Removing information about you from Google

A question that I am often asked during my workshops is how can one persuade Google to remove a page or information from the web. Sometimes the person wants personal photos or videos to be removed or they are asking on behalf of a company who wants less than flattering comments and opinions deleted. In most cases Google does not control the content put up on web sites or social media, it merely indexes it. So the short answer is that you cannot make Google remove information you do not like except in very specific circumstances, for example copyrighted material on YouTube, images of you or your house on Street View.

“Removing Your Personal Information From Google” is an excellent overview from Search Engine Land of how you should go about having sensitive information removed (if possible) and dealing with negative publicity. Your first move is to contact the web site owner yourself but unless the information is libellous, breaches copyright or data protection laws you might not have much luck. Suing the web site owner is an option but you could end up generating even more bad publicity for you and your organisation. Swamping out the negative information with your own positive responses is by far the best approach and one that requires you to know how to use social media.

The oft cited example of  how not to tackle bad publicity is that of Nestle. (Just Google Nestle social media fail or Nestle social media disaster.) “Nestle fails at social media – Attempts to censor Facebook” from TechEye is a neat summary of the events. There are also umpteen Slideshare presentations on how Nestle “did it wrong”. Many people have forgotten or never knew what the original argument was about, but after the social media debacle the perception of Nestle as corporate bad boys was reinforced.

The Search Engine Land posting has links to other articles offering sound advice on the topic including:

The Real Lesson In the Yelp User Review Lawsuit


Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: Managing your reputation through search results (I love the bit “.. don’t assume that just because your mom doesn’t read your blog, she’ll never see that post about the new tattoo you’re hiding from her.“)

Workshop: social media strategies

I am running a pre-Online Information conference workshop about social media strategies on Monday, 29th November 2010 at the Olympia Conference Centre, London –  “The real-life guide to using social media to promote your organisation and services”.

In essence it will cover:

  • how the major search tools are incorporating social media and real time information in their search results and how you can use this to increase awareness of your organisation and its services
  • the importance of identifying relevant platforms and applications for your organisation and tailoring content for them
  • ways in which you can generate and re-use content to reach more potential users
  • engaging with existing and potential customers and users
  • how you can monitor the effectiveness of social media
  • technical and human resource issues and the skills needed to implement a social media strategy

Further details are at Online Information 2010,

If you wish to book a place but are not attending the conference you need to click on the “Book Conference Place” link. Fill in the your details on the first page and on the next you can select the workshop only option.

If you have already booked a conference place then you need to call Jo Letts (Joanna.letts@incisivemediacom and +44 (0) 207 316 9361).

Prices are  £195 + VAT if you are attending the conference and for the workshop only £399 + VAT

Google previews web pages in results

Google are offering previews of web pages in your results. People have been reporting this feature for many days now but today is the first time I’ve seen it in action. Run your search as normal and next to each result in your list you should see a magnifying glass. Click on it and Google gives you a preview of the page with the areas containing your text outlined and the text in boxes superimposed on top of the preview. Although it is a useful tool for assessing the relevance of a page I do find it irritating that Google then automatically previews every result as I move my mouse around the results page. You have to click on the magnifying glass again to switch it off.

Google Previews Search Results Pages

Five tips on going freelance

Earlier this year I was asked by a magazine for five tips for people considering setting up business and becoming self-employed. As is so often the case the deadline was along the lines of “the next half hour”. What I came up with was off the top of my head. (I don’t know if they were ever used in the final article as I do not subscribe to the publication). I’ve recently had a few people ask me about going freelance so I thought I’d reproduce the tips here. I might have changed a couple of them if I’d had more time to think about it but I’ve left the five as I originally wrote them.

