Las Vegas resident Paul Draper does it at least once a week. So does Las Vegas resident Justin McKay. And they’re not embarrassed to admit it.
Self-Googling used to be the exclusive province of the narcissistic. But last year, according to a study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 47 percent of wired Americans reported plugging their own names into search engines at least once. That’s more than twice as many as five years earlier.
For Draper, 29, self-Googling is a business imperative. He’s the house magician for the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian, but he also freelances his services for corporate events.
"I have a person that I’ve hired to do Web site customization," he said, "so I Google (myself) weekly to make sure that she’s doing her job." (Draper insists that his site come up first in any Internet search of his name with the words "magician" or "magic.")
McKay, 27, self-Googles more out of curiosity.
"A bit ago, I saw that Mark Hamill played the role of a serial killer with my name," he said. "I was kind of sad about that."
University of Nevada, Las Vegas visiting communications professor Kate Ksobiech said self-Googling is a good idea for everyone.
"Employers definitely Google candidates that they’re interested in," she said. "So I recommend it for my students, and I make a big point of it."
As part of a mock interview exercise this semester, Ksobiech Googled her students and shocked some of them with her findings.
"There was a student who showed a picture of himself half-dressed in a weird Halloween costume," she said. "That was the first image that he had on his MySpace account."
Ksobiech said she advised the student, who hopes for a career in broadcasting, to take the image down "unless you want to be an escort."
Of course, it’s the potentially harmful information posted by others that self-Googling is meant to thwart. If your trouble is caused by a public record or newspaper or magazine article, there’s not much that can be done.
"I suggest joining volunteer efforts or organizations where you’ll be mentioned in minutes and meetings, so that those are the first things that come up," Ksobiech said, "not some wild party or your drunk driving arrest."
But you’re in luck if your reputation is muddied by a former lover, friend, co-worker, or even a complete stranger. Draper recently found himself bashed, quite colorfully, simply for endorsing a magic product the basher didn’t like. He sent a polite, though firm, e-mail.
"A lot of flamers and attackers think they can attack in the safety of their own homes without anybody reaching out and touching them," Draper said. "So most of the time, when I contact these people by e-mail, it scares the dickens out of them that someone’s actually responding to their comment."
E-mailing detractors is the tactic favored by ReputationDefender.com, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based company that specializes in online identity monitoring.
"Most people comply with an initial e-mail," said company spokesman Paul Pennelli.
If the detractor has posted anonymously, Pennelli said, an e-mail to the host of the Web site usually has the same effect. But if it doesn’t, ReputationDefender.com provides a service that it calls "moral or economic persuasion."
"We’ll actually make efforts to communicate to the advertising network," Pennelli said, "to explain to them what kind of a site is running their ads, and we’ll try to make that financial well dry up."
ReputationDefender.com charges $29.95 (on top of an initial $10 monthly monitoring fee) for each Internet deletion. If the company fails, Pennelli said, it has a "generous refund policy." If the negative comment is something the victim can live with — such as one Ksobiech once found posted about her on myprofessorsucks.com — the best advice is probably to ignore it.
"Somebody anonymously posted that I was crazy," Ksobiech said, "and it went on to describe the types of things I do in class."
"I was more amused about it than anything," she said.
Contact reporter Corey Levitan at email@example.com or (702) 383-0456.