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The Roaring PJ - A Social Media Blog

How to Remove Personal Information from Google Search Results To Protect Your Privacy

Posted on by Melanie Yunk

A new Google feature allows users to remove personal information from Google search results. All it takes is a little research and a few minutes to complete an online form.

You may find it difficult to imagine, but, thanks to the Dark Web, any skilled user can buy or discover anything about anyone. Credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, bank account logins, Netflix accounts, birthdates, even health records. Not-very-nice-people can find out anything with a few clicks and the touch of a button.

Do you publish family details on Facebook or a family website? You’re vulnerable.

Did you author a paper that lives somewhere on the internet? Google could publish the author’s information associated with that publication.

Have you exchanged sensitive personal information through an instant messaging service? Those details could very well be in the possession of a hacker.

Sometimes, website owners don’t understand that what they publish could put someone in peril. They’ve innocently published information they thought would be a benefit to their visitors.

Google calls this information Personally Identifiable Information (PII).

Thanks to this new Google policy, internet users now have another tool in their arsenal to help them protect their PII.

Google announced in early May 2022 that it created a process to remove their personal information from Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

Google and other search engines have provided users in the European Union ways to remove personal information from Google to meet rules outlined in the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that took effect in 2018. Now the tech giant has made this option available to users worldwide with a new search results removal request feature.

This policy follows other processes Google has implemented to help protect internet users’ personal information.

Previously, Google offered removal of PII from its search results if the petitioner showed the release of the details could pose a health or safety risk or if the information was used for “doxxing.”

Doxxing happens when someone publishes another person’s information maliciously.

And about six months ago, Google developed a process for minors and their guardians to request removal of minors’ images from the web to protect their safety.

This new policy significantly lowers the bar for what Google deems a viable removal request, as petitioners under the new process don’t need to show any reason for their requests.

How to Request Google’s Removal of Information

The first step is to find websites that have published your personal information. Then perform a Google search to show that your details appear on a SERP. You will need the URL for both the actual site and the Google search results page. You will also need screenshots showing that your information appears on the website and the SERP.

Next, visit the Request to Remove Personal Information on Google page and start completing the form. As you click on answers, selections for the next question appear, leading you through the process.

The following screenshots show how the form looks as you complete it.

Step One: Typically, you’ll be asking for the removal of personal information you’ve already seen on a Google SERP. See Figure 1.

Step Two: Choose the statement that best fits your situation. See Figure 2.

Step Three: You need to remember that your request to remove personal information from Google will only focus on what appears on search results pages. The information will still be available on individual websites. To request a website remove your PII, you’ll need to contact the owner/webmaster of each site. Google offers tips on how to make these requests. For now, just click on “No, I prefer not to.” See Figure 3.

Step Four: Next, you will need to identify the ‌information you would like removed. See Figure 4.

Step Five: If you choose “Personal Information,” this is the screen you’ll see next. Each answer choice gives examples of the ‌personal information you can ask to be removed. Click the one that best describes your situation. See Figure 5.

NOTE: You can use the same removal request form for different PII as long as they all fit within the category that you chose in Steps 4 and 5.

Say one website has published an image of your signature and another has published your login information for your bank account. Those both fall under the PII category, and you can use the same form.

But if you request the removal of a compromising photograph as well as the settlement you made during a court case, you’ll need to use two separate forms.

Google has Help Articles that explain each type of information you can target for Google removal. Review the list below to ensure your request to remove information from Google is accurate:

Step Six: Complete the rest of the form by answering questions, including URLs for the websites and search results to which you are referring, and attaching screenshots showing the information you’d like removed.

You can list up to 1,000 websites in your request to remove information from Google if the information on each of the sites falls within the same category. Google requires a separate request for each type of information (See our note above).

When you include the URLs for the SERPs you are targeting, you’ll need to include the search terms you used to get to that SERP. Each term should be on a separate line. You can include up to 10,000 terms or lines.

Here’s a quick tip: Save a copy of your form either by printing it, saving it as a PDF or taking a screenshot before you submit it. This might be the only place you’ll have this list of the websites that have published your PII. You’ll want this list so you can run the same search request to verify that your PII has been removed from the SERP.

