The Beginner’s Guide to Reputation Management (Part 8 of 34): Google AutoComplete

by JunLoayza on April 18, 2013

google auto complete

What is Google AutoComplete and why does it matter? If you go to the Google homepage, you’ll notice that the minute you start typing in a keyword phrase, Google will begin to offer you suggestions that finish the phrase. This functionality is called Google AutoComplete and is a great tool for doing research or for coming up with better phrases to search for. It’s also good for when you’re looking for something that might be a longer keyword phrase because often, Google is able to figure it out and you don’t have to type the entire phrase in.

Unfortunately, Google AutoComplete can work against you in a big way when you’re dealing with reputation management for your company or personal brand. In this lesson, we’ll go over the history of Google AutoComplete and also talk about how companies have, in the past, gotten Google to remove AutoComplete suggestions from their search results.

The History of Google AutoComplete

Google created this feature in 2008 in the hopes that it could predict what people were searching for and automatically load those results before people even finish typing in their search request. The functionality was originally available in 2004 as an experimental feature. It’s been called a few different names, including Google Suggest and Google AutoComplete. The feature recently came back into general interest for bloggers and website owners when additional functionality called Google Instant Search was launched in 2010. This functionality is what enables Google to load results before a user types in the full keyword phrase.

How Google AutoComplete Works

why did she

These results are based on the suggestions that Google comes up with for how people actually search. The most popular search terms come up first. For example, if you typed in the phrase “why did she,” you’ll see Google Suggest results like, “why did she break up with me” and “why did she cheat.” These are the most popular keyword phrases that start with the phrase “why did she.”

We don’t know everything about how Google comes up with their suggested results, but we know that these results are impacted primarily by what terms are popular in a specific region and language. That means that people in the UK might see results that are different than yours if you live in Boston. Likewise, people in San Francisco might also see different results than you, so it is not necessarily broken down by country, but rather by region.

Other factors include any personalization that is already factored into your account (if you are signed into your Google account through Gmail or Drive), any spelling corrections or de-duplications from misspelled keywords, and the timing of when you are doing a search.

The last factor is especially good news for anyone who has a reputation management problem because it means that over time, you can change and affect the Google Suggest results the same way you can change and the fact the Google search results. Let’s talk about how to do this.

How To Change Google Suggest Results

Google AutoComplete is driven by actual search results, which means that it is affected and influenced by what people are actually typing in to the search box. One way to change and influence these search results is to have a number of people all over the world type in the search results that you want related to your company into Google’s search box.

To do this well, you’ll need to get a ton of users that have unique IP addresses to type the search queries that you want into Google on an ongoing basis so that you can keep control over what the Google instant results are showing.

What You’ll Need

We’re going to go over three methods for doing this. Before we get into any of these methods, you’ll need to have two things ready to go. First, you’ll need to have up to six keyword phrases you would rather see when someone searches your company name. These can be either positive or neutral search terms, like [your company name] + “Twitter” or [your company name] + “Facebook”.

The second thing you’ll need is content that matches the search terms you want Google AutoComplete to show in its results. Ideally, you’ll want this content to be ranked in the first spot for the keyword phrase you are using. You can refresh your memory on how to do this by going back to the lesson I wrote about search engine optimization in part 4 of this reputation management series.

Once you have these two critical pieces in place, you can create a campaign that helps you change the Google AutoComplete results.

The Three Ways To Influence Google AutoComplete

There are a number of ways to get this accomplished, and we are going to go over the pros and cons of each of them.

Using Amazon MTurk

If your name has a fairly small amount of search traffic, you might be able to run a campaign using Amazon MTurk. If you’re not familiar with the service, it essentially allows you to create HITs, which are small tasks that can be performed online from anywhere in the world. You can set the amount you want to pay per task (often pennies per task), and then you also pay a small fee to Amazon MTurk to publish your HIT in their system.

You’ll want to construct your instruction form for the workers carefully because it’s challenging to get good results if you don’t. I’ve run campaigns like this many times before and have a fully formatted and optimized form that I use for my clients. If you want to create your own form, the general items that you’ll need to include are:

  • The search phrase that you want the worker to use in Google search
  • The title and the description of the content that you would like for them to click on once the search results come up
  • Additional information that would help you verify that they actually completed the task. For example, you might ask them to copy and paste the second paragraph of the content into a text box.

The more specific you can be with your instructions, and the less ambiguity you can have in what specifically you need from them to mark their HIT complete (this is how they get paid), the better results you will get and the less you will spend per worker and task.

You want to run your campaign over the course of several weeks. After two or three weeks, you can check Google AutoComplete results to see if you affected them. At this point, you’ll be focusing on adjusting your campaign and tweaking various details like price point per HIT and number of tasks per day to get the best results for the least amount of money.

