Important Update to Google’s Removal Policy

For those looking to get something removed from Google search results, it may be even more difficult to do so in light of an emerging trend of Google declining court ordered removal requests. Also, check out our other post if you’re wondering how to remove your name and personal information from Google.

About Google’s Removal Policies

Google honors requests for content to be removed from its search results that fit a strict criteria, including revenge porn, private information that could put a person’s identity at risk (like their social security number or credit card info) as well as instances of copyright infringement that meet requirements of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Google also has had an informal policy of honoring removal requests that accompanied a court order specifying the content is defamatory/libelous. However, more and more attorneys specializing in Internet and defamation law are reporting that Google is increasingly denying these requests. Protected under the Communications Decency Act, search engines are not liable for defamation/libel and, therefore, are not required to remove such content from results. Google’s informal policy to do so has been an option for those prepared to incur the expensive costs and uncertain outcome of hiring a lawyer, going to court, and having a judge rule in their favor.

Why the shift?

While Google has not released an official statement on the matter, many in the space speculate the high costs associated with maintaining removal procedures, a reluctance to participate in Internet censorship, and a recent lawsuit brought forward by Pissed Consumer about bogus defamation defendants could all be factors. Quite simply, it could come down to the fact that Google is not legally required to honor such requests.

What does this mean for you?

This growing trend highlights a few things we’ve always stressed at BrandYourself about managing your reputation online:

  • A company promising they can remove your specific result will cost you more money in the long run.
    • Yes, things can sometimes be directly removed if the situation fits a distinct use case as we’ve highlighted above. We’ve written/spoken extensively about these scenarios on our blog, in our Ultimate Online Reputation Management guide, and in our CEO’s class on SEO and ORM. We look into all removal options when working with a client but, the reality is, the majority of situations simply do not fit the strict criteria for removal.
    • This shift in Google policy shows it’s even harder to get something removed, making it an even more limited option for most people. A former reputation management company went out of business over promising and under delivering.
  • Your best approach to improving your reputation is to build and maintain a positive online presence.
    • ORM goes two ways – as much as having negative search results can hurt you, having positive, professional search results can help you.
    • Research shows that if 4-5 results on the first page of Google results for your name show you are good at what you do professionally, people are more likely to want to work with you. Additionally, if you happen to happen a negative search result but also positive content also out there, people are more likely to overlook the negative info.
    • If you’re dealing with a negative search result, your best course of action is to suppress it with positive, relevant content that you keep maintained.
  • If you’re going to hire a company to improve your reputation online, make sure you vet the company and feel comfortable working with them. Our CEO has written in detail how BrandYourself has used a unique blend of technology and innovation to create the best service in this industry. We recommend you read it in its entirety but here are some takeaways.
    • We do not outsource our content creation. Our experts have backgrounds in journalism, communication, computer engineering, etc. and work directly with you on your account. This ensures the content is high-quality and it has the best chance of ranking well in Google.
    • This is near impossible for other companys to pull off at a price like ours. We can do this because the technology we’ve built over seven years with investment from some of the best VC’s in the country help us automate everything that doesn’t require a human touch. Many companies might claim the same but then they should be able to:
      • Introduce you to the actual people working on your account. We’re happy to do this. Check out our team page or visit our PA or NYC office anytime. We love when customers come by.
      • Show you work they’ve actually done. Check out our case studies for just a few examples.

While this latest shift in Google’s policy limits removal options of negative search results, it highlights the importance of building a positive online presence as your best option for improving, maintaining, and protecting your online presence.

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