And remember, this process only removes your information from Google search results. You’ll still want to go back and contact each website’s webmaster to request removal of your information from the website itself.

Here’s an explanation from Google:

“Google Search shows information gathered from websites across the web. Even if we remove content from Google Search, it may still exist on the web. This means someone might still find the content on the page that hosts it, through social media, on other search engines, or other ways. Therefore, you may wish to contact the site’s webmaster and ask them to remove the content.”

After you hit “Submit,” the process drops into Google’s lap. You should get an email that confirms your request along with a link to check on your request status. Decisions usually come within days. If you have problems or questions, you can contact Google through the link they provide in your confirmation email.

How Do I Remove Outdated Information?

Google has a separate form for requests to remove outdated or incorrect information that continue to appear on search results pages.

What If Google Says “No”?

There are a few cases where Google may deny your removal request. Google calls some information “broadly useful” or part of a public record and is readily available through government, court or other official records. If Google says your information falls into one of those categories, your request will probably be denied.

If you uncover new information, you can resubmit your request.

Protecting Users

Search engines have argued that restricting information available on their results pages flies in the face of what search is all about. But it appears that when they weigh the public’s “right to know” against an individual’s “right to privacy,” the latter is more important.

Here at Roaring Pajamas, we specialize in helping your business get found. But we’re also your strongest allies when it comes to protecting your personal information. And even though it seems simple to complete all the steps for Google removal of your PII, are you ready to invest all that time into the process? Contact us today to find out how Roaring Pajamas can help you remove your personal information from Google while still promoting your business and increasing your revenue.

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How to Work From Home While Avoiding the Coronavirus

Posted on by Melanie Yunk

Do you need to learn how to work from home while sheltering in place? With the world concerned about the Coronavirus outbreak, companies, schools and businesses are sending people to work from home and self-quarantine and to learn how to work from home on their own. Until this outbreak subsides, and for the unforeseeable future, thousands of people will be working from home and exploring remote work options for the very first time. The world is focused on Coronavirus prevention tips, and my belief is that we need to do our best to remain productive while we work at home as well. I hope you’ll learn a few important tips in this article while you’re learning how to work from home.

I’ve worked as a successful Digital Standards, Social Media and SEO consultant and a small business owner for more than 20 years. Most of my work has been performed remotely in my home office. Personally, working in a fabric cubicle with artificial lighting didn’t work for me. My productivity declined and concentration was difficult. A work from home solution was my best option. So, I set up a home office, learned how to work from home and here I am, sharing my tips and tricks with you.

Currently, my home is in a community where many people who work for Facebook and Google live. Most everyone is working from home and our sidewalks are bustling with employees walking dogs while on breaks (while practicing social distancing, of course). A few people mentioned to me this week how unfocused they feel, and how working from home isn’t as fun as they imagined. I’ve found myself offering tips and advice on successfully getting the job done, and I thought it was time to share my best advice right here on the Roaring Pajamas Blog.

Top 6 tips for successfully working from home

1. Create a routine.

When you worked in an office, you had a routine, right? You woke up at a certain time of day, worked out, ate breakfast, played with the cat or walked the dog. Keep doing those activities. Don’t stop. Maybe you can adjust the schedule to get up 30 minutes later because you no longer have a commute, or you can add a meditation, house cleaning or whatever to your schedule, but make and keep a routine. Setting a routine is especially important as you are learning how to work from home. Stay disciplined during this time and in time you’ll be able to relax a bit and still remain productive.

2. Shower and get ready for work. Every. Single. Day.

I love my Roaring Pajamas. We celebrate National Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day too. But trust me. You’ll feel more professional, effective and productive if you get dressed. You don’t need to wear a suit or high heels, but you might at least get dressed in something you wouldn’t mind wearing to the grocery store when you run into a client, co-worker or boss.

3. Keep 2 to-do lists.

I always keep two task lists, one for work activities and the other list is for personal to-dos.

