If someone searches for your name online, what are they going to find? Are there going to be things that show up that portray you in a negative light?
If so, you might feel like there’s nothing you can do and that it’s entirely out of your control. That’s not necessarily always true, though. There are things you might be able to do to eliminate or push down those negative search results, so they aren’t the first thing people see when they’re looking you up.
Use the Google Tool To Remove Outdated Content
If some of the negative information that’s coming up about you when you search for your name is outdated, Google offers options to request it be removed.
You might need to do this for the pages you control as well. Even if you remove outdated content from your own pages, the information might still show up in snippets or cached data on Google results for weeks or potentially months.
If you’re going to use the Google Remove Outdated Content Tool, you’ll find it in the Google Search Console. The submissions are checked manually, so the action takes time.
Even if the content isn’t outdated, but you believe it should be removed, you can request Google take the page down too. The content will still appear on the website where it’s at, but it should keep the content from showing up in Google search results. As a note, it’s pretty rare Google will take content out of its search engine just because someone requests it.
Google will typically only remove something if it violates its policies. Examples of things that violate policies include something that could be used to commit fraud or offensive images.
Removing Content from Pages That Aren’t Yours
Most often, if there’s a negative search result appearing about you, it’ll be on a page you don’t own. For example, maybe a blogger posts something negative about your business. There could also be news articles or photos that you wouldn’t like associated with your name.
The best course of initial action is to contact the owner of the website and directly ask them to remove the content. If you have a good reason you feel they should take it down, make sure you mention that.
When you’re dealing with negative search results about yourself, the best thing you can do is go straight to the source, even though it also happens to be the most difficult. If the owner of the site agrees to take whatever it is down, you’re done with the situation.
Another option would be to ask the site owner to add a NOINDEX tag to the web page HTML. Then, this tag tells search engines to ignore the page. The page is still there, but in a few weeks, it won’t show up in search results.
The best chance you have for getting an author or site owner to remove content is if you have evidence the article’s facts aren’t correct.
Could It Be Considered Defamation?
Defamation is typically considered a published statement that’s false and injures someone’s reputation. An online posting can satisfy the publication element of a defamation case. In the majority of states, the statement only has to be seen by one person other than the maker and subject for it to qualify as a publication.
In legal situations involving defamation, you do have to prove that the statement made is false.
It’s difficult because opinions are privileged under the law, so a plaintiff doesn’t have the grounds for a defamation claim based on an opinion.
If you think there’s legal defamation at play, then you might have an attorney draft a letter to send to the site with the negative content.
Suppressing Negative Content
There are a lot of situations where none of the above options will work for you. That leaves you with a more work-intensive option which is suppressing negative content.
The idea of suppressing negative content is that you’re developing new content that’s going to rank higher on search engines than the old, negative content. The more content you create, and the more high-quality, the more likely it’s going to rank. Then, it’s going to push the bad stuff down so that most people won’t even see it.
If you can get negative content to rank on page two, three, or four, then far fewer people are going to see it than they would if it was on page one.
The first step if you want to suppress negative content is to research keywords where the negative content appears.
If it’s your personal brand, then your search results are probably showing if someone looks up your name. It could also be that your company name is the keyword that brings up negative results, or the keywords could be even more specific.
Start to identify and track a list of the phrases that bring up negative results about you.
Once you have a list of keywords, you should think about the sentiment of each page that ranks for those.
There are three sentiments you can assign to a search result—positive, negative, and neutral. You can see how many negative articles there are and the positive or neutral articles that you’d like to promote by contrast.
Your goal is to rank the content you have direct control over. Maybe you have a blog that’s already ranking just a little below the negative post about you, so you can tweak it to help it rank higher.
You should also create social profiles with the keywords you identified. These are pages that Google can also rank, so they start to show up when someone’s searching your name or the name of your business.
Finally, you can also set up a domain in your name. It could be yourname.com, and then you could use it as a personal branding blog. You can add articles and content on this site, and the more content you create, if it’s high-quality, the more you’re likely to push the negative results down.