A few weeks ago, in the comments section of PR Spam to Bloggers Continues, I wrote the following in the comments:

To those who complained about the title of my post: get over it. It does *exactly* what a title should do. It conveys in very few words what I'm trying to get across in the article.

Many people seem concerned that "Krause Taylor Associates Spams Bloggers" will have negative affects on the company because it'll show up in Google. While it's not my "problem" I've changed the title to something a bit more vague. (A discussion of why I should or should not censor myself because of where Google may surface it is a discussion for later...)
Several folks complained and suggested that I should change the title of that post, despite the fact that it was a very accurate title for the post I wrote. As I was changing the title, it occurred to me that something very odd was happening. Google was censoring me.

What. The. Hell.

The more I think about this, the more it bugs me. Search engines are basically opt-out at this point, and in most cases the benefits of being in outweigh the benefits of being out. But I suspect that most of us don't consider the fact that you may find yourself censoring yourself because something is "just a little *too* easy to find."

Would this even be an issue in a world where PageRank inspired search engines didn't exist?

If not, why do we accept it now? Is that just one of the costs of being on the web today?

Given Google's algorithmic fascination with blog-style content, it would seem that blogs are disproportionately affected by this. I'm really not sure what to make of this all. I can't decide what to think.

What do you think?

Posted by jzawodn at December 11, 2005 09:22 PM

Reader Comments
# grumpY! said:

if you post data anywhere on the web you should assume everyone in the world will have access to the data for all time. search engines are not the only agents that save and index data (without asking). humans are doing it to. i assume my IMs are being monitered (since every provider has this capability). i assume all my emails can be read by admins at providers (since every provider has this capability). search engines are the tip of the observation iceberg, and the content producer loses control once the bits are on the outbound connection.

in any case, your post was fine. its refreshing to see an opinion that is both risky and correct. consensus is boring.

on December 11, 2005 10:24 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

I think the issue goes beyond "found" vs. "not found."

People complained because it would "rank highly for the company name" not because it was findable. Stuff was findable back in the AltaVista days, but this is clearly different.

Modern search engines all seem to care a lot more about their version of authority.

on December 11, 2005 10:38 PM
# grumpY! said:

>> People complained because it would "rank highly for the company name" not because it was findable.

well, KTA are in the PR biz. they know how the web works. they know how information is transmitted and they know how the feedback mechanisms work. they are paid to help people avoid such crapstorms.

they made a business-class mistake and now it is literally etched into human memory for all time. its not your fault that the unblinking eye never forgets.

it goes both ways. if you write something overly harsh, or even incorrect, the feedback mechanism goes to work against you.

but what is this "feedback mechanism" anyway? groupThink and consensusThink. if you are a PR firm you are a slave to these. if you are a rational, intelligent individual you are not. so rock on.

on December 11, 2005 11:19 PM
# Nick Wilson said:

I've had a few similar complaints over peoples names appearing in Google. I told them, every single one of them, to take it up with Google!

As far as I see it, if you've a problem with appearing on my site, and can appeal to my better nature, or point out an inacuracy, or point of law, ill change it. If you're worried about Google results, that's a problem to be taken up with them, not me.

on December 12, 2005 01:10 AM
# Joan said:

I dont write about some subject (ex. the company I work for) to don't be found in Google or Yahoo when someone looks for it.

http://www.saltando.net (in spanish)

on December 12, 2005 01:23 AM
# Kishore Balakrishnan said:

If the original title was true! ideally, it should not have been changed. But that's the power/problem of having such an audience for your writing passion and still requiring to work for a bigco

on December 12, 2005 01:58 AM
# Olivier Laurent said:

My case isn't about a blog post, but still...

Back when I was the editor of my university newspaper, I put on my online portfolio an article about a professor being fired by the university. A few months later, I received an e-mail from the professor's husband who was asking me to take down the article because my portfolio was the first result to show up on Google when you searched for the professor's name. His argument was that it reflected poorly of the professor and could also be used by the university in the trial after the professor sued...

I did not take the article down.

Thanks Google.

on December 12, 2005 02:16 AM
# James Day said:

Nick Wilson,

Who owns the right of publicity for the names you mention?

For me, search engines, via findablity, do tremendously affect what I'm willing to write about online, where and with what degree of identification.

Regardless of law, I'd say that it is polite to ask before putting someone who isn't a (traditionally defined) public figure in the public eye about something they haven't themselves already gone highly public with.

One blogger fairly well known in their field goes so far as to ask for explicit permission before each use of a person's name, conscious that the blogger concerned isn't aware of all the potential ramifications, so asking the person concerned is the way to go to avoid undesired side-effects.

on December 12, 2005 05:26 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:


What's working for a BigCo have to do with this?

on December 12, 2005 06:46 AM
# Hanan Cohen said:

This issue verges on the issue of Identity.

Now we don't have a way of controling the infomation collected about us. One day, maybe, we will have a way of telling information collecting machines "you can collect and display this information about me" and they will display "this information was approved by this person for collection and display".

One day. Or not.

And I have a good story to tell about this.

I run a website which is the Israeli/Hebrew equivalent of snopes.com

More than a year ago, a man sent around an email asking for donations towards paying for a special treatment for his very ill wife. I have published his letter after talking to him and making sure it was not a con.

They succeeded collecting the money and she took the treatment but nevertheless died.

A few months ago I got a phone call from this man asking me to remore the letter from my website. He told me that he began dating women and before they see him, they Google his name and the first and only subject that they want to talk about is his late wife.

He tries to tell them that this is history for him and that he wants to find himself a new life but it doesn't help.

I have accepted his request and now his name is only in googles' cache.

Maybe adding a line to robots.txt will also solve this problem too.

on December 12, 2005 06:53 AM
# Kishore Balakrishnan said:


There are high chances that the PR agency written about is also a partner of one's own company. Is the following possible:

1) some newbie in the PR agency did a mistake of spamming
2) you publish the info
3) PR agency asks you to rephrase the title / retract !

Would you rephrase/retract or just post a "sub-section-update" stating the current status ?

How will the answer change depending on if one were a BigCo/ISV employee and an independent...

on December 12, 2005 11:52 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Intesting question.

To me it's a lot more powerful for someone to be able to read the comments and see that the agency responded quickly and handled themselves professionally.

I'm nore sure the size of the company matters much, though I suspect that it's more likely for a SmallCo to handle it better than a BigCo. But that's just a gut feeling.

on December 12, 2005 11:57 PM
# Jon Wright said:

The question i would like to ask Jeremy is: When you wrote that post, were you aware that it may show up high in the search engines?

on December 14, 2005 04:02 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

If I had stopped to think about it, yes.

But should I have to do that?

on December 14, 2005 11:44 PM
# Martínez said:

Similar discussion about that balance arose in spanish blogs, from the new od. Some of us have even considered limiting the access to our blogs by search engines, or at least demand blog editors de functionality of easily asking certain posts not to appear in Google or other engines. In fact, most relevant or well oriented visits come not from searchs but from links, tags, RSS, recommendations... Pros and cons are detailed.

Sorry the discussions are in spanish. This is the page where links about this discussion are stored, and even a "declaration" (English and spanish) for those blogs that prefer not to be searched, total or partially:


on December 16, 2005 12:27 PM
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