Google Autocomplete – What Does it Say About You?

Google Autocomplete is the internet equivalent of the crystal ball, attempting to predict what you will search before you’ve even typed the words. It can correct misspellings and save time, but it can also mislead us when we accidently hit enter for a search we never intended to make. Alternatively, it may simply offer an amusing reference to the latest trending topic on the internet.


Autocomplete was revolutionary when it was first imagined by Keven Gibbs in 2004, allegedly while he was riding a Google shuttle bus, but at this point it’s been around for so long we are almost used to the way it attempts to read our minds.  Google began experimenting with search suggestions almost immediately, and by 2008 they were offered as the regular default setting. In 2010, Google Instant Search made everything automatic so that just typing a word into the search bar brings up a list of potential topics.

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The Power of Suggestion

Google isn’t the only search engine to offer suggestions, but with such a huge number of users, it is by far the most influential. Autocomplete suggestions can go beyond being helpful, annoying, or merely funny, to have a real effect on internet traffic. Google’s suggestion list fluctuates based on the topics and searches that are currently most popular. If many people typing the word ‘reputation’ go on to visit the Reputation Defender website, this can easily become a Google Autocomplete suggestion, increasing the chances that even more people will follow the same path. Someone who might have been intending to search ‘reputation damage’ for instance may be drawn to visit our site and learn more about our services. On the other hand, if a company’s reputation goes under fire, and a lot of people are tracking down the same negative story, the brand name can quickly become associated with terms like ‘incident’, or ‘scandal’ on autocomplete. This means the bad result will attract even more attention.

Google doesn’t pull up the same Autocomplete list for everyone. Depending on where you live, you may get suggestions for the UK or for specific companies based in your area. Prior search history also plays a factor. If you recently searched for ‘reputation management companies’, you’re likely to get suggestions based on the sites you visited. And of course, with your browser set to English, you’ll see search suggestions and results in English, while someone interacting in another language would see a completely different set of suggestions.

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Autocomplete and Online Reputation

Autocomplete is an important factor in for both personal and professional online reputation management. Bad autocomplete suggestions won’t look good to an HR recruiter googling your CV and they can hurt your chances of being called to interview, even if they’re not actually about you but about someone else with a similar name. Companies that see their reputation issues reflected in autocomplete are less likely to rebound from the problem and may even find themselves at the beginning of a downward spiral.

On the flip side, a positive Autocomplete suggestion can do a lot to boost your reputation. If someone running a general search is prompted with the company name, it adds authority to the brand and increases the chances that casual researchers will convert to regular customers. Future bosses who see a job title or a work related topic as soon as they type your name into the search bar are more likely to consider you for a high-level position. Companies that appear on location specific searches have a better chance of attracting customers who live in that particular area.

Get Control of Autocomplete

If you find that Google is completing your target searches with negative words and phrases, it’s important to do something about it. These associations aren’t inevitable, they are the result of specific algorithms and how they read and rate the available data. Autocomplete taps the internet’s collective consciousness to pull up topics that are on the minds of the highest number of people at any given time in any given area, but like any AI it is capable of misinterpreting these associations.

Even Google admits search suggestions aren’t perfect. Company policy specifically prohibits any predictions that are sexually explicit, violent, vulgar, or express hate toward a group of people based on religion, ethnicity, gender identity, disability etc. If you feel the negative suggestion falls into one of these categories, you should report it immediately to Google. However the majority of Autocomplete suggestions are unflattering rather than inappropriate, and these will require a more indirect approach.


At Reputation Defender, we work with our clients to positively influence search suggestions and results so that researchers aren’t automatically prompted to revisit your worst moments online. We do this by creating and optimising unique positive content so that it attracts enough organic traffic to appear relevant to Google’s algorithms. Algorithms can’t directly be changed, but they can be influenced to promote content that would otherwise be overlooked. 

If negative Autocomplete suggestions are hurting your reputation, visit our website or contact one of our experts to learn how Reputation Defender can help.

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Posted on 04 September 2017 by Tony McChrystal