent to Google while you search, however, there are a few easy steps you can take:

  • If you have a Google account, you can disable the Web History feature.
  • When using Google Toolbar, you can disable the “Provide suggestions for incorrect or unavailable URLs” and “Suggest searches as you type” features. This will prevent certain data from being sent to Google.

Note that if you share a computer, disabling Google’s Web History customizations will affect other people using the same computer, at least if they’re logged into the same account as you are.

What does Google Autocomplete say about you?

When using Google Autocomplete, you’ve probably noticed that it sometimes returns inappropriate, inaccurate or even humorous suggestions. But it’s not so funny if you find out that it uses the word “scam” to complete a search phrase for your name or the name of your business. In some cases, you might even find that these negative suggestions appear closer to the top than more positive phrase completions.

Because most people do leave the Google Autocomplete feature enabled, this kind of negative publicity can harm your online reputation. When people search for your name, negative information is the last thing you want them to find. Negative Google Autocomplete phrases could cost you customers and clients. In fact, it could even cost you a new job or placement in the school of your choice.

If you find that Google Autocomplete is completing search phrases involving your name with negative words, it’s important to address the situation.

Can you influence Google Autocomplete?

In most cases, you can’t simply contact Google to have them remove information from their search results; these types of requests are almost all rejected automatically.

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In order to completely prevent data from showing up in search results, it’s necessary to remove that information from the Web entirely. Then, over time, search engines will stop returning that information in their search results.

Unfortunately, it’s often very difficult if not impossible to get information removed from the Internet if you don’t control the source. So what can you do? The simple answer is that you can bury unflattering Autocomplete suggestions with more positive results.

To do this, you’ll need to employ online reputation management techniques. These will drive searchers towards other content that is more relevant to you or your business. Over time, these users will influence the types of suggestions that appear next to your name.

Admittedly, this is an indirect process, and it can be hard to know what’s working without some trial and error. ReputationDefender offers solutions specifically targeted at Google Autocomplete. We can also help you improve your regular search results at the same time. If you’d like to learn more about your options, contact us for a free consultation.