  1. It’s feast or famine. Clients don’t spread their custom neatly throughout the year. They are like buses: you wait for one for ages and then half a dozen come at once! There will be “quiet” periods when you will not be earning (for me they are August, end of December and beginning of January) and times when you have to be here, there and everywhere. Make sure you have a cash buffer or reserves to cover the quiet times so that you can continue to pay the bills.
  2. You can say no. It is tempting to say yes to everything especially as you never really know when the next job or project will be, but be realistic. Can you really travel from Reading to Cardiff to Edinburgh to Huddersfield to Canterbury and then on to Aberystwyth in one week? And if something is outside your main area of expertise think twice about taking it on. It is good to stretch yourself and expand your knowledge and the services that you can offer, but if it is going to be a one-off and take you a week or two to get up to speed – DON’T DO IT!
  3. Be realistic in your estimates of billable work and time and fix your fees accordingly. If you are lucky, you will be working for six months of the year. The rest of the time will be taken up by the “quiet” periods ( see 1 above), travelling, marketing, social media, preparing proposals, keeping yourself up to date, admin, invoicing, chasing payments… you get the idea. Holidays? No holiday pay. Not feeling too good? No sick pay.
  4. Use social media to the full. Get yourself on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Slideshare, Flickr etc. Write a blog. It all takes time to set up and establish a presence but it really is worth it. Google, Bing and Yahoo all include social media in their search results so it makes sense to exploit every opportunity to reach as many people as possible. As well as a marketing tool it is a great way to keep in contact with other self employed people, share experiences and – sometimes – clients.
  5. Don’t be afraid to admit it is not for you. Being self employed does not suit everyone. It can be difficult keeping yourself motivated if you are working on your own and some find it difficult to cope with the uncertain cash flow. If it becomes too stressful, walk away. At least you will have a better idea of what is involved in running a business and, hopefully, appreciate freelancers a little more.

StatsWales: free statistics on Wales

When looking for UK official statistics many of us immediately think of If you are looking for data on Wales, though, you really should be heading for the Welsh Assembly’s StatsWales at This is a free-to-use service that allows you to “view, manipulate, create and download tables from the most detailed official data on Wales”. You can run a keyword search on the data or simply browse the Reports folders.

StatsWales folders

The built in search option may be your best bet (Note: Google ‘site:’ search does not work on this data collection). Most of the tables, charts and reports are clearly labelled but there are some sections where all you are told is that the data is “Indicator 9a” or “Indicator 12c”, for example.  It is only when you click on the file that you discover it’s contents.

StatsWales Folders

You can also select subsets of the data and produce your own tables and charts. If you register you can create your own profile, design and save your reports.

StatsWales Charts

There are many options for viewing and manipulating the data on the web site itself and it can seem overwhelming at times. You may prefer to just download the data sets and work on them offline, but if you think you might be a regular user of the this site it is worth working through the tutorials and getting to grips with the StatsWales tools. You can register for e-mail notifications of changes to specific datasets and RSS feeds are also available to alert you to new sets that have been added to the site. useful Twitter summary or major irritation? ( organizes links and tweets into a newspaper-style format. Newspapers can be created for your own Twitter network, a list or #tag. It is run by SmallRivers, a privately held Swiss startup co-founded by Edouard Lambelet and Iskander Pols and located at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology EPFL campus.

To create a newspaper simply sign up with your Twitter account and decide whether you want a newspaper generated from your own Twitter network, a hashtag or a Twitter list. then extracts all tweets that include URLs, the content found at these URLs (text, blog post, photo, video), analyses the content to identify the topic (for example Politics, Technology ) and then constructs a newspaper for you.

The front page gives you what thinks are the most important stories for each topic. How it chooses those is not clear: the FAQ merely says that it uses semantic analysis and “ magic”! You can view more stories on a topic by clicking on one of the tabs at the top of the page.

Example of an edition of Karen Blakeman's

The paper is updated daily but you can change the update frequency to morning and evening or weekly editions and also alter the time at which the edition is created. Email alerts can be set up to tell you when a new edition is available.

I was initially sceptical about the value of I use Tweetdeck to manage my Twitterstream with searches, lists and groups to help me keep up with subjects and people that are important to me. I also have RSS feeds of some of my searches. After a few days of using it, though, I found that it did bring to the fore important or interesting stories that I might otherwise have missed, especially when I am travelling and do not have time to catch up with all of my Twitterstream. It has also highlighted Twitter users – mostly publishers- who I follow but who rarely report on anything that is relevant to my areas of interest. (A frenzy of unfollowing ensued after I viewed my first few editions). I can also see it as being a useful way of presenting Tweets and information from a conference. Simply set up a for the hashtag. It is by no means perfect and I would not rely on it as the sole means of keeping up to date. It does miss and exclude stories that are important to me, but the paper that is produced is easy and quick to scan and as long as you are aware of its limitations it can be a useful addition to your information management toolbox.

