13

This could be entirely a Google issue, but I'm curious if it's anything that StackOverflow is doing. For personal reasons, I'm trying to make it so accounts of mine do not show up when a user Google searches for my real name. My Stack Overflow profile is here:

https://stackoverflow.com/users/159658/sgusc

It displays no real information about me, yet if I Google search for my real name, this profile page still shows up as the second search result.

The change to username "sgusc" is fairly recent (on the order of a couple months). My old username was actually just my real name and I suspect that has something to do with it.

Thoughts?

  • As an addendum, I just realized that my MetaSO and SuperUser profiles were still my real name, while SO and ServerFault were "sgusc". That may also be related. – Brent Writes Code May 5 '11 at 15:42
  • @Bobby: Yeah, I was assuming that would be the case, but I figured it doesn't hurt to ask. Strangely enough, the cached Google page doesn't have my real name on it either. – Brent Writes Code May 5 '11 at 15:43
  • This is indeed weird - the cached page doesn't have your real name anywhere, not even in the source code. This is either a Google caching issue, or a mild form of Google Bombing, i.e. somewhere a page with an extremely high page rank pointing to your profile with your real name as the text – Pëkka May 5 '11 at 15:45
  • @sgusc: See my answer, also, you need to change your username on all associated SE sites. ;) – Time Traveling Bobby May 5 '11 at 15:47
  • 1
    @Pekka - I don't think it's simply caching (see my answer). Google learns what words/ids/URLs are strongly associated and keeps them around, presumably until it decides it needs to unlearn them. The user's page has several identifying factors that will always be the same, therefore making a permanently link with previous search terms found very strongly (only?) on the profile page. – Nicole May 5 '11 at 15:58
  • @Pekka Bah. Thanks. Missed that one. – Brent Writes Code May 5 '11 at 15:59
  • 1
    @Renesis yeah, that is what I mean by Google Bombing (Remember "Miserable Failure"?) – Pëkka May 5 '11 at 16:01
  • @Pekka - you're right, this is definitely an effect of the same conceptual linking system. – Nicole May 5 '11 at 16:07
  • 1
    So as an interesting side note, Google recently launched a dashboard for helping manage online identity: google.com/dashboard – Brent Writes Code Jun 17 '11 at 17:32
20

Look at the top of the cached page:

Google Cache Result

There are still old links to your profile page floating around.

10

One of the main factors that may still be linking your real name to your new user page (new since the username slug is a part of the URL) could be Google's automatic synonym searching.

As Bobby pointed out, the cache believes "these terms only appear in links pointing to this page". However, I've tested that out before and I don't believe that's the whole story. It actually seems to be Google's canned message for any terms that were only indirectly related to the results page, including but not limited to links pointing to the page.

As seen from this announcement on the Google blog, Google has started executing searches based on related words automatically:

Understanding queries: It is critical that we understand what our users are looking for (beyond just the few words in their query). We have made several notable advances in this area including a best-in-class spelling suggestion system, an advanced synonyms system, and a very strong concept analysis system.

This synonym searching is both dynamic and contextual, in that it learns as it crawls, and relates terms based on the context they are found in.

So the fact that you recently changed your username probably means that Google has a fairly good guess that Your Real Name is strongly associated with sgusc or with your ID (in the URL, which didn't change) or possibly even multiple data points on the page (many links which have only ever appeared to Google on your page — your specific questions and answers, for example, since each link includes the ID of the post you actually made, not just the whole question ID).

  • 1
    Interesting thought. I wonder if there's a good way to break that association or if another username change might do it. I'll play around and get back to you. – Brent Writes Code May 5 '11 at 16:02
  • 1
    Good detailed answer, +1 @sgusc I assume this will probably go away automatically over time - "probably" because I'm not sure about your name that will be in the old profile links... But I can't imagine them having that much effect – Pëkka May 5 '11 at 16:02
  • 3
    Actually, I think there's even more to it than this. In the past, my name erroneously appeared in a news article that had nothing to do with me; Google of course picked up and indexed the article and searches upon my name returned that page. I quickly contacted the media outlet and had my name removed; I also requested that Google remove my name from its index of the page. However, even though nothing else in the page has anything to do with me and nothing else in Google's index links to that particular page, searches on my name continue to bring it up as a result. Quite disturbing, really. – eggyal May 5 '11 at 16:17

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .