NYT Archives Causing Google Reputation Nightmares

    August 28, 2007

It seems the New York Times search engine optimization efforts are working well–maybe a little too well for some.

Now that more of the NYT’s archives are appearing in Google’s search results, many individuals are finding their past is catching up with them. Worse, it’s the NYT’s version of their past that contains misinformation.

People are coming forward at the rate of roughly one a day to complain that they are being embarrassed, are worried about losing or not getting jobs, or may be losing customers because of the sudden prominence of old news articles that contain errors or were never followed up.

As publishers struggle to compete with new media sources, they’re going to find more and more instances of stories that are outdated or don’t include any updates.

This leads Bryan Eisenberg to ask a few pointed questions, including:

  • Should they allow people the ability to comment on this dated material?
  • Should they allow for the editing of the archives at a later date to change what was originally published as news?
  • Should some material just be deleted and forgotten in this digital age?
  • Whose responsibility is it to monitor and influence (if possible) what the search engines say about people?

Some solutions to consider:

  • Adding a robots noindex to archive pages or just those that have received complaints.
  • Updating the original story to include the correct information.
  • Removing the story completely.

I’m sure that for every person that contacts the NYT, there are many others that are afraid they’ll open up a can of worms–maybe they still have skeletons they don’t want the NYT to dig up.

Of course, you could employ a Google reputation management campaign. Find an expert–ahem–who can help you push positive content into Google, forcing out the negative page.