Even though Google is amazing, your search results can often not show an accurate picture of who you are. A lot of the time this is because you do not have a very public persona or you have deliberately avoided sharing information about yourself online. Because of this, the only information that shows up is from a negative source regardless of how credible it is. Removing bad search results can be very difficult and requires specialized skills to do effectively. This is why we offer it as a service. However, there are still some fairly simple things everyone can do to help remove bad results from Google and improve their online reputation:
- File a complaint with Google: www.google.com/support/go/legal – only do this if the content about you meets their requirements for content removal. A negative review about your business or criticism of you will not get removed. However, copyright infringement, personal information posted online, nude pictures and other things like that may be removed by Google. Google has different policies for removal in different countries depending on the local laws. Canada has one of the most victim friendly set of laws for libel and defamation of anywhere in the world. The United States is one of the worst for the victim.
- Put yourself out on the internet: if the reason the bad content is being seen so much is because there is a lack of other content about you, make more content. Create a facebook page, twitter account, Blogspot blog, LinkedIn Profile. It is key to optimize these pages for your name so use your proper name the way people would search for. Sign up for the custom URLs in each program. Instructions here: facebook custom URL, LinkedIn. Post to these accounts as much as you can. You can use services like TweetDeck to automate this so you can post to multiple networks at once.
- Contact authors and ask for content to be removed: very politely and respectfully send the authors or website owners of the site(s) where the negative content is posted and ask them to remove it. This is worth a shot but will not work in most cases. You can use a WHOIS lookup on the domain name to get the author. You can also look around on the site for a Contact Us link. We have had a lot of success with this for our clients in certain situations.
- Use tools on the website where the bad content is posted to try and get it deleted: most websites that allow users to post content have functionality like “Flag as inappropriate” or “Mark Spam” etc. You can look for these and get all of your friends and family on facebook or Twitter to do this for you.
- Consider refuting the criticism where it is posted: be careful with this as starting a heavily commented discussion on a negative website will improve its search rankings and traffic. But, if the site is there and people are reading it anyway, you may want to go on and politely, calmly and respectfully post a rebuttal to whatever criticism is being made of you or your company. Be careful not to attack the critic personally. This will make you look bad. Critique their specific points and explain how you have gone above and beyond the call of duty to address their complaint.
- If none of these tactics resolve your problem and you have a lot to lose by having negative content out there, consider hiring an online reputation manager to deal with this for you.