If you experience a reputational crisis, you may find yourself asking “is it possible to remove my name from a Google search?” Instead of attempting to gag search engines such as Google, it is advisable to focus on implementing an online reputation management strategy, in order to help improve your reputation online.

Gagging the papers

Current affairs outlet The Huffington Post reported recently, that a world famous British couple attempted to gag the press. A celebrity, referred to as “PJS,” engaged in an extramarital affair with someone referred to as “AB”. News of the affair reached the English press and they intended to publish the details to the world.

In response, PJS and his equally famous partner, referred to as “YMA,” launched a privacy injunction with the High Court to prevent the press publishing details of the affair. The High Court turned down the privacy injunction, but the couple then turned to the Court of Appeal, who then originally granted it, preventing the English press from naming the couple involved when talking about the affair.

Overturning the injunction

As such, newspapers in England and Wales were banned from naming this famous couple when reporting on this story. However, the Belfast Telegraph writes that this did not prevent US publications, as well as newspapers in countries such as Scotland and online news outlets, from reporting the names of the famous couple involved in this matter. As such, this information became widely available online, rendering the privacy injunction practically useless.

According to the BBC, the Sun on Sunday applied to the Court of Appeal to lift the injunction. The Sun on Sunday argued that since the allegations were widely reported abroad and online, the rationale used to grant the injunction was no longer relevant. Subsequently, the Court of Appeals lifted the injunction but left it in place temporarily, to give PJS time to appeal this decision to the UK Supreme Court. In other words, the fact that news of PJS’ affair leaked and spread online ensured that despite his decision to take legal action, it came to the attention of the world.

Reputation on Google

In this increasingly digitised world, the way you are perceived online matters. For instance, in Career Builder’s 2015 Social Media Recruitment Study, 52% of employers said they screen job applicants via the web, rising from 39% in 2013. Meanwhile, 37% of employers questioned said that they look at what other people post about an applicant when screening potential staff members online.

If you experience a negative reputational incident which generates press and social media content, it could rank on the first page of a Google search for your name. A study from Chitika shows that the first page of a Google search garners 92% of all traffic from an average search. Therefore, it is vital that the first page of a Google search for your name portrays you in a positive light, to ensure that you develop a positive professional reputation online.

Google removal policies

So what happens if you experience a negative reputational event? Is it possible to remove the details from a Google search for your name, to ensure it does not damage your professional reputation? You cannot control what other people type into search bars, so it is practically impossible to gag Google in most cases.

However, in some cases it may be possible to remove information from Google. The search engine will remove sensitive personal details from Google search results, as long as the parameters of your request conform to Google’s removal policies. Information Google may be willing to remove includes your name, bank account number, an image of your hand-written signature or a sexually explicit image or video of you that’s been shared online without your consent.

It may also be possible to use ‘Right to be Forgotten,’ a 2014 ruling from the European Court of Justice, to have information removed from Google searches. If you complete a Right to be Forgotten application and say why the information you wish to have removed is outdated or irrelevant, Google may honour your request. The Guardian reports that out of 218,320 requests to remove links submitted between 29th May 2014 and 23rd March 2015, 46% have been successfully delisted on individual name searches.

Manage your reputation

In other words, the grounds upon which you can have information removed from Google are narrow. If you experience a reputational crisis which generates unwanted content online, a more effective method would be to implement a comprehensive online reputation management strategy. Here, you focus on developing digital assets that will rank on the first page of a Google search for your name, replacing the unwanted content and portraying you in a positive light online.

In order to implement this strategy, focus on creating effective online profiles on social media. Make sure that you utilise suitable social media profiles, such as LinkedIn if you operate in the corporate world, so you can target the right audience. By doing this, you can create engaging content and post it on your social media profiles, presenting yourself as a thought leader in your field to the appropriate audience and cultivating a positive reputation online.

It is also advisable to encourage the creation of positive content relating to your name and/or company. Here you might want to think about investing in PR, so that your name features in online reports from news sources. These outlets are seen as trusted sources of information by Google, so these articles could potentially rank on the first page of a Google search for your name, ensuring you cultivate a positive professional image.

Develop your professional reputation

In the majority of cases, it can be hard or even impossible to gag Google. If unwanted content features in the rankings on the first page of a Google search for your name, cultivate and deploy an online reputation management strategy. By adopting this approach, you could ensure that positive content appears in Google searches for your name, allowing you to develop a positive professional reputation.