Search rankings for Google Mobile and ASK

Today I updated my Google search app on my phone. I had been monitoring the results on there for some time, but not in great detail. Looking at the first page only, the first hit remained – throughout this entire exercise – a link to the abandoned blog with my name listed on it. This has been the one big site which I have not been able to resolve either through outranking or through requesting content to be amended. It still has my name down as the owner of the site responsible for one of the email scams relating to Adobe and Skype products (as discussed previously, the scammers used both my stolen credit card details to pay and then used my name to register).

The update to the Google search app changed all that. Why? One little change in their app and algorithm – ranking locale specific to where you are, rather than the USA. This pushed the abandoned blog down to hit #9 immediately. A ranking I am much happier with compared to #1.

Similarly, if I use, that same problem site is #1, but If I use, it doesn’t appear at all!

Conclusions? It would seem that the only way I can get something to outrank that abandoned blog on US-based searches is to host things in a US-based way. That would be difficult, but may be necessary if I were to apply for a job in the US.

Search rankings update

Following on from the two significant recent changes, and some other SEO work done, it is time to look at the rankings again. Also, I have let my ad run down again as most of the content has been amended, and my content is ranking reasonably well.

All of the engines in question now have updated the 37prime content. Interestingly, Google was almost immediate. Ask refreshed the content two days ago, and Bing/Yahoo! updated today. It has taken around the same amount of time to de-rank the now defunct Skype forum that also had the stolen identity related content (including some slanderous remarks). Google did take longer to de-rank than to refresh content, but the timing of the other two engines was concurrent with refreshing the content. Duckduckgo is still draging the chain on the content update.

Page 1: bad results at #5 (abandoned blog) (#7 is updated 37prime) (out of 10)

Page 2: none

Page 3: #6 (abandoned blog again)

Page 1: none (out of 10) see bing below for more details

Page 2: #9

Page 3: #3

Page 1: none (out of 10) – #9 is the updated 37prime content

Page 2: #9 (this is the abandoned blog)

Page 3: #3 (same blog – it is indexed multiple times because the same story can be linked to via different URLs based on the article tags. This phenomenon held true for the 37prime blog as well; the permalink and the archive both showed up)

Page 1: #1 (the abandoned blog) (#5 is the updated 37prime post)

Page 2: #5 (same abandoned blog, through permalink)

Page 3: none!

One continuous page: result #4 (37prime), 9 (Skype forum), 11 (abandoned blog) out of a total of 33 results. It looked rather different earlier this morning – 31 results, and the content had been updated, so their sources and algorithms appear to change.

So in summary, my SEO changes seem to have had some positive results for me on Bing/Yahoo! but haven’t made any difference to Google. Ask was slightly worse, and DuckDuckGo is a mixed bag. I will keep monitoring as I do want to de-rank the abandoned blog, as well as see what is happening on DuckDuckGo.

Search rankings update

Time again to do a snapshot. Since the last snapshot, I have submitted this blog to a number of blog indicies, as well as added some new content on other sites. Cross-linking between my own pages has also been updated. Finally, the negative content on the Skype discussion board has been retired, although still appears in search engines at the moment.

Same note as last time about Yahoo! and Bing. My Google ad is appearing periodically as they keep refunding small amounts of money based upon what they believe are bogus clicks. I’m really unclear on how this is assessed, and how they decide where to run the ads (apart from geographically – which is selectable).

Page 1: bad results at #5, #8 (out of 10)

Page 2: none

Page 3: #6

Page 1: #8 (out of 10)

Page 2: #3, #6

Page 3: #2

Page 1: #8 (out of 10)

Page 2: #3, #6

Page 3: #2

Page 1: #1, #7 (exluding my ad which is running again!)

Page 2: #6

Page 3: none!

One continuous page: result #3, 6, 9 out of a total of 32 results.

Ask is definitely on the improve, with the bad results sinking (apart from that abandoned blog at number 1). Google has gone in the right direction this time, but Yahoo!/Bing is definitely worse.

DuckDuckGo has also come out worse, but strangely now has a note about the results coming from Bing and being built by Yahoo!, but with no real explanation.

So is there much else I can do at this point without spending a lot of money? Having your online brand managed seems awfully expensive, and comes with little to no guarantees. As the Skype forum data disappears from primary searches, there will be some improvement but the other two sites are looking difficult to contain. There are no doubt other repositories of this data further down the search, and the Wayback Machine will no doubt have archived much of it, but I still would like to clean up the first 3 pages, and in particular, bump the retired blog from being the first hit on Ask.

Search rankings update

Time to do another snapshot of where things are at. Same conditions as usual. Rankings do bounce around a lot, and I am only viewing them from my own searching perspective (affecting locality). I am not logged in to Google when searching, so hopefully it doesn’t tailor the answers by detecting who I am some other way.

