No Goats

No Goats

This is a question we received at the Spokane Ask Me Anything sponsored by the Inland Northwest National Association of Women Business Owners held June 12, 2014.

SpokaneAMA: How do you eliminate an old website that you no longer want to show in searches?

Eliminating an old website is both easy and hard.

It’s easy in that all you have to do is go to the hosting service and delete the files that make up the website. If the files aren’t there, they can’t be indexed by search engines – think Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. – and therefore they won’t be included in future search results.

The really bad news is that nothing is ever forgotten on the internet. That’s because:

  1. Browser and servers will “cache” web pages on a user’s computer in order to provide faster response times. When you click on a link to a web page that you’ve visited before, you often get the cached version rather that the latest and greatest version. That’s why you should press the F5 button at the top of your keyboard – it forces your browser to go get the actual web page – but few people ever do bother.
  2. When other people share your webpage, they can create copies which will exist even though you have deleted the original web page. These pages can still be found by the search engines and – guess what? – They will be available to be seen.

So, let’s say that you want to prevent everyone – including the recruiter who’s considering you for that executive position – from seeing you doing illicit things with a goat which you posted on your Facebook account as a drunken teenage. What should you do?

  1. Delete the post or web page as soon as possible.
  2. Develop a good cover story that your account was hacked and some malicious person PhotoShopped you into that degrading picture. (This won’t work if there are too many witnesses or you’re Anthony Weiner and you keep posting pictures of you-know-what.)
  3. Develop a list of words that someone might use in a search engine to find the web page or post that you don’t want people to find.
  4. Post or put up web pages that use the list of words in #3 – basically you want to flood the internet with enough material that the picture with the goat won’t show up on the first page of Google – most people never go beyond the first page. If they don’t see it, it doesn’t exist.  Note: If you are a politician, forget it. Your opponents will find the one picture you hope no one ever sees again and plaster it on all their campaign literature.
  5. Develop a thick skin. At some point, someone will find a link, copy or description of what you want no one to know about. That’s a good time to evoke step #2, or just pass it off as a folly of youth and you’ve learned from the experience – then change the topic of conversation.


A physicist by trade, author by choice, a born teacher, a retired veteran, and an adamant problem solver, Frank has helped the White House, federal agencies, military offices, historical museums, manufacturers, and over 250 technology startups get stuff done, communicate effectively, and find practical solutions that work for them. In his spare time, he makes sawdust and watches Godzilla movies.