We hope you enjoy this reprint of a recent editorial from Crisis Manager, the award-winning crisis management newsletter.
When a caller asked, “Can you unGoogle me?”, I have to admit it took me a second to respond. Though I chuckled at how this particular individual phrased it, asking if we can have something removed from search results entirely is not at all uncommon.
The reality is that well over 90% of search results cannot be removed entirely, despite what some unscrupulous companies might claim. There is no magic button for removal, no proprietary app that somehow pulls one over on the search engines, and nobody has a connection at Google that can wipe a search result off the face of the planet just because they golf at the same club.
Fortunately that doesn’t mean there aren’t options. There are a few legitimate options that, while they’re not exactly “unGoogling”, help to reduce the impact of negative search results. You can go to the source, working directly with whoever published the offending item to have it taken down, or more likely altered to be less damaging. You can bury it, utilizing search engine optimization and content creation to pile enough positive/neutral items on top to push them into the rarely viewed page 3+ of results for relevant search terms. In rare situations you have a legal case for taking something down as well, either by your lawyers talking to (okay, mildy threatening) Google due to the item violating a narrow list of reasons or pressuring the publishing party directly. Finally, you need to be ready to actually talk about the issue if it does come up.
Negative search results can cause major problems today but they don’t have to sink you permanently. While the too-good-to-be-true promises of immediate removal aren’t quite as advertised, with smart maneuvering they don’t have to be a permanent source of pain.