Have content removed at the publisher level

If the author won't remove the content, or you think it is a bad idea to even ask, ask the webmaster or publisher of the site upon which the information lives to remove the page completely. This doesn't work on personal blogs because the webmaster, publisher, editor and author are often all the same person. But it may work on medium-sized sites like local or small town news sites.


To find the owner of a site use a Whois tool like Whois.net or DomainTools. A little research can point you to someone in charge. But sometimes that information is protected by domain privacy. If a website does not have domain privacy enabled, the name, address and phone number of the owner of a website will often be visible.

You can also check the Contact Us page of the site, or look up employees of the company that own the site using LinkedIn.com. 


When you find the right person, try modified versions of the steps outlined in the tactics to get online content removed section above.


Notice that no lawyers have been called yet. :-)


If they won't remove content, maybe they'll change it

Ask the webmaster of the site containing the information to remove the search phrases from the page. For example, if your company name is mentioned on the page and/or description of the page (in the HTML), and/or Title of the page (also HTML), the webmaster can change the words so your company name no longer exists on the page.

Here is an of the "change keywords" tactic: Let's say you own a company called.... oh, let's call it "Enron." And a local publisher writes a story with the headline "Enron CEO Caught Juggling Kittens." You'd ask the publisher to change the headline to something like "Local CEO Caught Juggling Kittens."


They'd remove all mentions of the company but the article would still remain.

The next time a search engine crawls the page it will not find the search phrase and should, in time, demote and then remove the search result.


This can work if the article has been up for quite some time and is no longer generating traffic and income for the publisher. Small publishers will sometimes make this sort of change in return for compensation, or out of the goodness of their hearts (rare).


Keep the page but make it invisible to Google

Ask the publisher to add a NOINDEX tag to the header of the HTML on the page. Your company name still exists on the page, but the NOINDEX tag tells search engines not to crawl the page any longer. Within a few weeks, the page is normally removed automatically from search results.


This is what a NOINDEX tag looks like:

<meta name="robots" content="noindex">


How to remove search results from Google

There are some cases where a search engine will remove information.


This month alone we've gotten more than a dozen pages removed for this reason. We refer to the complete removal of search results from Google as a “googlectomy." Google describes the information they will remove as things like bank account and credit card numbers and signature images, or other information that could cause financial fraud or identify theft.


Sexually explicit information can be removed from SERPs

Sexually explicit information posted without consent will be removed from Google’s index. It has to meet these criteria:


You're nude or shown in a sexual act without consent
You're under age
You intended the content to be private and the imagery was made publicly available without your consent (e.g. "revenge porn"), or ...
You didn't consent to the act and the imagery was made publicly available without your consent

Legal reasons search engines may remove content

Google and Bing will also remove copyrighted information. This falls under the “legal removals” area. It's considered a "DMCA" removal. Google will ask which service you’d like information removed from, for example Google web search, Blogger, YouTube, etc.

Types of content that may be removed include sites with malware or phishing software, trademark violations, and certain kinds of personal information like social security numbers.


Europeans get Right to Be Forgotten, others don't

Personal information will be removed from Google if a web page is in breach of European privacy laws sometimes known as “Right to be Forgotten” laws; if your government ID number or bank account exists on the page; or if there’s a hand written image of your signature.


For copyright infringement use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act

The DMCA protects copyright owners. Google often respects this, and they have a removal process for doing so. But we’ve found that using legal means works far more often than a simple DMCA take-down request on their site.


So, yes, lawyers do have a reason to exist (in fact, they’re some of our best clients!).

The Downside of the DMCA: Chilling Effects / Lumen
Google may send a copy of each legal notice they receive to Lumen (formerly Chilling Effects) for publication and annotation.


This means that even though you have something removed from Google’s search results, there will still be a notice at the bottom of the search results page saying something has been removed.


When a searcher clicks on the notice they may see a notice that shows the name of the person or entity that made the request to have the information taken down.

Pushing bad content down, and good content up

If none of the following will work:


Asking the author to take down the content
Asking the publisher to remove the content
Having the author or publisher change the content
Getting a special Google invisibility tag added
Asking Google to remove the content
... then suppressing/pushing down the content so it's far less visible is the way to go.

How does suppression of online content work?

Secret: Suppression isn't so much suppression as it is promotion.


The best reputation management techniques make the web better. Bing and Google rely on users finding their search engines valuable. To do this they return the best possible search results. The best search results are those that most appropriately fit the searchers intent - this is called “relevance."


Suppression, or pushing down negative search results, is the act of creating better content and promoting it to drive negatives down. If information cannot be removed at the source, or at the search engine level, suppression is a viable alternative.

How to suppress negative search results?

In short, give Google what it wants. We measure the strength of a given page based on an authority score - a number on a scale of one to one hundred. If the page to be buried has a high score, content must be created and promoted that is of a higher score. The higher the authority score, the more resources are needed to affect change. We select and create the right online content, then link it together using SEO best practices meant to stand the test of time.


That’s why our results tend to stick when other reputation companies efforts fail.


Fixing your online reputation can make an enormous difference in the quality and quantity of opportunities that come your way. The consequences are often huge for brands - in many cases a business can experience a 22% drop in business from a single negative search result on the first page (whether the information is true or not).