So why the possible “major irritation”? You can promote a paper automatically on Twitter using the “Promote it” option. The default is set to ON – or certainly was when I signed up – with the result that some of us were being bombarded with notifications that someone’s latest was out. Frankly, I don’t care and neither do a lot of other people. It created a backlash against the service for a while so if you do decide to set your own daily paper please go into your settings and set ‘Promote on Twitter’ to OFF. If you have set up a conference or hashtag, simply mention the link on an appropriate blog or web page, or in the occasional tweet. People can them decide for themselves whether or not to subscribe to it.

If you want to keep up with developments at they have a blog at, are on Twitter at @SmallRivers and Facebook at

Update: Just tried to change the update frequency and title for two hashtag newspapers. You can’t! The settings can only be changed for a newspaper generated for your Twitter username. #FAIL

Top Business Search Tips – 27th October 2010

October 27th saw me back in Wales running another business information workshop. This built on the session I ran in July (see Top Business Search Tips at We looked at more advanced search techniques for business research with an emphasis on industry/market sectors and covering both official data, market research and what can be gleaned from social media. As usual I asked them to come up with a group Top 10 Tips at the end of the day. There were two tips that were common to both sessions: my own business sources listings (well, they were influenced slightly in that some of my pages were mentioned during the session) and StatsWales, which is the place to go for statistics if you are doing business in Wales. They were also at liberty to suggest sites and tips that I did not mention in the workshop but which they, their users and clients find useful.

1. British Library’s Business Essentials on the Web

“Our wiki is a one-stop shop listings site of essential websites for small businesses and entrepreneurs. The aim of the site is to save you time trawling the web, by bringing together useful sites for small businesses in one place.”

Recommended for the Industries section that gives useful sites and starting points for SMEs and start-ups who may be researching industry sectors.

2. Business Information on the Internet ( Business resources organised by type for example statistics, market research, company registers.

3. Slidefinder
Google’s filetype ppt search looks for your terms anywhere in a presentation. Slidefinder’s default search finds single slides that contain all of your terms. Two of the participants gave this one a thorough road test and were seriously impressed!

4. Repeat one or more of your search terms once, twice, thrice… to change what appears in your results page. Useful if you are fed up with the same old pages coming up again and again. You can enter up to 32 search terms in Google before Google starts dropping terms.

5. Filetype search. Use the Advanced Search file format or the filetype: command to focus your search on PDF (market/industry reports, government documents), XLS (for data and statistics in spreadsheets), PPT (expert presentations, conference talks or overviews on a topic from independent experts, academics, government bodies). If your file extension is not listed in the advanced search screen menu enter your search terms in the standard search box followed by command filetype: and the file extension. For example

wind turbines energy generation UK filetype:pptx

Use Docjax ( as a quick way of searching both Yahoo and Google for PDF, XLS, DOC and PPT files.

6. StatsWales The place to go for official statistics on Wales. “StatsWales is a free-to-use service that allows visitors to view, manipulate, create and download tables from the most detailed official data on Wales.” Email alerts and RSS feeds are available.

7. Getting British Business Online (  A collaboration between Enterprise UK, Google, BT, and e-skills UK with the support of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. This site provides a simple and quick way to for small business to create their first website. Recommended by several of the workshop participants in conjunction with…

8. Business IT Guides ( E-business support from the Welsh Assembly.

9. Realise the importance of social networks. Yes, it is biased and it can be difficult or impossible to find out who is behind the rant and the extreme negative comments but a lot of people read and forward these to their followers or friends. What started out as an isolated complaint can snowball to a major hate campaign. Companies ignore social media at their peril. Get in there quick if a customer is making a lot of noise about a bad experience and turn it to your advantage.

10. Time! The internet, search engines, business resources and social media are ever changing.  Try and find time to keep up to date and try out new “stuff”.