The reason I keep two lists is to help me separate work from my personal time during the day. I like to take frequent breaks to relax my eyes after staring at a computer screen. During those breaks, I’ll make a snack, look at my list and perhaps tackle a personal task like moving a load of laundry, picking up the mail or making a personal phone call. Knowing these personal activities are somewhat scheduled makes them okay to do during the day, and I feel less guilty and distracted.

Also, I find that creating a daily task list helps me stay on task each day. I’ve also tried the Tomato Timer to help me focus for 25 minutes at a time. The app’s awesome if you like that sort of thing.

I know this sounds obvious to many of you, but many people tell me they don’t really worry about prioritizing tasks on a daily basis. They also tell me they are easily distracted during remote work. Try my recommendation. It totally works.

4. Go outside. Often.

Sunshine is so important. I support this advice wherever one works, at home or office. Sunshine is known to lift spirits, reduce depression, improve energy and some studies claim the sun kills viruses too! If the sun is shining, take your laptop outdoors. Take a phone call on your patio. Take a noon walk.

My sunshine program includes:

– Sunrise: Breathwork, Qi Gong, sun gazing and a long walk
– Mid-day: A short walk even if just to pick up a package
– Sunset: Sungazing, meditation and a long walk

5. Cover your cameras and set up a VPN.

Seriously. Cover your cameras. Nothing rattles me more than receiving one of those emails that say they recorded me and the writer “knows what you did.” Those emails are creepy. I keep covers on my phone, laptop, tablet and external cameras. Now, when I receive one of those disturbing emails, I simply delete it knowing it’s fake.

I also like having my own VPN for increased security and peace of mind. Using a personal VPN allows an extra layer of security from hacks and man-in-the-middle attacks.

Use a company VPN, if available. Otherwise, you can sign up for one of many VPN services to help protect your data while on your home network, common area, café or other public wifi.

6. Schedule the end of your day.

I can work all day and all night on search engine optimization for our clients, but a girl’s gotta eat sooner or later. Each day, when I’m planning my activities for the day, I also plan the end of the day. During the dark days of winter, I usually step outside at sunset around 4:30 to 5 pm. In the dog days of summer, I’ll stop around 5 pm to eat dinner, then step out for sunset and a long walk. Either way, I consciously plan to end my workday. Of course, sometimes I’ll work late at night on a project. Those nights, I try to take a long break and then come back later in the evening to finish up what I need to do.

Hopefully, this post on how to work from home will help you remain productive while avoiding the Coronavirus. Working from home can be very productive and offers a lot of benefits. Try my tips to keep you focused, productive and successful while you work from home. You may also find you enjoy working from home after all the shelter in place requirements are lifted, and now you’ll know how to work from home, and you’ll have all the tools you’ll need. In the meantime, take care of yourself, boost your immune system and take heed of other Coronavirus prevention tips provided by your county health department. Do you have other tips on how to work from home? I’d love to hear them!

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How to Deal With Negative Comments on Social Media. Ignore or Engage?

Posted on by Melanie Yunk

Managing social media isn’t all fun and games and memes. You’re almost guaranteed to run into negative comments. If you’re lucky, you’ll rarely have to tangle with these thorny customers. But for most social media managers, running damage control is part and parcel of the social media game. In fact, a social media page without a few unpleasant comments looks pretty suspicious! So knowing how to gracefully handle these comments while keeping your brand’s image untarnished will make you a social media unicorn.

For the sake of your sanity, grow a thick skin if you don’t already have one! It might be tempting to fire back at a negative comment with both barrels, but it always pays to take the high road in these cases. At the same time, you don’t want to encourage someone who’s just looking to make your life miserable. Remember social media is a way to interact and impress both existing and potential customers. In fact, according to Groove, a “tool for growing small businesses that helps teams deliver personal customer support,” your business is 14x more likely to sell to an existing, happy customer than a new customer.

Clearly, the name of the game here is quality customer service!

Easier said than done, right? Well then, how do you differentiate between genuinely frustrated people and the ever-dreaded internet trolls? And once you do, how should you respond to their negative comment?

I’ve gone ahead and boiled this down into four easy-to-remember tips to make handling these comments a piece of cake.

 

 


1. Identify the type of comment.

Is the person commenting genuinely frustrated, or just trying to troll you?

