This article is for people and businesses that want to remove negative online content from Google. It contains step-by-step instructions to do so.
Note: If you find the content cannot be removed, check out this article that will help you suppress it.
When negative information appears on Google search results, there are several methods to remove it. Removing negative or inaccurate information from search results is important to manage your reputation. This article ranks those methods from fastest to slowest.
The fastest way is to contact the webmaster directly and ask them to remove the content, as Google will generally remove it from search results within days or weeks.
If that's not possible, the second option is to ask Google or Bing to remove the content from their search indexes, but this only makes it more difficult to find and doesn't remove it from the site itself.
Another option is to ask the webmaster to remove search phrases from the content or to add HTML code (noindex) so that Google ignores the page.
If these methods are not effective, the next step is to push the search result down so that it becomes less visible. This can be done through suppression campaigns that create positive content that more readily fulfills the searchers' intent.
When Google displays something about your brand that is negative, you want to remove it as fast as possible. But what's the fastest and most efficient way to remove something from a Google search? Some ways to delete negative information online include:
- Have the webmaster remove the content
- Have the webmaster remove search phrases from the content
- Have the webmaster add code so Google will ignore the page
- Have Google remove it if the content is in violation of its terms of service or certain types of personal info
- Push the search result down so few if anyone sees it
Each of the above methods is discussed in more detail below.
In the commercial world, questions of truth and relevance are the basis of online reputation management. Google and Bing are commonly believed to represent truth, but they don't really. They reflect knowledge masquerading as truth in the form of search results. So the question we often get is, "How to remove Google search results?".
The fastest way to change search results is to remove them completely from the website upon which it exists. If that doesn't seem feasible or doesn't work, the second choice may be to ask Google and Bing to remove something from their search indexes. But that doesn't remove the content from the site itself; it just makes it far more difficult to find.
Fastest: Contact the webmaster directly
The original poster of the content can remove it if they want to or are compelled to do so. If they do, Google will generally remove it from search results within days or weeks.
In our experience, a webmaster will often not remove online content because, after all, they put it there in the first place for a reason - but sometimes they will.
You will need to decide if contacting the webmaster will make things better or worse. For example, Reputation X often helps attorneys who have mistakenly sent a legal demand letter to a webmaster only to have the information added to the original page and then have many people comment on it. This refreshes the content of the page and can make it rise in search results instead of go away. So consider carefully before you ask the webmaster to remove a page.
You can find the owner of a web page using a Whois tool like Whois.net or DomainTools. 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 try the Contact Us area of the website (in fact, you may try that first).
Your best choice: Have the webmaster delete the page
Have the webmaster of the site upon which the information appears remove the page completely. If the page is utterly removed it will normally disappear from Google and Bing indexes automatically within a few weeks.
If you want to try to speed up the removal of a search result from Google, you can use the Google Removal Tool (you'll need a free Google Search Console account). This option can get pages that have already been removed from a website removed from Google's index faster than just waiting for the Google bot to come by again.
Your second best choice: Search phrase removal
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. 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.
Your third best choice: Add a tag to get the page ignored
Ask the webmaster 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.
Second fastest: Remove search results directly from Google
If the webmaster cannot be contacted, or shouldn't be, the next step is often to remove search results from Bing or Google directly. This is called de-indexing because it removes the page from the Google index. There are limited cases where de-indexing is possible.
Reason: Identify theft or financial harm
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 identity theft.
Reason: Sexually explicit information
Sexually explicit information posted without consent will be removed from Google's index. But you will need to prove it.
Reason: Legal grounds
Google and Bing will also remove copyrighted information. This falls under the "legal removals" area. Google will ask which service you'd like information removed from. For example, Google web search, YouTube, etc. The types of content that may be removed include sites with malware or phishing software, trademark violations, or certain kinds of personal information.
Reason: "Right to be forgotten"
Personal information will be removed from Google if it 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 an image of a signature (handwritten).
This is what you often see on a Google results page if results have been removed under data protection laws:
Reason: DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act)
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA, protects copyright owners. Google often respects this, and they have a removal process for doing so. So, yes, lawyers do have a reason to exist (they're some of our best clients!). The key thing about DMCA removals is that you have to prove that the content you want to be removed is copyrighted, and that you own it, and that it was published illegally.
Want to give DMCA a shot? Here is a link to the tool.
A note about "Chilling Effects"
Google may (very often does) send a copy of each legal notice we receive may be sent to Chilling Effects for publication and annotation. This means that even though you have something removed from Googles search results, there will still be a notice at the bottom of the page that looks something like this:
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.
Results about you
Recently, Google made it a little easier to remove personal information from their search results called "Results About You". With this tool, you may be able to get Google to remove your home addresses, emails, or personal phone number.
According to Google, "When you’re searching on Google and find results about you that contain your phone number, home address, or email address, you’ll be able to quickly request their removal from Google Search — right as you find them. "
To get Google to remove personal information right in search results, click on the three dots next to the result. Find more information here.
Third fastest: Suppress search results
Suppression campaigns work about 90% of the time, but they take time. The upside is that they not only reduce or completely remove the visibility of negative online content but they replace it with positive content.
Why search result suppression works
Bing and Google rely on users to find their search engines valuable. To do this, they return the best possible search results. The best search results are those that best fit the searcher's intent - relevance. The research, development, publishing, and promotion of new positive content that more readily fulfills the searcher's intent will be promoted more highly in search results.
Search result suppression is the act of rearranging the priority of knowledge.
The most effective way to rearrange the priority of knowledge is to create better sources of the knowledge searchers are looking for. That's what we do at Reputation X, improve knowledge and hopefully truth by creating search profiles that better serve the people who use search engines.
Search results removal FAQs
What is the fastest way to remove Google search results?
Contact the webmaster directly. In our experience, a webmaster will often not remove online content because, after all, they put it there in the first place for a reason - but sometimes they will. You will need to decide if contacting the webmaster will make things better or worse.
What are the fastest ways to remove harmful content online?
Fastest: Contact the webmaster directly. Second fastest: Remove search results directly from Google. Third fastest: Suppress search results.
What is search result suppression?
Search result suppression is the act of rearranging the priority of knowledge. The most effective way to rearrange the priority of knowledge is to create better sources of the knowledge searchers are looking for.
About the author
Kent Campbell is the chief strategist for Reputation X, an award-winning reputation management agency based in California. Kent has over 15 years of experience with SEO reputation management, Wikipedia editing, review management, and strategy. Kent has helped celebrities, leaders, executives, and marketing professionals improve the way they are seen online. Kent writes about reputation, SEO, Wikipedia, and PR-related topics, and is an expert witness for reputation-related legal matters. You can find Kent's biography here.