Also of note is that I am still checking both Yahoo! and Bing results separately even though they are rapidly approaching 100% identical as their Search Alliance nears completion.

Page 1: bad results at #3,6 (out of 10)

Page 2: none

Page 3: #2

Page 1: none (out of 10)

Page 2: #1, #8

Page 3: #3, #10

Page 1: none (out of 10)

Page 2: #1, #8

Page 3: #3, #10

Page 1: #1, #4 (my ad is low on credit so no ads this time.)

Page 2: #2

Page 3: none!

One continuous page: result #8, 10, 13 out of a total of 28 results.

So what do I think of the results at the moment? Minor improvements on DuckDuckGo, and Yahoo!/Bing are much better.

The Google results are much more disappointing, although not all bad news. While the bad results on the first page have climbed somewhat, out of the top 30 results, the count is down by one and the other link is disappearing down the stack. On Ask, the search rankings have only gotten worse, and in particular I am disappointed that I am being outranked by a no longer maintained blog.

What to do next? There is more positive content up relating to me, and I’ve also done some more cross linking today. Hopefully that will assist. Also, I need to consider legal avenues on content removal – not sure what my options are in all cases. I’ve been assured that some of the content will come down shortly, but the two remaining blogs are my biggest issue and I need to see what my legal options are here. Questions are:

  1. Is this libel or something else? i.e. how do I legally define this issue.
  2. How do I get an international court order for take-down of the content?

My Diaspora* Pod is up!

As a further foray in to open source software, and taking a more personal ownership to sharing data, I’ve had a look in to Diaspora*. Rather than dabbling round the edges, I’ve installed my own pod.

If you are unfamiliar with Diaspora*, what it is and what it stands for, check out Join Diaspora*.

So installing it is far from easy. It is still considered to be in “Alpha”, and so instructions are changing on a regular basis. Also, as it can integrate with other products such as Facebook and Twitter, instructions on how to do that has to keep pace with those products and their APIs.

Simplest and best advice for installation is follow the instructions on the GitHub wiki for Diaspora*, and it will get you a long way. There are plenty of sites telling you the instructions are wrong and provide alternatives, but this appears to be no longer required. The next thing is to take a good look at everything in the config directory, even if you don’t think you need to configure it. I had a silent failure (Diaspora* has a habit of just stopping when things go wrong and not always providing log file comments) due to a non-existent directory being required as a log file repository.

The biggest gap in instructions for me was how to configure Apache2 to do all the things you need it to. It largely came down to working out which modules need to be loaded to fix which not-so-helpful error messages.

I’ve managed to get Twitter to allow me to twet from Diaspora*, but I’m yet to have any luck with Facebook. It seems to revolve around a lack of callback URL, something which the Facebook interface is yet to let me do. This is one of the issues where if I let my side try to contact Facebook and it doesn’t work, Diaspora* aborts ungracefully, leaving me to have to clean up the still running processes. Failure to clean up the ruby processes causes great confusion on the next restart. I’m currently running the server on a detached screen which is a little bit manual, but it seems to work.

Some more details on actions taken

So I thought it might be a good point to discuss why the rankings have changed. Broadly speaking, the approach has been to ask people to remove the misleading content, and secondly, to add more content about me that is under my control.

In the cases of removing content as well as generating new content, there needs to be some Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) performed. There are quite a few ways to do this. For a start, the content on here is submitted in multiple ways to multiple search engines. This includes both at the root website level and at the wordpress level. Further submission techniques have been used to add “link juice” to faster promote these pages as active. Lastly, some keyword advertising with Google also helps to promote the correct content, but created some interesting side effects that need management.

There has also been a wide range of extra pages created on various sites to highlight what I would like to be known about me. While these sites will then require maintenance, it does help improve my profile.

Lastly, there are some sites out there worth regularly keeping an eye on. These are the ones that involuntarily start indexing information about you, unless you find the super-secret way to opt-out. These sites are a mixed blessing, and as long as they are watched carefully, they can add to the positive content.

Search rankings update

Time to do another snapshot of where things are at. Bear in mind that rankings do bounce around a lot, and I am only viewing them from my own searching perspective (affecting locality). I am not logged in to Google when searching, so hopefully it doesn’t tailor the answers by detecting who I am some other way.

Page 1: bad results at #5,7 (out of 10)

Page 2: #9

Page 3: #5

Page 1: #9 (out of 10)

Page 2: #3, #9, #10

Page 3: #2, #8

Page 1: #9 (out of 10)

Page 2: #3, #9, #10

Page 3: #2, #8

Page 1: #3, #5 (out of 10; excluding my ads inserted between 1 & 2, and at the end.)

Page 2: #3

Page 3: none!

One continuous page: result #5, 6, 12 out of a total of 27 results. One less result here is a good thing in this context.

