Sadly, Google doesn’t care when or where pictures were originally posted, or even who posted them. The search engine’s only function is to return the most relevant content in its index based on search queries. That includes videos, articles, comments, social media posts and images — whether positive or negative.
What’s worse, anyone searching your name can easily see these negative images, including employers, colleagues, or business partners.
Just one damaging image can have far-reaching impact. A negative picture of a brand can become a viral meme that tarnishes your reputation and affects revenue. Executives can lose credibility and respect over a single photo, or perhaps even their jobs.
The bad news is that it’s difficult and labor intensive to remove an image from Google. Once posted, photos are nearly impossible to contain. However, there are some steps you can take to delete visual content from Google. And if that doesn’t work, you can still attempt to bury negative image results.
Read on as we explain how to remove an image from Google search results and rebuild your online reputation.
Tips to Remove Images from the Internet
Most people assume it’s easy to delete photos from the internet if you know what you’re doing. In reality, many websites scrape content from other sources, and these sites rarely display any contact information. But even if you know who to contact, the website owner may be unresponsive to your request. Of course you could file a defamation lawsuit, but this could cause even more negative content to surface online.
Remove photos you own from the internet
Sometimes things get out of control and photos spread a little faster than you expected them to. Maybe you’ve forgotten exactly where you posted the embarrassing photo, or you weren’t even the one who posted it.
Often, removing the photo is as simple as logging in to your website, social media profile, or other service where you posted the photo and deleting it. It may take some time for Google to de-index the image, but eventually, it will disappear. If you’ve removed all instances and Google is still returning it in your search results, then read our article about how to remove content from Google.
Remove pictures you don’t own from Google
It’s significantly more difficult to erase photos that you didn’t post online. If you know the person who took the photo, you can simply request that they remove it.
The best approach is to politely request that the photo be removed, and take further steps if necessary. You may have to get tough if websites stole your photos or used them without your permission.
Get help removing images from Google
Under certain circumstances, Google will help you remove photos from search results. While this isn’t the same as removing a photo from the internet, it still helps to minimize exposure of the image. View Google’s Removal Policies to find out more about the situations in which Google will remove content. In most cases, copyright infringement, revenge porn and sensitive personal information fall under this umbrella.
Also, Google offers a filtered Safe Search that keeps pornography and other offensive images out of some search results. If the photo you want removed qualifies as pornographic or offensive, you can have it removed from the filtered search results by reporting it as offensive.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act may be able to help you get photos taken down from a site. Of course, this only applies if you are the photographer and copyright holder of the photo.
Photos Live Forever Online, but Not On Google
Even if you’re ultimately able to get a photo removed from the Internet, remember that it’s never really gone. The photo may have been cached by Google or saved on the Wayback Machine (yes, it’s a real thing). It is technically still possible to find embarrassing photos that you’ve had removed. However, most people searching for your reputation will not be persistent or knowledgeable enough to find it, so removal is typically an effective option.
Still, it’s something to keep in mind next time you pose for a photo with a drink in your hand.
If you’re able to have an image successfully removed from the Internet, you can help speed up the process of removal on Google by using Google’s Remove Outdated Content tool. This tool allows you to tell Google when an image is removed from a website and let them know it should not longer appear in search results.
How to Bury a Photo in Google Image Results
Just like negative links, if you can’t get images removed, it’s best to simply bury them. That means the image will still exist on Google and the internet, but it will be pushed so far down on image search results that most people searching for you simply won’t see it. The basic strategy is to share and spread enough good images related to your name that hardly anyone can see the bad images you’d like to erase.
Sign up for social media profiles
Google loves to crawl public images from social media, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Flickr. Pinterest and Instagram can be particularly useful for getting your photo out there. Upload multiple photos of yourself that you’d like to be related to your name, and be sure to change any settings that might keep the photos private or otherwise restrict them from Google.
Get your own website or blog
Invest less than $10 on your own domain name with your full name on it, and you can add photos that will end up on Google search results. Buy a domain name, develop a blog or website, and be sure to add photos that have your name in the file as well as the alt tags. It’s best if your domain includes your full name.
Post on multiple websites
If you have the opportunity to guest post or develop a column, take it, and be sure to offer your head shot to go along with your bio for each post. You can even use your photo as a profile image for discussion boards. Of course, you should be careful about what you post, especially if you’re using your real name.
Be sure that images stand out
While a striking image may not help you rank the photo better in search results, it is likely to get more attention — and may even distract searchers from other images you’d rather they not see. Consider using a professional photographer to take a series of great head shots for you that will help you stand out.
Ultimately, you may never be able to have a negative photo removed from Google. But with persistence, it is possible to mitigate the damage. In the future, be careful about taking, posting, and sharing images of yourself that might be questionable or offensive, and monitor your reputation to prevent serious damage to your reputation and livelihood.
How to Choose a Reputation Management Service
Learn everything you need to know to choose the right ORM firm for your needs.
Expert Guide to Online Reputation Management
Learn how ORM works and get expert tips to strengthen your online reputation.
How to Remove Negative Search Results from Google
We explain how to remove content from Google, and what to do if you can’t.