Negative 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.

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, one negative headline can rob you of conversion-ready customers.

Furthermore, influential industry publications may publish side by side comparisons that favor your competition. In fact, those reviews might even be sponsored posts masquerading as editorial content!

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.

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.

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 negative 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.

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. 

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

Visit Google to submit a DMCA takedown request to take advantage of digital millennium copyright laws, or get information on legal removal requests.

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. Bury 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.