Google and the world wide web have become a way of life. It’s the way we search for information and interact with others. So, when we find false personal information or damaging content from within the Google search results, it can be devastating.
It’s clear that if we’ve found it, then others can also see these negative results. Thankfully, there are situations when you can request that unwanted content is removed from the Google index and so from the search engine results.
You should be aware, however, that those situations are pretty specific. Your unwanted search results may not fail into the criteria to remove content from Google. In this case, thankfully, there are several other tactics that can be used to suppress negative search results.
A professional online reputation management service will make recommendations to help you get the results you need and get your online reputation back on track.
Why would I want to remove something from Google?
There tend to be three underlying reasons for people to need unwanted search results removed from Google.
1. To remove damaging aspects of your past
It’s an inevitable part of life that as we get older, our views and opinions change. We may develop a very different outlook on life and look back on turbulent years with a little embarrassment or even shame.
However, the world that we now live in can mean that every action, whether good or bad, is posted for posterity on a site such as Facebook or on a personal blog. A bad search result on Google can cause us problems for years to come.
2. To remove information that’s false or personal
Then comes the issue that personal data can be easily accessible on the internet. From banking information that can lead to financial fraud through to personal information that increases the risk of identity theft.
When criminals can find this information from Google searches, it can cause significant problems, not to mention financial harm, for the individual.
3. To remove damaging information about a business
Whether it’s negative reviews, vindictive ex-employees, or jealous competitors, when damaging information is posted about your business, the impact can be devastating. The challenge with this type of negative content from Google search results is that they tend not to act on removal requests when it relates to something like bad reviews.
There are, however, other strategies open to the business owner that allows them to reduce the impact of negative content.
What is online reputation?
Online reputation is the ability of someone to be found online through a search engine such as Google. An individual’s online presence can be affected by positive or negative content that’s posted on blogs, forums or a social networking site. That can include information that the individual has posted on a site such as their social media profiles.
With over one billion websites on the internet, it can become difficult for people to find a single site that provides a source of accurate information. That means that most people check out multiple other sites, using tools such as Google, when researching companies and individuals.
As a result, that negative information from many years ago or content that’s no longer relevant can still sit on a site, waiting for someone to carry out a search and find it.
How do the results from search engines affect your online reputation?
Imagine that you’re recruiting for a new member of staff for your company. It looks as if you’ve found the perfect employee. Then you check their profile on Facebook. Scanning through their recent posts, you find scathing comments about the business that they currently work for.
Then you enter their name into the search engines. The Google search results show an online article that could be considered to be sexist.
Now you need to decide if you’re prepared to accept the risks that might come from this person joining your company.
So, you can see how comments made after a stressful day at work can cause problems. As for the dubious content made in jest, well, they can really come back and bite you, even if it’s now outdated content.
And, it’s not just employment that can be affected. It could also be convincing a company to give you the tenancy to a new home, starting a new personal relationship or just the ability to feel comfortable with your online reputation.
How are Google search results decided?
Google state that the purpose of their search engine is to ‘provide the most relevant and useful results for users.’ When you enter a query, Google chooses how to rank pages using hundreds of factors (known as signals) and then present you with the search engine results.
The Google algorithm considers over 200 signals when determining a page’s ranking. It’s important to know that the exact calculation Google uses, as with other search engines, isn’t static.
Generally, the more reputable the site is, the higher it will rank in search engine results because it is viewed as a credible and reliable source of information by the search engine.
However, it’s worth knowing that it might also be that the owner of the website is an expert in manipulating search engine optimisation that then results in that coveted page one result.
Some of the key signals, according to Google are:
How relevant is the page to the user’s query? This depends on how well the page answers the user’s specific question in a way that is useful to them.
How authoritative (or reputable, trustworthy, etc.) is the source of information? Google determines authority by analysing the websites linking to the particular page.
When was the page published or last updated? Sites that are regularly updated are considered more relevant and so appear higher in the search results.
4) Local relevance
Does the page contain content about an area local to where the users are? This factor means that Google considers location as well as language preferences set in users’ browsers. After all, you wouldn’t want to see search results full of sites for plumbers, for example, all from a different country!
5) Authoritative citations
Are there other reliable sources that link to this page? There are many ways for a third party to cite your content: news articles, academic papers, blog posts, forum discussions, and more.
6) Page quality
How well written is the content on the page? Are there spelling or grammatical errors? Is the content tightly focused on keywords or is it spammy with a lot of unrelated text?
7) The site’s reputation for users in your location
If people like you were looking at the page on a particular site, how often would they click on a link to get there? This is based on user experience analysing millions of Google’s search results,
When users search for your product or service, what page would they want to see? This is based on the user’s history.
Making a removal request with Google
Before we get into the details, it seems a good time to remind you going through the removal process removes the link to the offending website from Google’s index. That means that the unwanted content is still on the website, but it’s no longer presented within the Google search results.
In the case of data such as bank account or credit card numbers where it is essential to remove the personal information from the internet then it’s also important to request the removal of the information from the website itself.
Criteria for a personal removal request
When you contact Google to make a website removal request, they review the impact of the negative content or personal information appearing in their search results.
To do this, Google consider whether the request falls into one of the following scenarios:
1. Removal of links to pages showing non-consensual explicit or intimate personal images
2. Removing links to involuntary fake pornography
3. Remove search results about a person, where exploitative removal practices are being used
4. Remove search results that provide unauthorised financial, medical and national ID information
5. Remove links to content that shows contact information with an intention to cause harm
The url to notify Google of your request can be found here.
There are other situations in which Google removes content for specific legal reasons. These include, for example, violation of copyright laws such as the DMCA, which is a 1998 United States law, and child sexual abuse imagery.
The link to make legal requests to remove urls from Google can be found here.
Other Solutions to removing content from Google
If it seems as though your situation isn’t covered by the options offered by Google, there are other methods that can be used to remove content from the web.
Make the page invisible to Google
There may be situations where you want to publish content on the internet but not want it to be listed in the Google search results. This could also be a compromise solution when requesting that a website remove personal information from an article.
This is done by adding a noindex tag to the header of the HTML code on the offending pages. This tag tells the search engines, such as Google, not to crawl the page. The removal of the content from the Google search results usually takes around two weeks
Suppress negative content
Pushing the negative content deeper within the search engine results can be one way of preventing people from seeing the detail. This can be a good solution to bad reviews and negative content.
This approach means publishing positive information to replace outdated negative content. Then with the application of search engine optimisation techniques, work commences getting the new content onto the first page of the Google search results.
Contact the website owner
Sometimes it can be as simple as contacting the website owner to request removal of the content. You’ll usually find that the site has a link to contact us details from their first page.
Contact the hosting company
There may be situations when the owner of the website doesn’t respond to your request or refuses to completely remove content from their site. The next option is to then contact the hosting company for the website.
As the company providing the system to allow the website to appear on the internet they do have some responsibility for the info
Sometimes a situation gets to a point where you have to resort to a court order to rule that unlawful search results or content is being shown in the search results. You can then submit the order to Google for it be actioned.
As a legal matter and signed by a Judge, this should then result in a quick response from Google to remove content from the results.
Reputation management is no longer the preserve of the famous. It’s something that now affects every single person, even if they’re not active internet users. From outdated content to financial data, information from Google searches can have a serious impact on our day-to-day levels and can cause immense stress.
The good news is that removing content from Google search results is possible. But don’t forget the information from other pages across the web that may result in a negative influence on how you’re being perceived.
Seeking out the services of an experienced reputation management company could mean that those negative results and damaging content, quite simply, no longer exists.
An experienced digital PR, marketing and social media marketing strategist, Claire leads PR strategy and delivery at Igniyte across multiple countries and sectors.
With 16 years’ experience in marketing, communications and PR, she seamlessly directs all elements of B2B and B2C online PR to gain high-ranking positive coverage for our clients in regional, national, international and specialist online media – and she helps ensure that any risks are managed and mitigated.