Bing and Yahoo! are looking a lot better on the first page. Very happy with that. Ask has improved slightly on page 1, and Google has made no difference to page one. Duckduckgo has also improved a little, as all of the engines have improved at least a little in the lower ranks.

Overall, there are signs of improvement but still a lot more to do. First impressions count, so my focus is on the first page; but I still want to be more thorough than that.

Status update on search engine results

So at this point I would like to record where the negative results (due to the credit card and identity theft) are turning up so I can track how well the good results are percolating up. I should have started tracking these earlier as I’ve already had 1 reference successfully removed (it no longer shows up in any of these search engines), and some new pages I’ve created have shown up in the top 3 pages.

Page 1: bad results at #5,7 (out of 10)

Page 2: #1, #7

Page 3: #5, #10

Page 1: result #6, #9 (out of 10)

Page 2: result #4, #9, #10

Page 3: result #3, #6

page 1: result #6, #9 (out of 10)

page 2: result #4, #9, #10

page 3: result #3, #6

page 1: result #1, #5 (out of 10; excluding my ads inserted between 1 & 2, and at the end. The abandoned blog beats my ad!)

page 2: result #5

page 3: result #1

page 1: result #5, 6, 7, 11, 21 out of a total of 28 results. Clearly I’m not popular enough on duckduckgo.

I still have my work cut out for me!

First plans of attack to reclaim my identity

So the first step to drawing up a plan of attack is to work out what is the outcome I am after.

So what do I want?

It would be awfully convenient if none of these pages ever turned up again, but that isn’t going to happen and may not even be what I want.

My primary goal is to ensure that if my name is searched on any major search engine, the first 2-3 pages of hits do not associate me with any of the negative fallout of having my name misappropriated. Once that has been achieved, I can see whether I can do better than that.

As I mentioned previously, I do want the bulk of the information in these pages to remain available, but without the reference to my misappropriated details. For brevity, I’ll refer to these negative references caused by the abuse of the misappropriated details as “the fallout”.

So then what are the possible angles of attack to recover my name?

  • Increase ranking of positive references to my name over the other pages.
  • Removal of my name from the inappropriate and negative pages from search results.

Where do I want these removed or rank lowered?

  • Search engines: Google, Bing, Yahoo
  • Metasearch engines:
  • People profiling sites: Pipl
  • More amitious targets: DuckDuckGo

So now that I have an indea of what it is I want to achieve, what are my options?

Based on feedback from my very good friends, there are a few things I will try.

  • Build a site to explain the situation and link to the good material on the internet
  • Use Google ads to improve site ranking of a site describing the situation
  • Ask the people to remove my name from the offending pages
  • Get people to go on a clicking campaign on my behalf to help the good results turn up first
  • Remove my name from people indexing aggregators that associate me with the fallout

As I implement these, I will write up caveats, hits, misses and take on any extra ideas from you!

Reclaiming your name after credit card theft

The Situation

In February this year, my Credit Card details were stolen. I received a phone call from Citibank identifying a fraudulent transaction (kudos to them!). I confirmed this, the card was cancelled and replaced, and the money re-credited. I also found another transaction on there at about the same time, where someone had purchased something from a Russian domain registrar. I was surprised at the time about how much you could spend at the registrar, but I filled out the paperwork for Citibank, had the money re-credited immediately, and all was right with the world. Or so I thought.

The Fallout

So it turns out that my credit card details were used to register a lot of websites. These websites were used as some kind of presumably honeypot scams via email spam, directing them to dodgy URLs offering free upgrades to Skype and Adobe products. How do I know this? My name is rather rare (I suspect unique world-wide), so when I Google searched my name a little while ago, rather than seeing a list of interesting and good deeds I may have done, I saw websites like “stupid scammers” come up. Now I’m very much in favour of these sites remaining up, because I would like people to be generally aware of such scams and be able to easily identify them as such. What adds insult to injury for me is that not only did the scammers use my stolen credit card to pay for the domain name registration, they also used my name as the technical contact, administrative contact and company name. This means that when people went to investigate the scam sites using whois, my name came up.

Why do I care?

At the moment I am looking for work, and so my Google search profile is very important to me. I would like the first impressions to be good. So when I started checking in to my current profile and found my good name to be associated with these scams above any other things that I’ve done, I was less than impressed. Secondly, as an IT professional, these scams are particularly badly done and make me look bad in my own field of broader expertise.

How do I know that every time I apply for a job, someone  isn’t Google searching my name and ruling me out just-in-case? I want to reclaim my name.

What am I doing about it?

I”ll be trying quite a few options, and I’m also soliciting other ideas from the internet at large (that includes you!) I do not expect this to be a fast process, but something I want to see how far I can get; with the intent of sharing my experiences and what to do if the same thing happens to you. I will also look at issues around Bing and sites like Pipl, but luckily the stupid scammer stuff is buried much deeper on those.