The need for mugshot removal services is growing rapidly, and here’s why:
If you’ve made a mistake or simply were in the wrong place at the wrong time and end up with a mugshot, it’s now on display for everyone.
Mugshot websites collect these photos and post them for everyone to see. Whether you’re guilty of a crime or not, mugshots tend to rank high in search results, and can truly wreak havoc on your personal life and professional accomplishments.
At BrandYourself, we’ve had clients whose charges were dropped or were found not guilty of minor infractions, yet their mugshots continue to hurt them in all aspects of their lives.
Unfortunately, it’s not clear how to make this problem go away or remove mugshots, and many people end up wasting time and money trying to combat the problem.
Since we constantly get asked about mugshot removal, we wanted to talk about some of the options you have, and what we recommend. There’s no one size fits all approach, but this should help you find what will work best for your situation.
The Pros & Cons of Mugshot Removal Sites
Mugshot removal can be one of the more murky waters to navigate online. This is because it is still very wide open in terms of what sites can get away with and be held accountable for.
Because of this, shady or illegitimate mugshot removal services have spread like wildfire over the last few years. Unfortunately, many just see this as an opportunity to extort or manipulate desperate people who just want to clean up a silly mistake or feel that their mugshot being online blows things out of proportion.
Something To Watch Out For
A tactic that started to become more popular over the last few years is mugshot removal sites partnering up with the sites that aggregate/share mugshots online. This is easy business for them and allows them to easily remove your mugshot when they are actually just middlemen.
The issue with this (other than being unethical) is that they don’t truly have your best interest at heart. They are simply trying to collect a toll from desperate people.
What’s worse is that these mugshot removal sites will sometimes use this connection to try and gouge their customers as much as possible. The first thing they will do is try to establish what your budget is and they say they will reach out to see how much will be required in order to take it down.
After this they will quote a price at the high end of your budget or even slightly higher. The reason for this is they want to get as much money out of you as possible. If you say your budget was $1,000 they might come back and say it will take $1,250 but they absolutely guarantee they can get the mugshot removed or your money back.
They can use their guarantee (since they work with the actual mugshot site) in order to make you feel better about stretching your budget a little bit. What’s an extra $250 as long as it brings guaranteed results right?
Now you might be thinking to yourself, “Who cares if they work with the website as long as they do the mugshot removal effectively?” This is totally understandable, and if it were this easy we would be in your camp as well.
However, it’s much more complex than this. We will get into the details on this further into the post, but the short story is just because your mugshot is removed from one site that doesn’t mean it can’t be found elsewhere.
Your time and money should be used on a strategy that works.
The Mugshot Removal Landscape
As you can see, when it comes to mugshot removal there is a lot to keep an eye out for.
When it comes to sites that claim they can remove mugshots from Google, you should proceed with caution. As we have alluded to, there are a number of websites out there that claim that they will remove a mugshot from another website for a fee. This can range from $100 to $500 or more depending on the site (or your stated budget).
That means to effectively get rid of your mugshot, you would have to seek out a solution for each individual posting – which would not only add up quickly but would never fully guarantee that the image wouldn’t pop up on another site down the road. It only takes a fraction of a second for a new or existing mugshot aggregator to scrape and add your mugshot to their database, but much longer for you to identify and deal with them one by one.
To make matters worse, many of these sites will just migrate to a new domain name if they get too much pushback on their practices. This makes it very hard to pursue them legally without spending a lot of time and money. The cost for them to move everything to a new site, however, is negligible.
Many of these mugshot removal websites have come under fire for these types of practices, and some payment providers like American Express, MasterCard and PayPal are distancing themselves from these sites by not processing their transactions. This is a step in the right direction to be sure, but it’s not perfect. The major issue it that it’s still very hard for these payment processors to identify the small-medium operators in the industry.
Additionally, over the past few years, a number of states have passed legislation that prevents these sites from charging a fee for removal and forbids sheriffs from releasing these images to these pay for mugshot removal websites. While this type of protection against mugshot removal fees is important, remember that there is currently no national standard in place and that the process is completely dependent on the state. To learn more about those states that currently uphold this kind of legislation and those whose cases are pending, visit the National Conference of State Legislatures.
For those states not yet addressing these sorts of concerns through state law, mugshot removal companies will continue to partner with the sites posting these mugshots and share portions of your fee with the offending site.
In short, it’s on you to take control of what shows up about you online. You, unfortunately, can’t rely on these sites or the law to do it for you.
How to Get Mugshots Removed
Should You Use These Mugshot Removal Websites Or Not?
If you live in a state that does not allow booking photos and mugshot removal for a fee, you are lucky in that you simply have to file a request to the site and they must then remove the image. If your charges were dropped, dismissed, expunged or your case was sealed, you are in the best possible position to get this image removed.
One thing to be aware of with this is that this is no guarantee that your mugshot will not pop up on another site, or get indexed elsewhere online. While this is the ideal situation to be in, don’t let that prevent you from doing your due diligence and making sure that your mugshot isn’t showing up somewhere else online as well.
If you do not live in a state with these sorts of legal protections and are trying to remove a mugshot from the internet, you can still appeal to these websites directly and include the documentation mentioned above to strengthen your right to removal. It is likely that a fee will be required, though it may not be – depending on the particular site.
If they come back to you with a fee you have a few things to think about. First of all, how much is it? If the cost for mugshot removal is outside of your price range then that ends the discussion quickly (thankfully you still have other options).
You should also be aware of your overall image situation online. If you scour the web and cannot find your mugshot anywhere, then you might consider paying the fee to see if that wraps things up. Again, keep in mind that it’s no guarantee it can’t show up again in the future.
However, if you search for your image online and find that it’s also listed on dozens of other aggregator sites you probably don’t want to pay the fee. It won’t make a dent in solving your overall problem and you will need a wide-reaching solution.
Google Takedown Requests
We hear from many people who want to reach out to search engines directly and try to get them to de-index the mugshot. Unfortunately, while Google and other search engines honor certain types of requests, mugshot removal does not often fall under their jurisdiction.
Search engines like Google follow a set of guidelines when it comes to accepting or rejecting removal requests. In the United States, Google will typically de-index web pages that share:
- Sensitive info like social security numbers and other info that could cause identity theft or financial harm
- Revenge Porn
- Child Porn
- Copyrighted Content/Works
Outside of the US, search engines follow the guidelines determined by the country when it comes to honoring removal requests. The European Union’s “Right to be Forgotten” compels search engines to de-index outdated and irrelevant information about people online at the behest of those users. If you live in Argentina or a member state of the EU, you can file this type of removal request.
However, this doesn’t mean that they are not in your corner. It’s worth noting that Google released an algorithm update in 2013 that aimed to de-prioritize mugshot results in the rankings because of these controversial “pay for removal” practices. While this might not seem like much, it is a huge help when you take into account our recommended method for mugshot removal.
The Best Solution? Suppression
At BrandYourself, we highly recommend suppression as the most sustainable and proactive method for dealing with mugshot removal, and any other negative content about you online. We have helped thousands of people deal with mugshot issues and can confidently say that this is the most reliable and long-term solution. As a matter of fact, suppression is at the core of all successful online reputation management strategies.
By focusing on developing a strong brand narrative and promoting positive web properties, one of the best side effects is that this strategy will push down or “suppresses” negative search results in the rankings. When it comes to dealing with mugshots in your image search results, the good news is that your biggest problem isn’t the website hosting the image, but a lack of images that you control ranking for your name.
Before you jump into the images directly, you want to make sure that your foundation of online properties are set up and optimized. This means you should have a personal website with a domain that matches your name and the core social media profiles created as well (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google +).
When you have all of those created you should optimize them by including relevant information about yourself on the “About me” page of your website and the bios of your social media properties. This will help them rank in the search engines for your name, and will help give any images associated with those accounts a big boost.
If you want to see the step-by-step process you can use our free reputation management software that will walk you through the process.
Now, it’s time to talk images.
If there aren’t very many (publicly accessible) pictures of you online, then pretty much any new image associated with your name will show up in your search results pretty quickly. Whether it’s a mugshot or a flattering picture of you at a friend’s wedding, this new image isn’t competing against much. This means that it stands a good chance of eventually ranking pretty high – especially if it is well-optimized for your name.
Instead of worrying about mugshot removal from Google outright, focus on achieving the same results by upping the number of positive pictures people find of you online.
Here’s What The Image Population Process Looks Like:
Gather Positive Photos Of Yourself:
In order to remove mugshots, you will need some ammo to make it happen. In this case, that means as many positive images of yourself that you can find.
Look online, on your computer, on your phone, old photo albums, anywhere you can. You want to pull together a solid collection of images that you would feel comfortable promoting online. If you’re someone who doesn’t like getting their picture taken very much, it’s time to bite the bullet and take a few.
This is actually a very common concern that a lot of people have when trying to remove mugshots, but here’s how you need to think about it. You already have a negative image floating around on the internet that is likely harming your reputation, so the worst-case scenario has already happened. Adding some positive pictures into the mix will only help things.
Remember, when it comes to this part of the process the more images you have the better. Each new image file you upload is another picture that could potentially suppress, outrank, or remove your mugshot from prominent search result positions. When it comes to mugshot removal via suppression it’s a numbers game, and the more positive images you can get out there the better.
Another thing to keep in mind here is that there is value in using different images. This is actually a common mistake that can drastically reduce the effectiveness of a campaign.
Google is good at recognizing when images are the same, even if they have different file names or are different sizes. You will have a much larger impact if you source completely different images, not slightly different versions of the same photo.
This might add a little time to your efforts but it’s absolutely necessary. This is a corner you don’t want to cut.
Identify Image Networks And Your Sites You Can Use:
Now that you have your images you need to find places to publish them. The sites you are looking for here are image-focused websites that have some solid domain authority/site strength to them and will give you the best chance to successfully remove mugshots from the first page of the search engines.
This will help the pictures that you publish rank better in image results, suppress your negative image, and give you the best chance of finding success with your mugshot removal campaign.
Luckily, you don’t need to start from scratch when it comes to finding these sites. Here is a shortlist of places you should get started on:
Make sure to create a well-optimized profile that targets your name as well. This will send valuable relevancy signals to search engines about the images you are trying to suppress your mugshot with.
This means you should use the variation of your name that you are trying to control in your profile and bio as well. This goes a long way to making sure that the profiles perform well, and the images associated with them give you the best chance to remove mugshots from the first page.
It also makes sense to publish these on your own personal website. If you don’t have one, now is the time to set it up. Just go to a domain registrar like godaddy.com, register your domain name, and set up your site with WordPress.
Even though your own blog won’t have the same domain authority as the websites above, it still makes a lot of sense from a relevancy standpoint and you can control the alt text of the images you post there (more on that later). A well-optimized personal website will include a lot of information about you, which helps search engines understand your image content a bit better.
Publish Your Optimized Images:
Now that you have your images and the sites you want to publish them, it’s time to get them out there and get your mugshot removal campaign started!
Here’s the trick though, it’s not as simple as uploading a bunch and calling it a day. There are a few things that you need to do in order to optimize your images and make sure they stand the best chance to remove mugshots from the first page:
- Include your name in the filename of every image that you upload. Try and have some variety in there as well. What we mean by this is don’t title all images “janesmith.jpg”. Go with something like “jane-smith-in-new-york.jpg” instead. Adding some additional descriptors about your location or industry you work in will help search engines understand more about the image content. This will help to establish a wider web of relevancy around the images you publish, which will help your mugshot removal efforts significantly.
- If you are publishing on a platform that gives you the option to add alt text to your image, don’t miss that opportunity to include your name. Your personal website would be an example of a site that has this option. This is a very powerful signal that you can send to search engines about your image content, so do it! Alt-text is used primarily to help the visually impaired understand the content of an image, but for your situation, we are more interested in the suppression benefits.
- If the platform you’re publishing on allows image descriptions, make sure to fill those out as well. This part is fairly straightforward since you simply describe the image and include your full name somewhere in the description. While they won’t have nearly as much impact as alt text does, it’s quick and easy so you might as well.
- Include caption if possible. This is another small but easy win that will provide a little more information to any search engine that finds the image. Ideally, try to structure the caption in a way that allows you to naturally include your full name. If it’s really tricky, however, put some other information that would be helpful.
- Utilize the tag feature of any social network you’re using to populate the web with images for your mugshot removal campaign. Tagging yourself in a picture on Facebook, for example, is a great way of tying your profile to the new image you’ve uploaded.
If you want even more details about this process (with all the nitty-gritty details) check out this post as well.
Take Advantage Of The Three-Step Process:
In addition to the mugshot removal tactics above, using our three-step process will also help with your mission to remove mugshots and clean up your overall online presence when other people are searching your name. When it comes to fighting back against mugshots, we suggest that you build, optimize, and monitor your online presence. This process involves:
- Building a foundational presence with social media accounts and a professional website
- Optimizing these properties and the content that you publish here for search engines
- Monitoring changes in search results over time.
While this process remains standard for most of our clients, the difference when dealing with a negative image (such as a mugshot), is the type of content you should publish. When coping with a mugshot, be ready to publish a lot of images, and devote your time to building and maintaining profiles on authoritative social media platforms that thrive on rich media.
Trying to remove mugshots may seem like a horrific battle at first, remember the tactics that we’ve shared here. It doesn’t have to cost you a penny to adequately suppress these negative images if you don’t live in a state with the legislation in your favor.
It’s not very complicated, in fact, anyone can do this. It’s just about putting in the time and following the instructions we’ve laid out in this post. Do what we recommended and give it a little time, and your campaign will be a success.
Additionally, BrandYourself offers a number of tools and services to help you repair your online reputation. If you want to take matters into your own hands, sign up for our free reputation management software to start making a dent fast.
If you’ve tried to deal with it on your own before and think your situation might need some expert attention, head over to the reputation management services page and have us take a look for you!