Introduction - remove unwanted results from Google
Discovering your business has a bad search result associated with it, is a business owner's worst nightmare. All of the hard work you’ve put into ensuring your customers are satisfied with your product or service, may be thrown out the window as a result of one review which found it’s way to the top of your branded Search Engine Results Page (aka SERP).
If you notice a bad review, slanderous remarks, or other negative content showing up at the top of your branded search results, instinctively you would want it removed. Right?
Luckily, there are a handful of techniques and strategies, used primarily by companies in the ORM (Online Reputation Management) industry, to remove unwanted results from Google and make defamatory content vanish.
They are two ways to approach this issue:
- Entirely removing the unwanted result or
- Suppressing the unwanted result
This post will walk you through both.
There's a difference between removing content you have control over, vs. content that’s out of your control. Let’s start with the former:
Removing Content from Web Pages You Own/ Control
The need for this might arise when you’ve realized that you have pages that are no longer relevant for various reasons: old products or staff members, tour options you no longer offer, or pages that are simply causing duplicate content on your site.
The majority of website owners choose to simply delete the unwanted content. They probably do so because they don’t know any better. The problem with entirely deleting pages from your website is that since you’ve already established the pages on the net, they’re likely to be linked from other pages on your own site as well as external links from other sites (such as social media mentions, bookmarks, shares, or even plain old linkage).
When you delete the content, Google (and other crawl bots) immediately identify that page as a missing page, which may harm your SEO efforts and overall rankings.
There are three way to overcome this issue:
- remove pages with the Google Remove URLs Tool via your Search Console account
- exclude pages from being crawled using your Robots.txt file (if you’re using Wordpress, Yoast SEO is a wonderful tool for this)
- indicate that the page should not to be indexed using the “noindex meta tag” (this method is not as secure as the two methods above and may be a little tricky if you don’t know your way around coding).
Make sure to clean up after you and never leave a missing page by applying one of the three solutions above.
Removing Content from Web Pages You Don't Control
More often than not, a negative search result will appear on a page you don't own. Somebody may post a negative personal experience they had with your product, a bad review on social media, and so on. You know the drill. (Since this post is about removing negative results from Google, I won’t go into the hidden opportunity behind bad reviews, but rather recommend reading this article by Joel Goldstein on Lifehack on ways to turn negative reviews into positive results).
Since you don't own those sites, you’ll need help removing the negative content. It's not easy, but in many cases, it can be done. There are two ways to do this:
1. Contact the website owner
Simply Reach out and ask them directly (but politely). For example, you can ask a blogger to remove their negative post. If you can explain why they should remove it, or how you can improve their experience with your product or brand, they may reconsider their stance on your company and even turn the bad review into a positive one.
Remember: Bad reviews don’t mean bad business, they create buzz (did anyone say Miley Cyrus?) and when handled right may even help future prospects in their purchase decisions by showing them you care about your customers.
2. Contact Google
Google offers several ways for website owners to remove wrong, personal, harmful or outdated content from their search results.
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 would be just blocked from appearing in Google search results.
If the content you want removed is simply outdated OR the page no longer exists, simply use the Remove outdated content tool. Google is very strict about how to use and not use this tool, so use it only if the result snippet or the cached (stored) result in SERPs is different from the current page.
Suppress Negative Content with Reverse SEO
Reverse SEO, also referred to as search engine suppression, is a method used in the ORM industry to minimize the reputation damage of negative content.
Very much like SEO, which uses strategies to make your business more visible in SERPs, Reverse SEO uses a variety of techniques to suppress negative results on Google Search and other search engines, causing the positive pages to move above the negative ones so that nobody searching the name of your business will see the unwanted results.
This is the backbone of how ORM experts mitigate the impact of negative content about your brand. Much like fighting fire with fire. Instead of trying to remove content, you create more in an effort to bury the negative content in the search results.
In most cases, Reverse SEO is not only effective at removing negative content from the first few pages of search results, but it also works to strengthen your online branding and promote your business in a positive light.
Most searchers will only visit the first few links on SERPs. As you create SEO-focused content, your page rises to the top of the search ranks, while other pages move down. If you can get the negative content pushed to the third or fourth page, it's likely that consumers won't even see it.
Suppressing the Bad Links
There are plenty of ways to bury bad links, all of which are very manageable and very effective:
- Start a company blog and post excellent content regularly.
- Optimize content you already have on the web, like pages on your company site.
- Create quality content and link it to and from a variety of authoritative websites that are topically relevant to web pages you're promoting
- Set up social media profiles and make sure you're active on all of them (leverage bad reviews to show proper customer care).
- Publish and promote other types of media like videos, images, and podcasts.
- Leave useful or positive comments on other influential websites within your industry.
- Become a thought leader by publishing expert advice in professional forums.
Suppressing negative content is much like traditional SEO, because the new content you create should be optimized to outrank the negative results. The more types of content you create, and the better the quality is, the more likely it will be to rank above the negative content and thus make it less visible.
When dealing with negative content about your business, don’t panic. Channel that negative energy into creating a strategy to make that content disappear by getting it removed or pushing it into the depths of search results.