After his recent pot smoking incident, Michael Phelps’ Google CV went from stellar to cellar. Here’s what he can do to repair the damage.

News travels faster than ever

Dan Schawbel’s interview with Ehud Furman explained that a Google CV is “the Google search results page returned for a name search”. In How Michael Phelps Screwed-up His Google Reputation in Just 24 Hours, Andy Beal reported how it was that quick for the damage to hit Michael’s Google CV.

How news impacts a Google CV

There are now three kinds of damaging information on Michael’s Google CV:

1.  Recent articles from different types of media

The news results (i.e. mainstream media), blog post results and video results for michael phelps all have links about the bong incident and subsequent arrests.

2.  Related searches

These are searches people are making on Google that are similar to the one that generated the results page itself. Among others, these are currently ”michael phelps smoking weed” and “michael phelps marijuana”.

3.  Social media profiles

Michael’s SwimRoom social profile is the 2nd result after Michael’s Wikipedia page. Many of his fans and fellow SwimRoom members are using the profile to support Michael but ironically – just like this article, I admit – their messages of encouragement and their repeating of his ‘mistake’ or ‘incident’ aren’t helping from an online reputation management point of view.

What are Michael’s options to control the damage?

In 180+ Resources and Tips To Help Manage Your Reputation Online, I explained:

Once you’ve discovered something on the Internet that could lower your chances of getting a job, there are 2 things you can do to make it disappear from the Web:

  1. Clean it up – remove or have removed any harmful content.
  2. Drown it out – create positive content that will appear first in search results, pushing any harmful content so far down search results pages that future employers aren’t likely to find it.

Keeping that in mind, here’s what Michael should do:

Let positive results bury negative results

  • The ‘recent articles’ sections on Michael’s Google CV are purely driven by the latest news about Michael. Fresh achievements, like another championship or a massive charity function, will once again fill the news feeds with positive reports about Michael. Last minute cancellations at events for companies that supported him during the bong incident is not a good start.
  • Fresh achievements will also give people other keywords to search on, filling the ‘related searches’ listing with positive associations of Michael’s name.
  • Although moderating the “harmful” comments on the SwimRoom profile might help, it’s not a good way to respect your fans or show transparency as a professional. On the other hand, giving fans some new achievement to cheer about will push the other comments further down or even off the profile homepage.


As the most decorated Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps has shown tremendous poise and mental strength. If he can rebound from his misjudgment and continue his incredible record of success, his Google CV will follow.