The internet enhances the freedom of speech. It is a global platform allowing everyone to share their thoughts on anyone and anything. Forums, social media, content management systems, and high-speed internet has made the online realm more accessible to everyone. But this reality comes with obvious drawbacks and reputational risk.
One photo, post, video, or review can be enough to ruin a person’s life or shatter an A+ company’s reputation. The damage may also persist indefinitely if the content perpetually shows up in search engine results. One successful entrepreneur client called erroneous and defamatory links about her company “like a permanent leech on my face”. What can you do about this? Learn more about how to repair your online reputation and hide negative content appearing on search engines below.
Approach 1: Have the Negative Content Removed Entirely
If you are a victim of negative content about you ranking high on Google, the best possible outcome is to have it taken down. If successfully removed, Google will recognize the change and deindex the page.
Unfortunately, in many cases, this strategy does not bear fruit. Website owners and managers are usually very protective of their sites and content. After all, they have likely invested a good amount of time, effort, and money into its creation. Be prepared for long and tedious negotiations, if they choose to engage with you. They may even have a policy of not communicating directly with the interested party or ‘perpetrator’. This is where professional help may be the tipping point between frustration and achieving results.
Another issue is that many webmasters do not check their inboxes with regular frequency. Sometimes all you can do is wait and hope that you will hear back from them. Hope alone is, of course, not the optimal strategy in any situation. Having said that, we have occasionally received replies to our requests long after we assumed that we would never be hearing from a news publication.
Furthermore, having content removed from a shady website published by someone anonymous or with fake contact information can actually backfire. The individual might not only refuse to fulfill your request but even add fuel to the fire and publish another defamatory article or post, making matters worse. He or she might reach out to blogging friends and convince them to publish additional “news stories” about your company. We have seen this happen many times. Prospective clients often try to negotiate on their own, and when their digital presence becomes noticeably worse, they approach us seeking help.
Bottom line: Proceed with caution.
If the publisher is a government agency, the prospect of successful content removal is slim. Your only chance is if privacy rights have been violated, or you can prove something they have in print is false. For example, an arrest record when the charges were eventually dropped, or you were found non-guilty. The same goes for news websites. While most are ethical and a pleasure to work with, some can be stubborn and combative. We rely on our experience and extensive network of media relationships. It always helps when you are able to make the request through a mutual contact or friend.
Approach 2: Have the Negative Content Deindexed
Google has strict content removal policies. Reasons for removal include:
1. Legal removals – This includes child sexual abuse imagery and removals in “response to valid legal requests, such as copyright notifications that meet the requirements of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act”.
2. Personal information – Google may remove certain types of personal information from its search results if it creates significant risks of identity theft, financial fraud, or other harm. Examples include social security numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, images of signatures, and medical records.
Since regular requests to remove non-personal information may be denied, legal removal requests can be a viable alternative. We methodically explore all options to remove the negative content.
Lastly, keep in mind that even if Google deindexes a page, site, or image, the content continues to exist and may be accessed via the direct URL, social media, or other search engines.
Approach 3: Have Negative Content Suppressed By Outranking It
More often than not, the only way to hide negative content in Google is via suppression, i.e., outranking the negative content with more desirable and positive links. This can include already- existing content, or any third-party content that you approve.
This approach often involves the investment of considerable hours and resources to create new pages and posts, and then optimizing them accordingly to specific search engine results pages. Our tip: Commit yourself to publishing new, high-quality content that search engines will love, and doing so on a regular basis. This can mean being active and engaging on social media, posting responses on forums, and planning a content schedule for your blog. All these properties have a chance to show up on Google when people search for your name or the name of your company. Think of it as future-proofing for your brand.
Stay away from service providers that promise to fix negative content issues overnight or within a very short time period. This likely involves questionable SEO practices (known as black-hat SEO) that may achieve short-term results, but could harm your business’s reputation in the long run if Google recognizes the deceptive practices. Search engine optimization, and content suppression in particular, must be a gradual process for it to work.
Reach Out to Us
Neutralizing negative content on Google and other search engines requires a sophisticated approach and years of experience. Negotiating content removals, submitting deindexation requests, and attempting content suppression require patience. At Blue Ocean Global Technology, we have helped hundreds of clients resolve their negative reputation issues on the internet. We know what works and what doesn’t. Every situation is unique. Feel free to reach out to us and together we will determine your best course of action to protect your brand’s reputation.