Friday, February 15, 2013

Managing Google's Autocomplete and Related Searches About You

By Mike Munter
One of the things that disturbs some clients is Google's "suggestions" and "related searches".

Reputation Management For Google's Autocomplete Feature

google suggestions can be changed with reputation management services

When you type your name or your business name into Google, it will make a few "auto-complete" suggestions based on query data it's collected.  As Google states on its Autocomplete support page, the "predicted queries that are shown....have been previously typed by Google users..."

Reading further on the page, we can see that "autocomplete predictions are ..determined by popularity" and are algorithm-driven.  

What Does This Mean?

So, if your name or your business name happens to be part of a popular search that includes an association with your negative content, you may want to try to change it.

For example, back during the New England Patriots "Spygate" incident, if you typed "Bill Belichick..." into Google, the autocomplete would offer "spygate" as one of the autocomplete suggestions.  Even today, when you type "Bill Belichick S__", Google will suggest "spygate" as one of the four autocomplete options.

You can check to see your own autocomplete options simply by typing your name or company into the Google search box.  At the time of this writing, there is no option to turn autocomplete off.

What Can Be Done About Changing It?

Since Google autocomplete is driven by its algorithm, it takes a lot of work to try to change the suggestions it makes.  As the actual searches for you or your company change, they will be reflected in the autocomplete options.  

Since it is algorithm driven and based on REAL DATA from internet users, the way we influence your autocomplete options is to have a lot of people typing in different search queries from different computers all over the world.

Example Of The Problem With Autocomplete

Let's say our hypothetical Joe Smith, the carpet cleaner has been getting some bad press over some direct mail advertising he did trying to promote his business.  As word got out, Googlers commonly typed in "Joe Smith..." and autocomplete offered "false advertising" as one of the suggestions.

This could be troublesome for Joe and his business because as others are considering doing business with him, they would immediately see the suggestion of "false advertising".  If those users decide to click on it, it could lead them exactly to the article we are trying to suppress with reputation management.  And the problem perpetuates itself, as more and more users choose the autocomplete suggestion.

I'm sure you can see how detrimental this could be to Joe's reputation and his business.  Many potential customers will decide not do business with him because of the the autocomplete suggestion - even if they never even knew about it in the first place.

How We Fix Your Autocomplete Problem

As mentioned above, what we need to do is get users at different computers with unique IP addresses to type NEW queries into Google in order to affect change on the algorithm.  You can't just do it from your own computer typing new queries over and over again.  To be effective, the queries need to come from different PC's, situated in different areas.  (Although we have seen some smaller cases where performing the searches from 1 computer, on a regular basis, has helped to update what Google suggests).

We use a combination of "people" + "proxies" to correct your Autocomplete problem.  We have a team of people who manually perform the searches on a regular basis.  We also have a "Proxy" team that makes manual searches using proxies.  A proxy makes it look like you have a different IP address and thus, you can influence the autocomplete suggestions by feeding that data to a number of different proxies.  Together, this provides a lot of variety and usually within 3-4 months for low search volume cases, we will see Google add a new option to autocomplete.

The other important aspect of changing autocomplete is that you have to valid information on the web that people would actually search for.  So, using Joe Smith once again as our guinea pig - if we wanted to update the Google autocomplete suggestions to include "Joe Smith racing" - it would be a good idea to actually have a website, video, or social media site about Joe Smith's racing adventures.  Otherwise, why would people search for it?

We can help create new content for you if needed or we can instruct you on how to do it yourself.

Another Example

While we can never fully erase the history of what users have typed into Google, we can begin to make it a little bit more difficult for users to find the negative things about you.

At the height of the "spygate" scandal, you couldn't type Bill Belichick's name into Google without getting that suggestion.  At least now, you have to type in "Bill Belichick S..." before you see the spygate option.

In order to predict how long it will take to fix your autocomplete problem, we can take a look at the estimated number of searches for the negative search term using Google's free keyword tool.  As we can see, there are approximately 91 global monthly searches for the exact phrase, "Bill Belichick spygate".

how long will it take to change google autocomplete

If we are able to create 100 global monthly searches for "Bill Belichick social life", for example, then users might see "social life" instead of "spygate", when they enter "Bill Belichick S..." into Google.

The wild card in all of this is the autocomplete feature stores historical data, so it's likely that it would take many months of work to create a new trend for "Bill Belichick social life".

As you can probably see, fixing your reputation's "autocomplete suggestion" can take a while.  Some clients choose this option as an add-on package and continue it for several months AFTER their reputation management work has been completed.

Reputation Management For Google's "Searches Related To" Feature

google related searches can be changed using reputation management services

Google's "related searches" feature activates a set of relevant searches to your query.  These appear at the bottom of the page, just above the 10-page Goooooooogle.

To date, we haven't seen or been part of any documented cases where we can definitively say, "Yes, we can change the 'related searches'".  The best we can assert now is that we can help you try to change the autocomplete and hope that it affects 'related searches'.


Changing what you see in Google's autocomplete can be accomplished over time, depending on how popular those suggestions are.  Changing the 'searches related to' is a lot less reliable.

If you're just trying to clear up a minor story about you or your business, you might be pleasantly surprised at how quickly and affordably we can help alter what you see in Google autocomplete.

If you'd like to get a quote, along with an idea of how long it might take, please give us a call at 503-890-6663.  All of our consultations are confidential.

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