Living with Google: What you can and can’t get removed from search

Business owners need to get to know Google and understand it better, says Simon Wadsworth, managing partner at Igniyte.

Googling is ingrained into our daily lives, making the platform the first place people go to search for information about your business.

Search results are what Google loads on screen when someone looks for your business. Their perception of what they see in search results (your online reputation) then influences their next move.

It’s your business – embracing Google

Search links and comments must be positive to win customers, sales and profits. If they’re negative, the opposite happens. Naturally you want Google to show the best bits of your business.

That’s why the thorn in any SME’s side is negative search links. It can be hard to know what to do about them or where to start. There are practical steps you can take to understand Google, help control what people see and boost your online reputation.

Accept you can’t always get what you want

You can ask Google to remove a web page, photo, profile link or review from search results, but policies and laws govern what it will and won’t take down.

Theoretically, Google exists to provide the most relevant and useful information for a search term, algorithms calculate what is considered relevant: don’t take it personally. For example, if your search shows a negative review or article, it’s because its relevant. You can’t delete facts unless they break rules.

Firing an irate request to Google to take down a press article won’t get you anywhere. You need to know what is and isn’t within your control. Understand that the rules differ for personal information, company information and for company directors. The ‘territory’ in which links appear is also a factor – what applies in UK search doesn’t work in other locations.

Sometimes sites are open to removing content according to their own Ts&Cs. However, site owners may refuse to remove pages, so it’s worth knowing the routes available. If the content is defamatory, old, or inappropriate, then Google removal may be an option.

Be aware that even if Google deletes something from search results, the webpage still exists and can be found through the direct URL, social media or other search engines.

There’s a difference between something defamatory (harmful and false information) and content that you don’t like. Beyond that, defamation law is complex.

But you can influence it…

When you make a request, Google balances the privacy rights of individuals with the public’s interest to know and the right to distribute information and Google’s Removal request form facilitates unlawful content removal if you can provide the offending URL while explaining how it breaches a specific law.

The 1998 Data Protection Act is being updated as new EU general data protection regulation takes effect influencing a person’s ‘right to be forgotten’. This can involve a delicate balance of public and private interest. Newspaper articles for example, contain material lawfully published based on fact. Company directors, doctors and MPs, for example, will struggle to get information removed that’s deemed in the public interest and Google ‘may decline to remove certain information about financial scams, professional malpractice, criminal convictions, or public conduct of government officials’.

If defamation is cited, Google will want to understand whether there is proof of serious harm (UK Defamation Act). You should look at how you can demonstrate loss of earnings or share price drops, for example.

Igniyte for example worked with a large online trading company to remove a defamatory, outdated blogpost querying the firm’s status with an industry regulator. Content was removed by Google.co.uk. However, in Australia, Google.au refused to remove this, stating how defamation in that territory had to impact an individual.

The power of customer reviews

Positive customer reviews are incredibly good for your search results and online reputation, with plenty of insight to back up just how influential they are:

  • 90 per cent of people read online reviews before visiting a business
  • 84 per cent of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation

If you’ve got a bad review, however, Google should be your last resort. With online reviews, what matters is how you respond; use good old fashioned customer service (speeded up in the digital world).

Respond to bad reviews swiftly and positively to show your online audience that if something goes wrong you’re willing and quick to resolve it. Have a review management policy – a must have for every business owner nowadays. Make sure to monitor review platforms and social networks, particularly Twitter where users like to get attention when something goes wrong. Set up Google Alerts so that when your name is mentioned online – good or bad – you know about it and can respond.

If you believe a review is malicious or untrue, there is a specific removal request for Google My Business and Reviews.

Working and living with Google

It’s important to educate for yourselves and your teams about Google removal policies and tools. This search engine also loves quality content, use this to your advantage and commit to creating and sharing positive stories about your business.

In working with Google, it will help you to rise in the rankings, pushing down anything that might do your business harm.

If you have more questions or want to know more about how to influence your Google search results? Click here.

Simon Wadsworth is managing partner at Igniyte

Further reading on Google

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Digital Marketing
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