Un-Googling Ourselves: Image, Honesty, and Online Presence

I was recently hired to do some marketing for a tiny start-up business. The owner was a serious corporate professional, and this side project was her fledging venture into entrepreneurship. Okay. Great for her.

When I sent her some of the marketing I had written, she read and it hit the roof. She vehemently insisted her name be nowhere in any of the promotional material. She said, “I don’t want my name associated with this. I don’t want someone to Google me and find some little….shop.”

I was confused. I had never heard of a business owner who didn’t want to be associated with their own business. Most, as a matter of fact, take great pride in their businesses, some even to a fault. But, it got me thinking about the power of Google. Have we become so entrenched in managing our online presence, that we can’t be who we are? We have to be “Google-friendly?”

For a business, business owner, career professional, entertainer, celebrity, it is the Google searches that make or break you. Celebrities have Google alerts set up, so that they can keep track of what people say, what they want, and their ever revolving image. For an aspiring novelist, if you don’t fare well by page two of a Google search, a publisher won’t even breathe on your e-mails, much less read your manuscript.

There is an entire science on learning how to maximize this in your favor. Publishers have entire courses of recommendations for the aspiring novelist. Celebrities pay loyal fans pittance to make strategic online mentions, and get them “trending.” Businesses get customers to review them on popular sites, and some even advertise freebies in exchange for reviews. A new brand of web writing, called SEO, helps business owners to incorporate certain keywords so that their page shows up higher in Google results. There are entire corporations who do nothing but SEO.

I guess this is fine to an extent, but when is it too much? Can we “Un-Google” ourselves? Or have we sold our souls to Big Brother, to compete in a marketplace dominated by an “online presence?”


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