Why We’re Over Michael Phelps’ Rebel Days

I decided to do a little detective work for this post, which is really the only option when analyzing how a celebrity masks bad publicity on a search engine. I’m talking reputation management; a sneaky, yet overly effective method of sweeping personal debris under the rug (eg. page 6 of results).

I’m picking on Olympic champion, Michael Phelps because of this absurd picture from 2009. Who can forget the Olympic marijuana user? Search engines.


Search Michael Phelps on Google and the page one results include his Website, Facebook, Wikipedia, Twitter and a Wall Street Journal article about the “Michael Phelps diet” from 2008. Skip to page two and you’ll see more positive press. If marijuana is mentioned, it’s a minimal part of the story. At some point, the story shoots upward with paragraphs on the wonderful things he’s doing now. Finally, the check out the images that appear in the search:


And compare that to the search “Michael Phelps drugs”


If it isn’t obvious already, this search is where all the bad stuff is hiding. That’s how reputation management works. Phelps has tons of bad publicity on the internet and his marketing team keeps it under wraps by using SEO techniques to boost his social media, personal profile pages and positive news articles to the top of results. Who cares about Phelps’ scandals when they see riveting pictures of an athlete swimmer anyway?


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