If a negative news article or review about you or your brand is published and begins to rank in Google search results, your first instinct is to want it removed. But is it possible to have content removed from Google? Technically yes, but only in very limited circumstances, of which content like negative reviews are not included. The information Google can remove from search includes the following:
- Images of child sexual abuse
- Copyright infringements and other illegal content
- Sensitive personal information such as SSNs, bank account numbers, or nude photos shared without consent
Essentially, Google will likely only remove content that violates their policies, copyright, or the law, or presents a risk of harm, identity or financial theft.
Google’s Content Removal Guidelines
The process for removing content from the search results depends on which category the content falls into, starting with whether or not you control the content in question.
If you control the webpage, Google reiterates that you’ll need to do more than remove the content from search results in order to prevent others from sharing the link or directing users to the content in other ways. This process includes things like password-protecting or deleting files altogether.
If you don’t control the webpage, your options include the following:
- If the content no longer exists, remove cached versions by using Google’s remove outdated content tool.
- If the content is published on a Google-owned platform, use the Google removal troubleshooter.
- If the content exists elsewhere, you can contact the publisher. We don’t recommend this step without proper guidance from an expert team.
Removing Negative Content To Protect Your Online Reputation
In the case of negative articles or reviews, the only true, effective, and appropriate option is to decrease visibility to those pages, pushing them out of view and deeper in the search results through various online reputation management strategies. This activity should only be undertaken by a reputable firm that specializes in reputation management.
In response to requests to remove this kind of content, Google issued the following statement:
“Remember that the Internet is a big place, and you might not like or agree with everything that you see. Google’s goal is to identify what information from the web is relevant to users’ queries, not to determine whether that material is in some sense wrongful.”
Whether or not the content you want removed from the web falls within Google’s removal parameters, you should only move forward with any kind of countermeasure under a carefully planned reputation management strategy.