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“I Googled My Name and It was Shocking…”

December 2, 2016

Recently, I’ve been asked several times to give search engine optimization (SEO) advice on how to quickly remove a negative result that appears at the top of the page when a name, business, or other closely related keywords are searched, e.g., Googled. In general, negative results that are organic (not paid ads) make it to the top of search results (rank highly) because the content is given priority by search engines in two aspects: popularity and credibility.

For a particular keyword search, negative content published online by a major media outlet, e.g., The New York Times, or public institution, e.g., Stanford University, is viewed as a highly credible relative to content from other websites (with the possible exception of SEO websites, referred to below), and is likely to be viewed many more times than other articles.

When faced with a request that is deemed an emergency, and I have to warn potential clients that a “quick fix” might not be permanent, i.e., the negative content might work its way back to the front page, and that remedial reputation management is a long-term process.

shutterstock_308220500_woman_worriedThat said, there are three primary approaches to removing unwanted search results.

1) Simply ask the author to remove it. I’ve had success with this method when it involved sensitive information published by a profile aggregator that collects personal data from other websites. However, there are risks involved when asking an individual author to remove content (click here for more information).

2) Ask Google to remove it. Google policy allows for the removal of sensitive information that may put you at risk for identity theft or financial fraud. However, keep in mind that removing the content from Google Search is not the same as removing it from the Internet: the content will still exist.

3) Another “emergency” technique I use is to bury the negative results by posting new content optimized (made credible for search engines aka SEO) so that it will be cited numerous times and “force” the undesirable content off the first page and as far down the search results as possible. Depending on the topic or industry, there are a variety of methods involving social media campaigns that can be effective using such platforms as Facebook and Twitter. Some of these approaches are detailed here.

shutterstock_275416661_smallAgain, these stop-gap strategies are not a substitute for whitehat SEO and social media management.


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