One of the most common questions we hear is: “How do I get something removed from Google Search?” Whether someone published personal information about your life, sensitive data about your business, or negative content that distorts the truth, it’s crucial to know when removal is warranted. In some instances you have the power to remove search results from Google. But, it’s more often the case that you’ll need help from an online reputation management company to deal with unwanted Google results.
But, to be honest, it isn’t easy to remove search results from Google. In fact, there are only a few instances when that’s even possible, and we’ll cover those shortly. In most cases, the best way to remove negative information is to reposition it in your Google search results.
People are 5X more likely to read content on page one than on page two.
How search results impact your online reputation
According to an Advanced Web Ranking study, the first ten search results receive 84.8 percent of the total clicks. What’s worse, negative headlines perform 63 percent better than positive ones. Therefore, if negative content ranks in your top 10 search results, people are likely to read it.
What does that mean for you?
If you’re an executive or CEO, bad press could affect your credibility, business relationships, compensation package, advancement opportunities, and even your company. Further, a damaged corporate reputation impacts market capitalization, hiring, sales, and revenue.
Beyond reputation, leaked personal information like company passwords can pose a serious security risk for your business.
Types of search results you should remove
When you Google your name or the name of your business, you’re likely to find thousands of pieces of content. Ideally, your results would yield positive reviews and trust-promoting stories about you and your brand. But, if negative information or unwanted content floats to the top of these results, it can have devastating consequences.
What types of unfavorable search results are people most concerned about?
Removing personal information
When you’re a prominent public figure like a CEO, a board member or a philanthropist, publishers frequently mention your name online. Sometimes these mentions reveal sensitive personal information that you’d prefer to keep private. When the wrong information becomes public, your identity, your finances and your personal security are vulnerable.
Dealing with negative articles
News articles about product recalls, executive behavior, or unfavorable working conditions — these are just a few examples of news stories that can dominate your search landscape and drive away customers. Viral news cycles hit fast, and they can work their way to the top of the search results just as quickly. What’s worse, they can linger for years, impacting brand perception and revenue.
A new commissioned study from Forrester Consulting uncovered some intriguing reputation management statistics. For instance, data breaches, product recalls, and negative reviews are the top three incidents of reputational damage experienced in the past year. When these events are picked up by the press, they can leave a lasting scar on your online reputation. Read the full study here.
Handling unfavorable reviews or comparisons
Bad customer reviews and employee complaints pose a significant reputational risk to brands. Most review websites rank on the first page of Google for branded queries. As a result, they can rob you of conversion-ready customers.
Furthermore, influential industry websites may publish side by side comparisons that favor your competition. In fact, those reviews might even be sponsored posts masquerading as editorial content!
We wrote a series of posts to help you take action to clean up bad reviews:
5 Ways to remove search results from Google
Bear in mind that it’s nearly impossible to completely remove something from the internet because there are just too many variables. However, for the sake of being thorough, we’ll cover each method below.
1. Remove content from websites
The content removal process can be complex when dealing directly with a publisher. Your first instinct may be to contact the blogger or author of the piece. However, this isn’t always possible to do. Some review writers write under assumed names, or the author’s contact information might not be listed. The next step, if you can’t contact the writer, is to contact the publisher of the content you’re trying to get removed.
When it’s possible
Removing content from Google search by contacting the publisher usually only works when dealing with smaller websites and blogs. Since one person does the writing, editing and publishing, it may be easier to convince them to delete unfavorable content and personal information.
Conversely, larger sites have huge editorial departments and they often employ freelance writers. Additionally, their webmasters typically receive hundreds of requests to remove information. So, it’s extremely unlikely you’ll even get a response.
How to do it
You’re going to want to proceed with caution if you plan to contact any publishers. You should seek professional advice before you reach out so you don’t make your situation worse. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:
- Be courteous and polite
- NEVER bully people with legal threats.
- Understand that most website owners and publishers may not be sympathetic to your request — especially if the content drives traffic to their site.
If the publisher removes the content, go to step 2.
If they refuse, it’s not advisable to contact them again. Instead, jump to step 3.
2. Remove search results from Google’s index
Congratulations! You successfully convinced the publisher to remove your personal information from their content. Or even better, they removed the URL from their website. However, before you celebrate, you may need to take one more step.
If you search your keywords in Google, you may find that the deleted content is still in your search results. How is that possible? That’s because Google isn’t the internet; it simply stores information about what’s online in its index. Each time Google crawls a URL, it updates that index. If the content was removed from a website, Google won’t know about it until the next time it crawls that URL. As a result, it will continue showing the information from it’s last visit to that page.
