Industry“Googlewash” Is Googlewashed by Online Reputation Defenders

"Googlewash" Is Googlewashed by Online Reputation Defenders


Googlewashing is now the domain of live nude girls.

SEO PR and online reputation management companies officially co-opted the word “Googlewashing” today with the help of KUSA, a Denver NBC TV station. Yesterday the local news affiliate broadcast a story about “cleaning up negative information on the Internet.”

The story on embarassing photos and digital dirt resurrected the googlewash meme. Googlewashing now appears to be the domain of online reputation management companies like, and that charge to clean up your digital dirt.

Why else did googlewashing become such a hot topic on the day William F. Buckley Jr. died?

KUSA’s report and Web site video features nude and topless young women (covered by black bars for TV and Web audiences). No doubt that sent viewers racing to the search engines – and spawned follow-up stories at other local TV Web sites and blogs.

Googlewashing started as a threat to free speech and not a solution to personal indiscretions.

Andrew Orlovski of The Register UK coined “googlewash” from the word “greenwash” – a spot of paint that “transforms” something rotten into something new. The reality? Nothing’s changed.

The phrase that spurred Orlovski’s imagination originated almost five years ago to the day (Feb 17, 2003). Patrick Tyler in a front page story in the New York Times wrote that global anti-war protests had become “the second superpower.” Yet within 42 days, a small group of A-List tech bloggers had co-opted the phrase to mean something much more benign, pushing the anti-war slogan in the Times story further down in Google rankings.

That led Orlovski to realize Google had been “gamed” – and, he noted, the English language perverted – by the power of inbound links. The “meaning” of the phrase “second superpowers” had changed almost instantly.

Googlewashing soon morphed into googlebombing. The famous “miserable failure” ranking for President Bush (since eliminated by Google). Marissa Mayer responded to the controversy on the Official Google Blog in September of 2005 in her post “Googlebombing failure.”

Only months later Brian Livingston blogged Googlewashing’ Makes Your Site Invisible.

Livingston changed googlewash to mean the practice of scraping and stealing Web content on another blog. The result? Duplicate content appearing above your own.

He called it an example of “Googlewashing” — a term that combines Google and brainwashing.

In the ultimate irony, former war correspondent Kevin Sites, recently did a report on googlewashing: not for its Orwellian role in the anti-war movement but in a multimedia profile for Yahoo News of paid search advertiser


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