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'How Do I Get Negative Information Off of Google?'

You might be surprised – or, perhaps, not – at how often we get asked a question that looks a lot like this: “Is It Possible to Get Negative Information Off of Google?”

Knowing that we have attained remarkable success with SEO and online reputation management strategies for all sorts of clients, professionals come to us, looking to see if there’s some strategy we can use to eliminate their bad PR from the face of the internet.

The thing is? Unfortunately, there’s no one secret strategy to get unwelcome search results off of Google, provided that they’re real and accurate. That is to say that if a past customer of yours, say, had a negative experience and wrote a personal blog post about it, your options for getting that post “removed” from search results are quite limited, in most cases.

Similarly, if your name is associated with a less-than-positive news story from a legitimate outlet, it’s not necessarily possible to just have that post just removed from Google results. In most cases, that link is on the search engine results page (SERP) for a reason. And, bear in mind that the internet is a complex, interconnected ecosystem. Even if you do manage to get a piece of information or a story taken down from one place, it may live on via social media, the Wayback Machine, or a user’s personal data cache.

In most cases, what your parents probably told you about the internet is largely true: Once something is published, it often lives online forever, whether you’d like it to or not.

So, what are your choices when you want to get rid of bad press or a search result that reflects poorly on your personal brand? We’ve got a few ideas.

First, we’ll run down some of the strategies that you may be able to use, in certain cases, to remove an unwanted search result connected to you or your company. Then, we’ll look at a more viable strategy – one that uses SEO and reputation management to improve your standing with search engines, and help minimize the effects of negative information.

Your Options for Removing Negative Information from Search Results May Be Limited

As we’ve already suggested, it’s often quite difficult to have a negative piece of content expunged from the internet, for a variety of reasons. But it’s not necessarily impossible. You do have some options for recourse. For instance, you may want to try to:

Get in Contact With Webmaster

Assuming that the content is published on a website that you do not own or control, your first step may be to reach out the owner of that site, to see if you can convince them to take down the content.

You may be able to reach out to the site’s owner or webmaster directly via email or a provided phone number; if you do make contact, you can state your case, asking them to remove the content while being polite and upfront.

Bear in mind that the publisher may not respond, or they may have zero interest in removing the content in question. Besides pressing them on the issue, your options are limited – and, in many cases, pushing your contact too hard may cause them to retaliate, creating a situation that could spiral out of hand.

Reach Out to Google

You may be tempted to reach out to Google to have them “fix” the issue for you. But, bear in mind that in many instances, the company’s hands are tied. In most cases, very specific qualifications must be met in order to have content removed; often, cases are limited to instances of illegal pornography, copyright infringement, or the exposure of sensitive personal information (SSN, bank account, confidential medical records, and so on).

Explore Your Legal Options

In some cases, you may have the option to fight against false, misleading, or slanderous information on legal grounds. It’s important to keep a few things in mind, however. For one thing, remember that the legal definitions for categories such as defamation or libel are quite narrow, in many cases, and you may have limited legal recourse. Even if you do have a case, fighting a legal battle can be costly and time-intensive – and may even create more negative press or content around your brand.

So, with all this being said, remember that you have options for removal – but the success rate for any of these strategies is quite low. In particular, keep an eye out for any so-called reputation management firm that promises to eradicate negative search results overnight. This offer could well be a scam (at worst), or come from an inexperienced operation whose work does more harm than good (at best).

Consider a Different Strategy: Pushing Down or Burying Negative Information

Given up hope that the SERP will ever look the way you want it to? Don’t throw in the towel just yet! There are still strategies that can help – they just require a shift in your thinking.

In many ways, it helps to reframe the question. Instead of asking whether you can eliminate bad content, think about how you can suppress bad content. The most effective strategy for this is to create positive content of your own; this allows you to dominate the SERP, and buries negative information lower in results, before your potential customers ever get a chance to see it.

After all, consider this: 75% of the clicks go to the first five results on a SERP – and a huge majority of search engine users never bother to scroll down or click through to the second page of results.

Get the gist? The more good content you create and put in a position to rank highly on search engines, the more you can weigh out the “bad” content – suppressing its position and prominence until it stops affecting your results.

Here at Geek, we believe your approach to this strategy should be two-fold.

Dominate Search Rankings With SEO

On the one hand, it will be important to implement a solid SEO strategy, driven by content creation. The more branded content you create (with a focus on optimizing for search engines), the more likely it is that you’ll be able to secure superior search rankings for a variety of keywords. What’s more, the larger and more connected your site is, the more domain authority that Google assigns to it – putting you in a better position to rank highly, and beat out the bad content.

Of course, it’s important to remember that successful SEO comes down to a variety of factors, including the design of your site, the quality of your content, the strength of your linking strategy, and your willingness to invest in different publishing channels (including social media and email). You may also wish to supplement your SEO strategy with a PPC strategy, in which you essentially pay Google to place your brand highly, in a specified part of the SERP, for certain keywords.

Accentuate the Positive with Online Reputation Management

One other major factor that affects your SEO – and which can help combat the effects of bad or unwanted content – is online reputation management.

Using our easy-to-follow system, businesses can set up a workflow for staying in touch with their past and current clients. We’ll also help you monitor and track the reviews posted about your business on major ranking or listing sites sites; in this way, your business can solicit more positive reviews, respond to negative reviews instantly, and reach out to customers quickly, potentially preventing bad reviews before they happen.

The more five star reviews that searchers see, the more willing they’ll be to trust your company – which could minimize the potential impact of any bad information that’s already out there.

Ready to get started suppressing unwanted search results with a solid SEO and online reputation management strategy? Geek Chicago would love to help set you down the right path! Drop us a line today to get the conversation started!

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Jason Finn

Founder & Chief Geek

Jason has nearly 20 years of consulting experience, predominantly in the technology space. Most recently he was the COO and Director of Technology for Rich Casto & Company, a national training and consulting organization in the real estate industry.
As a consultant for IBM, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and Envision Consulting Group (now IMS Health), Jason has served clients of all sizes, including Big Pharma, Fortune 500, and Global 1000 companies:

  • Allstate Insurance Company
  • AOL (America Online)
  • Astellas Pharmaceuticals
  • Eli Lilly and Company
  • Ford Motor Credit
  • Wockhardt USA (formerly Morton Grove Pharmaceuticals)
  • Norwich Union
  • PNC Bank
  • Reynolds and Reynolds

Sarunas Budrikas

Creative Director

Sarunas is a web design and development expert with hundreds of successful projects in his portfolio. He is passionate about delivering extraordinary user experiences for every client and consistently goes above and beyond everyone’s expectations. As an SEO expert and strategist, he can optimize your website, or app, to get the most out of it, day in and day out. Sarunas holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from Kaunas Technology University, in Lithuania. Sarunas now lives in Chicago, and calls it home.

Alexandra Olsavsky

Client Experience Specialist

Alex specializes in content generation and social media promotion for Geek | Chicago clients, helping to solidify their presence in the online community. This includes blog writing, graphic design, co-ordination and design of weekly newsletters, and active engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. Outside of Geek, Alex is a classically-trained soprano who professionally performs around the city of Chicago (most recently with the Chicago Baroque Band, and with the Rolling Stones for their "50 and Counting" tour).