And if Google doesn’t recrawl that page for months, the content will continue to show up in your search results. So, here’s how to get something removed from Google if it no longer exists on the internet.
When it’s possible
If a URL was deleted, or the content was removed, you can notify Google of the change. They will investigate and update their index, effectively purging your information from the internet — unless it was scraped and published elsewhere.
How to do it
Deleted search results can be removed from Google with the remove outdated content tool. This tool is primarily used when the snippet of information about a site that appears in the Google search results does not match the current site content. It’s also useful if the webmaster removed the URL, but it still appears in Google’s index.
Remember, Google will not remove content that still exists online — unless it qualifies under as sensitive personal information. On to step three!
3. Remove personal information from from Google
There is truly only one absolute way to remove unwanted Google search results from the internet, and that’s to have the results completely wiped from the Google index. The Google index keeps information about all of the webpages on the search engine.
When it’s possible
Google will only remove information if it poses a real risk of financial harm, identity theft, or other types of injury. Mostly, the list includes highly-sensitive private information and personal information. Here are a few examples of the types of content Google will remove from your search results:
- Social Security Number
- Bank account or credit card numbers
- Confidential or personal medical records
- Photos of signatures
- Nude or sexually explicit images
How to do it
If your issue falls into one of these categories, you can use a simple tool to remove personal information from Google. Follow the steps here to submit your removal request.
4. Use DMCA laws and legal requests
In rare cases — usually pertaining to images — you may be able to request removal based on copyright laws or legal violations.
When it’s possible
You must be able to prove that you own the rights to the material in question, or that it violates the law. Obviously this method only works in very specific scenarios that doesn’t apply to most people looking to remove search results from Google.
How to do it
As you’re probably beginning to see, removing search results from Google can take a ton of effort and expertise. If you tried the steps above without success, it’s time to use online reputation management. And that brings us to step five.
5. Suppress negative search results with reputation management
Reputation management is often the only way to effectively remove unwanted content from the first page of your search results. Unfortunately, people often confuse ORM and SEO due to complex pricing models and a general lack of transparency in the industry.
To put it simply, ORM companies don’t use negative SEO or hacking attacks to suppress unwanted search results. Instead, we create preferred content and then promote it through SEO which repositions undesirable links. You can learn more about the process from this article: how to push down negative search results.
When it’s possible
It’s always possible to remove unwanted search results from Google’s first page if you work with the right company. However, some content — such as a high-profile story on an authoritative website — is much more difficult to move.
In those scenarios, it’s vital to avoid low-budget firms that cut corners and outsource projects to untrusted freelancers. Those businesses introduce massive risk to high-profile individuals and Fortune 500 companies. Instead, partner with a company like us who understands risk and remains in compliance with Google’s guidelines.
Learn more about our online reputation management services.
How we do it
It’s important to note that we customize our reputation recovery strategies for each client. So, while we often draw from trusted tactics to bury search results in Google, the list below isn’t a complete strategy. Further, many of these tactics require enterprise-level scalability to be truly effective.
We use a multi-step process to reposition unwanted search results, by promoting positive, brand-endearing results to the first page of Google. As always, there’s a right way and a wrong to do reputation management. The right way is to reinforce your preferred narrative. The wrong way is to create a smokescreen of duplicate identities that confuse Google and degrades your true identity.
Some of the online reputation repair tactics we use include:
- Setting up social media profiles
- Maintaining active accounts
- Setting up a domain in your name
- Starting up a blog
- Optimizing your content
- Earning brand mentions
- Showcasing your expertise
- Monitoring for trouble
There are many more steps in brand reputation management. But, as you can see it takes a very strategic approach to get the job done.
Why removing Google search results is difficult
Some firms claim they can completely remove unwanted Google search results in less than one month. They may even advertise a money-back guarantee. Don’t fall for that line. Firms that promise quick wins often rely upon legal scare tactics and short-term black hat SEO tricks that won’t last. And they certainly won’t be effective against major news outlets like “The New York Times” or syndicated networks.
Want the truth?
It’s incredibly difficult to completely get something removed from Google. In fact, there are only a few rare instances in which that’s even possible. In almost every case, the only viable approach is to reposition unfavorable search results in Google where people won’t find them.
It takes time to remove Google search results – start now
The longer you wait to remove search results from Google, the worse things can get.
Your customers and business partners turn to Google when they research you or your company. Our objective is to ensure they find the favorable narrative you’ve earned.
We view reputation management as a lasting partnership to secure your legacy, and we take that responsibility very seriously.