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August 12, 2010


RE: Really, It’s OK. Google Yourself.

by Anthony Verre

Googling Yourself Isn’t Just About Huge Egos

There's no shame. Google Yourself.

We’ve all done it. You do it in secret. In the dead of night and it’s just you and the monitor. No one can ever know you’ve got an ego to stroke. It’s a secret shame you have to carry around.

All euphemisms aside (in case you missed them), I’m here to tell you that it perfectly acceptable to Google yourself. In fact, if you’re a business with a website and you’re not googling yourself, you’d better learn how to. Fast.

Beyond keeping tabs on what the world-at-large is saying about you, a business has got to know what Google has in its index. Does Google think you’ve got more pages on your site than you really have? Does Google have less pages? Moreover, simply googling yourself might allow you to find something ominous, as was the case with me.

A Google Away From Finding You’ve Been Hacked

I’m sure I’m not the only who’s ever had their site hacked. It happens, even to the best of us. Whether through careless implementation (in my case) or because someone out there is determined to break into your site, hacking happens. For me, it started with Google Webmaster Tools and seeing five pages of my total 26 missing from the index. Curious, I wanted to find out which five, so that I could buff up the content to make it more relevant or kill them off in robots.txt.

Why kill off those pages? If you stop those pages from being spidered and indexed, the theory is that you strengthen your entire domain trust and relevance and increase the juice flowing from the more powerful pages. It’s the same principle as the “nofollow”, just using different means.

A Google Away From Finding You've Been HackedAfter performing a site: command (site:[your-site-here]), I saw that Google was registering over 300 pages it attributed to my site! Obviously, this must be some kind of mistake. Digging around the results, I found that there were TONS of pages created, using bogus URLs (with keywords), on the site, killing my domains trust and relevance. Which, in turn, had slaughtered my site’s placement for some terms I was doing relatively well for.

I just think what might have happened if I’d never googled the site. Who knows how many garbage pages would have been created, who knows what kind of damage might have been done? It could have gone on for months more if I hadn’t taken the two minutes to google myself and investigate it. And the damage might have been irreparable by the time I found it (i.e. a sandboxed site for all of eternity).

A Blessing in Disguise

Of course I was pissed. Of course you want to hunt down the slug that hacked you and serve a little revenge. But after all the hemming and hawing, you’re still left with a site that’s trashed. And, for me, it was a blessing in disguise. It gave me the opportunity to revamp the whole thing. New look, new feel, and, most importantly, a new site architecture. It allowed me the chance to put the site on new platform, eliminate the fluff content that wasn’t getting indexed, and beef-up the content that needed a polishing. And in the end, I think I have a stronger site because of the hacker. A blessing in disguise.

The Mores of the Story

What to take away from this? Google yourself.  Sure, it might be egotistical, but it’s helpful and essential too. If you google yourself and help build a stronger search marketing effort and website, why wouldn’t you? Secondly, disaster always strikes. You won’t fully be able to stop yourself thinking negatively about it (to be honest, I’d question someone’s humanness if they could), but what kind of intestinal fortitude you have to kick that disastrous event in the mouth and triumph over it.

And a special thanks to Matt Siltala for encouraging me to get this one out there.  🙂

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