Here’s an example of a complaint you might find on a restaurant’s page for a restaurant:

  • The service here was terrible! I had to ask when my dish was going to be ready at least three times, and when the food finally arrived it was lukewarm. Horrible experience, the waiter had terrible BO, would not recommend to anyone!

Yikes. This complaint is rough but it does describe a legitimate frustration.

Now for a troll comment:

  • You guys are so stupid you can’t even cook your food right. Your spicy chicken looks like roadkill and probably tastes like it too. Gross!

See the difference? The first negative comment describes a genuine frustration while the second is just mean for the sake of being mean. Online trolls who write comments like this live to abuse the internet’s “veil of anonymity” just to get a rise out of people. A good rule of thumb is to take their nasty comments with a very hefty grain of salt.

2. Respond appropriately.

Once you’ve identified the kind of comment you’re dealing with, you can decide on your battle plan. To arms!

If the commenter has a legitimate complaint, you’ll want to respond ASAP before moving the conversation offline. No matter how rude they may act, kill them with sugary sweet kindness! Responding emotionally can be tempting but only guarantees you’ll lose their business – and those they talk to – forever. Offer them a discount, a free meal, a free ticket – whatever you feel is enough to make up for their frustration.

Likewise, if the negative comment reeks of an internet troll, keep your cool! The last thing you want is for your social media followers to see you behaving unprofessionally. At the same time, you don’t want them to think of you as Big Brother for censoring too many comments. If the comment is truly vulgar or inappropriate, then by all means show them the door by blocking them. Just remember that blocking a follower is the nuclear option. You’ve got to be totally sure the comment is ugly enough to get someone blocked.

You also have the option of hiding or deleting a comment. These are much less severe ways to deal with unsavory types, but what you can do and what happens after depends on whether you’re using Instagram or Facebook.

Block someone on Instagram and unlike Facebook, their likes and comments are NOT removed from your photos and videos. You can still delete both your comments and those of others on your posts, but you can’t hide a comment on Instagram. The best you can do is report it.

Facebook is a bird of a different feather. Block someone in Zuckerbergland and your posts and comments fully vanish from their view. At the same time, their posts, comments, and likes will from your personal feed. Deleting a comment works the same as Instagram, but hiding a comment from a post on your Page does not. This keeps the comment visible to the person who wrote it as well as friends in their network.

Always remember, if nothing else you can report the comment if it doesn’t follow Facebook’s Community Standards.

They and their connected network won’t know they’ve been blocked, but their comments will be hidden from everyone else.

There are times where responding to a troll comment is better than removing them, but it’s your call to make. Let’s say someone makes a hostile comment listing out facts why your post is incorrect or inaccurate. Be the bigger person! There’s no harm in admitting they’re right, fixing the error and moving on. This both preserves your professional image and avoids making you look like an authoritarian censor.

3. Have a social media commenting policy in place.

Surprise! Most businesses don’t have a policy for how people should interact on their social media page. A real shame, because a commenting policy makes handling inappropriate comments including foul language or racism much easier. If you want to remove a nasty comment from an internet troll, you can cite your policy and be done with the matter. Easy peasy.

4. Sometimes the best answer is no answer at all.

Time for a little social media zen. Not every negative comment is worth responding to. In fact, doing so can actually set the person off and make the situation worse.

Comments like “Love your yoga pants but so-and-so’s are so much better” or “I’d never buy a book from your store” are too vague to be worth addressing. These are often from people who just want to express themselves and aren’t really looking for a solution. People like this are only interested in venting their frustration, so let them vent. No harm, no foul.

Remember, having a few comments like these here and there is perfectly natural! This shows you’re not policing what people say about your business. Leave them be and move on with your life.

Simple enough, right? Remember, our goal here isn’t to doctor our social media image. We want to make followers with genuine frustrations feel heard and appreciated. Most of all we want to make it right with them while staying polite, professional and on-brand. In the event of online trolls where making things right isn’t an option, knowing how to defuse the situation helps you keep your followers’ respect while clearing your posts of offensive material. And always remember – when confronted with someone’s negative comment, kill them with kindness!

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