Using Proxies

You can also do this an easier way, which is to use proxies. Proxies make it look like you have a different IP address, which looks to Google like you have many people in various locations taking the same action, even as it’s all happening from one computer or one IP address.

You can figure out how long it will take to bump out the unwanted Google Instant result from the search page by looking up the number of global monthly searches that are occurring for the exact phrase. For example, if you were looking at your Google AutoComplete results and saw that [your company name] + “scam” was featured as a top result, you would want to look up the number of global monthly searches for [your company name] + “scam.” You can do this using Google’s free keyword tool.

From there, you’ll want to run a larger number of searches through the proxy than the undesirable search term is getting. For example, if the undesired search term is getting 100 monthly searches, you want to run more than 100 to bump it out of the results and replace it.

Unfortunately, because Google does not disclose its full algorithm, it’s not completely clear how much more will be necessary. Google weighs historical data differently than the recent data, but a ton of historical data could still weigh heavily in current Google AutoComplete results. That means that even if the search for the phrase is low for the current month, it may still be difficult to bump the result from Google AutoComplete.

It comes down to a matter of how much you’d be willing to invest in the service, because the more searches you run through the proxy, the more it’s going to cost. It can take several months to see results.

Using Ads

The final way to change Google AutoComplete results is by taking out an ad on a highly trafficked website, a television show, a radio station program, or a social networking site. If you are able to get enough search traffic through one or more of these means, we recommend using an online method of advertising because you can link directly to the Google search term that you want people to use.  Instead of linking the add to your website, you link to add to a search on Google, like this: click here.

You have to be careful with this method because it might be confusing to users who click on your ads. If possible, we want to use this opportunity to kill two birds by influencing Google’s AutoComplete results and driving more traffic, leads, and potential customers to your website.

Though this adds an extra step in the process of getting people to your website, you can explain it by running an online scavenger hunt or a contest that turns the act of searching into a game. This also ensures that people not only click on your search term, but also that they click through to the content you have related to that search term.

If you’re using this method, you’ll need to think through the mechanics of it to make sure you’re optimizing it for multiple goals.

Even when you get into the search results using any of these methods, remember that you’ll have to keep the searches up at a certain level for each term in order to maintain the results. Remember, reputation management is an ongoing process that doesn’t end when you have your search results the way you want them. The work continues because we want to build long-term assets that protect you from having a reputation management problem in the future.

The One Way To Remove Google AutoComplete Results

The first three methods are conventional ways to influence Google AutoComplete. There is one final method that may get results as well.

Using the Law

A number of companies from France, Italy, and Ireland have sued Google for defamation following suggestions that included words like “scam,” “rapist,” “satanist,” and “convicted” after their company or personal name.

Google has, for the most part, acquiesced to these companies to avoid litigation. Though this is an extreme method for getting results, Google is willing to censor their AutoComplete suggestions on a case-by-case basis for certain companies in order to avoid defamation and libel suits.

There are a small number of other reasons that Google removes suggestions from Google AutoComplete. Those reasons mostly have to do with security and include things like hate speech, protected groups, personally identifiable information, adult content-related porn, legally mandated removals, and piracy-related suggestions. If you can find a reason for them to censor your Google AutoComplete results, you can file a complaint and try to get it taken down.

These are the main ways that I use to influence Google AutoComplete results for my clients. Thanks for reading this part of the guide and if you have any questions, you can email me at Jun [at] ReputationHacks.com.

About the author

JunLoayza Jun Loayza is the President of Reputation Hacks. In his entrepreneurial experience, Jun has sold 2 internet companies, raised over $1,000,000 in Angel funding, and lead social media technology campaigns for Sephora, Whole Foods Market, Levi's, LG, and Activision. Find Jun on Google or Twitter

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Mason April 20, 2013 at 11:19 am

Hey Jun, quick question.. when Google treats historical data differently from recent data, does that apply to Amazon MTurk and using ads as well, since all these methods are used to affect recent data?

Reply

JunLoayza April 20, 2013 at 9:26 pm

Yes. It’s a gradual and methodical process. You need to gradually increase the search volume of a specific keyterm so that it looks as natural as possible.

Reply

Jordon April 20, 2013 at 11:34 am

Which of the three conventional methods is most effective? Do you have a personal preference on which one to use?

Reply

JunLoayza April 20, 2013 at 9:27 pm

I’ve found the best success with Amazon Turk.

Yes. Shoot me an email at jun [at] reputationhacks.com and I’ll send you more info

Reply

Jordon April 20, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Can proxies be risky in that one might lose money due to the uncertainty of an investment successfully bumping out historical data from Google Autocomplete?

Reply

JunLoayza April 20, 2013 at 9:27 pm

Yes. There is no guarantee that any of these methods will work, but I can tell you with experience that they have worked in the past.

Reply

Mark January 2, 2014 at 10:35 pm

Do you know the names of any of the lawyers used to sue google for defamation for autocomplete?

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