6 minute read
How to bury negative Google search results
Updated on May 16, 2022 by Eric
It is possible to remove, de-index, or bury search negative search results
Software called bots scour the internet and "scrape" information from sites to be copied to other websites. This duplication of content is repeated over and over again and can be difficult or near impossible to remove, resulting in the information being displayed on hundreds if not thousands of these sites in addition to dominating Google search results.
If this content is negative or untrue, the problem becomes a potentially reputation damaging issue. These negative results can lead to a reduction of opportunities for both businesses and individuals.
While the information may have once been true and been published legitimately, it is often old news and can be outdated or even blatantly incorrect. Often burying (suppressing) the content is the only method of reducing its visibility in Google searches.
Here are some of the most common ways to push down negative search results.
How to push negative search results down
- Right To Be Forgotten (Not available in the United States)
- Removal at the source
- Removal by a web host
- De-index from search results with DMCA or similar
- Publisher adds a NoIndex tag to the page header
- Push bad search results down
Can you use "Right To Be Forgotten"?
Since 2006, citizens of the European Union and a handful of other countries including Argentina have been protected under a legal concept known as the Right To Be Forgotten (RTBF). This legal standing mandates Google removes search results from their index under certain circumstances. In the EU, a person who files for RTBF is guaranteed that they will have the results purged "without undue delay," which is generally considered to be about a month.
United States citizens cannot use Right To Be Forgotten to remove search results. While there have been legal moves in America to create such a law (some of which even pre-date the Internet), such a practice has not been established, often cited as a potential conflict with constitutional freedom of speech rights and censorship issues. Other countries, such as China, have ruled that a Right To Be Forgotten simply does not exist.
De-indexing / removing search results from Google
Some search results can be de-indexed or removed from Google's web index through filing a petition to Google for removal. Examples of de-indexing content can include removal of some tax ID numbers, bank account numbers, credit cards, signatures and sexually explicit images uploaded without the subject's consent.
Google recently overhauled its request system to make it easier to file to have Personally Identifiable Information (PII) removed. Google explains that this is part of its ongoing work against "doxxing," or the act of posting someone's PII online, usually with malicious intent.
If information is incorrect or a violation of Google’s Terms of Service, you can also flag the content. This only works if it is a true violation, including hate or violent speech. Google also de-indexes according to legal requests such as those in relation to the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act. You can also file a request with individual hosting services to have content removed, but this will depend on the terms of service of the domain host.
If a removal seems possible, we will advise clients to take that route first.
Removal at the source
Content can be removed, or hidden, at the source of publication if the entity itself agrees to comply. The publisher/author would remove the content from a webpage themselves, however there is no guarantee as to how long it may take.
Usually a professional letter or email request will be enough, especially with news outlets where the site depends on fact based presentation. While it is a serious step, you can also use cease and desist letters to back up the request. However, this shouldn’t be done without planning and the involvement of legal or professional counsel.
Pushing results down
The most common method is the development of content that is more relevant and "stronger" than the pages that you want to push down. Eventually this newer, relevant and higher ranked content will populate the Google results as it uses powerful search engine and content marketing techniques to dominate the first page or pages of search results using quality as brute force. It takes time to see the results, but this is an extremely effective method.
Examples of suppression of online content
Suppression seeks to remake the first page or pages of search results in a way that is both relevant and helpful to searchers but that also represents the subject in a fair manner.
Examples of successful suppression campaigns:
- Pushing journalism (NYTimes.com, Bloomberg, etc.) off the first page for a major financial services firm
- Moving SEC.gov to the second page of search results for a corporation
- Pushing negative blog posts off the first page of search results for executives
The first step in a suppression campaign to push bad search results off the first page is to contact Reputation X. We will research your specific situation and inform you about the feasibility of the project. If we find the probability of the project’s success to be high, Reputation X will develop a proposal outlining the target goals and steps of the campaign.
We will then submit our proposal to you, allowing you a review period to see exactly how we can assist. Adjustments can be made to ensure that your unique needs are met, as well as the overall criteria of the campaign. Once the project is approved, Reputation X will begin the mission to clean up your search results.
Negative search results FAQs
How do you push down negative content in search results?
Right To Be Forgotten (EU and other countries). Removal at the source. Removal by a web host. De-index from search results with DMCA, Terms of Service violation or similar. The publisher adds a NoIndex tag to the page header. Push bad search results down.
What is Right To Be Forgotten?
Right To Be Forgotten is a law that mandates Google remove search results from their index under certain circumstances for citizens of the European Union and select other countries. It is not available to residents of the United States.
What types of negative content will Google remove?
Often referred to as Personally Identifiable Information (PII), Google will remove some tax ID numbers, bank account numbers, credit cards, signatures and sexually explicit images uploaded without the subject's consent. Google will also remove content that it considered in violation of its Terms of Service as well as laws such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.