It is critical to ensure that what people see about your brand online paints a favorable picture to potential consumers. Just one negative review or post on the first page of search engine results can be damaging to your reputation, and ultimately your business. 

 

Removing negative reviews

Reviews can be removed if they violate the terms of service for the review sites, but what about non-review content? 

 

Removing search results at the source

The fastest way to change search results is to remove it completely from the website in which it exists.

 

Removing search results from Google

If deleting content from a publisher (a blog, news site, video channel, etc.) doesn’t seem feasible, or doesn’t work, the second choice may be to ask Google and Bing to remove something from their indexes. But that doesn’t remove the content from the site itself, it just makes it far more difficult to find.

 

More often than not, a negative search result will happen on a page you don't own. A blogger might publish a post about a bad experience with your company, or somebody may post negative personal information about you on a website. When you don't own the site, removing negative content from Search Results is much more difficult and for those that are not familiar with SEO or internet marketing, it can often require professional help. While it's not easy, however, in many cases removal of negative content from a third-party website can be done without any assistance. There are several ways to do this:

 

  • Contact the website owner and ask them directly. For example, you can ask a blogger to remove their post. If you can explain why they should remove it, they may reconsider their stance on your company.

  • Contact Google to remove sites that violate their policies. For example, publishing sensitive financial or personal information is against Google policies. Anything that can be used to commit fraud is not allowed. Offensive images or videos are also a violation. If you notice negative content that violates any of these policies, contact Google and ask for it to be removed. Bear in mind, the page will still exist, it just won't appear in Google results anymore.

  • Finally, there are cases where negative content may be unlawful, in which case you can take legal action. For example, online defamation, discrimination, copyright infringement, and other illegal content can be removed. This is risky territory, however. It could end up costing you thousands in legal fees and could even draw more attention to the negativity you were trying to remove in the first place. Consider the weight and the risks of taking legal action before you do so. You can find out more about removing unlawful content from search results here.

 

Before attempting removal of a news article, you should consider doing the following:

  • Make a list of all the websites that host the negative news article

    • An easy way to do this is by copy and pasting the title of the article into a Google search.

  • Find a way to contact the website(s) hosting the article and/or the journalist that wrote it

    • Most news sites will have a “Contact” page where you can leave a message.

    • Most journalist will provide you with a way to contact them (via e-mail, form on the site, etc.)

      • If there is no contact method available, do a Google search for their name and see if there are any social media profiles (i.e Linkedin) you can potentially reach them on.

  • The amount of time the news article has been published online

    • If the article is considered “old news”, you may be able to use this to your advantage.

  • Any libelous/defamatory statements and/or factual inaccuracies

    • This is helpful to document for two reasons:

      • 1. You can request that the news site update the article to remove any factual inaccuracies.

      • 2. In certain cases, the news publication can be sued for defamation. This is typically not pursued due to the legal costs involved and difficulty in proving defamation & associated damages.

 

People-search sites: Online people-search companies scour the Internet collecting personally identifiable information about people. They compile this information in profiles and then sell it to anyone who asks for it. Sometimes these profiles appear prominently in an individual’s search results. In those cases, you can usually issue an opt-out request to have your information removed. The profile should then disappear from your search results within a couple of weeks.

 

Copyright or legal infringement claims: If the information posted is your own creative work not created under contract, then you can file a DMCA copyright claim and have the material removed. This is especially useful for photos. Similarly, truly defamatory content can usually be challenged through the courts. In both cases, however, the process can be costly and timely. You can also be penalized for filing a claim without merit, and sometimes the legal action itself can attract more unwanted attention than the original link. So if you do decide to go this route, make sure you get good legal advice from an attorney who specializes in Internet law.

 

Social media violations: If someone posts negative content about you on a social network, you may be able to appeal to the site to get it removed. For this approach to work, you’ll need to show why the post violates the social network’s terms of service. For instance, Facebook’s community standards policy states that they will remove content that includes bullying, criminal activity, hate speech, and similar threats to safety.

 

There will usually be a link or a tool attached to the post that will allow you to file a report. Before you submit a request, however, be absolutely sure that your situation qualifies under the terms of service.