So many of us spend a large portion of our time on the Internet. Being online has morphed well beyond connecting with friends or communicating via email. Even if you’re not a frequent “surfer,” chances are that you’ll be interested in how your name or business is perceived to the online crowd. This is due to the fact that so much can “ride” on search results – with the trend of potential clients and employers taking to Google (or other search engines) to find out more about a person or company steadily rising upward. In this article, I will explain how to approach undesirable search results as well as provide a step-by-step rundown of how to proceed when you need a particular entry to disappear or move much further down the rankings list.
What Is An Undesirable Search Result?
An undesirable search result comes about when you go into Google, Yahoo or another search engine, enter a keyword or term directly links to you (usually your legal or business name) and find something that is unwanted, unflattering, incorrect, negative, or otherwise undesired. The range of entries varies widely. A business could be concerned about a highly-ranked negative customer review. An individual might run into issues getting hired when somebody (who happens to have the same name) else’s police mug shot appears in the top few results. Someone might have written a slanderous article about you or your business and published it online. All of this is fodder for curious minds. If someone wants to discover additional information about you or your company, the place to go is online.
Who Can Benefit From Reputation Management?
This question comes up more often than you might think, as not everyone can benefit from the practice of Reputation Management – which can be defined as an effort to remove or at least lower undesired search results. In very basic terms, search rankings depend heavily on a search engine’s preference toward certain websites and webpages when a specific term is entered – or searched. Entries that rank highly for a term will appear first and are most likely to be clicked on by the interested reader, while lower results (on page 3 and beyond) have a far greater chance of being overlooked or ignored.
As I mentioned above, not everyone can benefit from Reputation Management efforts. For example, someone who is famous is going to find it impossible to manipulate search engine results no matter how many social media accounts, self-written articles or emails he or she sends. To illustrate this, I’ve pasted two screenshots below that display the top search results for a couple of “famous” search terms: Peyton Manning and Papa John’s Pizza.
For better or for worse, these two search terms are going to have high profile stories written about them for some time. There is also a load of content from highly reputable websites already published for these two search terms that is going to be impossible to override regardless of how much personal or professional information is uploaded to articles or social media accounts. For all intents and purposes, Peyton Manning and Papa John’s Pizza are not going to benefit from Reputation Management practices. (It is important to recognize the different between Reputation Management and Public Relations. The former refers to online search results while the latter revolves around affecting one’s perception in general terms.) They can try hiring a reputation management company, out-source SEO specialists and even personally make a few phone calls, but their RM fate is pretty much sealed for the rest of their respective lifespans and even beyond that. Anyone who has at some point in time been in a high profile situation or national spotlight is not going to have a use for RM services.
Conversely, if your name happens to be the same as someone who fits into the above category, there is a lesser chance that you’ll have to worry about manipulating search results; as most if not all of the highest ranked entries on a search engine’s list will pertain to someone else. Let’s say your name is Michael Jordan… you may not even appear within the first two pages of Google when someone searches your name.
I Want To Do Something About A Bad Search Result – What Can I Do?
So assuming you have a bad search ranking, let’s discuss what you can actually do about it. First of all, realize that you’re not the only person going through this situation as that the steps that should be taken are pretty much the same for everyone. Regardless of how urgent the matter may seem, it’s important to keep a cool head rather than bring emotions into it – as that won’t assist you in any way and sometimes will work against you if there’s a chance you can actually get an entry removed.
Removal of undesired content published on a webpage that ranks highly in a search engine is always preferable to knocking it down. However, getting something removed can be highly difficult or even impossible under some circumstances. Still, you can try to contact the owner or administrator of the website in question via email or by using whatever contact information is provided on the site itself.
In one case I worked with where an individual happened to have a mug shot published on a municipal police website, he was able to call the department and request that his picture and data be taken down. Since it was a DWI arrest from more than five years ago and he had maintained a clean record since the incident, the city’s website administrator agreed to take it down. This won’t always be the case though. You’ll also find there is pretty much no way to get something removed from a major news outlet website such as CNN, Reuters, Associated Press, etc.
One angle of Reputation Management that some of our readers may not have considered is that there is a growing industry revolving around websites that actually run a business model that depends on receiving funds from individuals who want to have something an entry on their website removed. I won’t get into a lot of detail about this in this article, but it is an unfortunate part of this business. Many times, someone will contact the website owner or use the contact page information to solicit that something be taken down – only to learn that the administrator will remove the entry complete for a fee. If this is the case you’re confronted with, you’ll need to decide for yourself whether the price requested is worth the expense. Normally you can negotiate to reduce the cost, but not always.
If there is no contact information available on the website, you can try doing a DomainTools search in order to get the email of the person who is responsible for the site in question. To do this, simply go to DomainTools.com and enter the website and click SEARCH FOR DOMAIN. An email address will appear.
If you’re representing a company, you may be able to get the entry removed depending on which website the information is published on. If it’s a negative review on Yelp for example, there are situations in which you can get the review axed (especially if you’re a paying customer), but we’ll discuss that in a future article.
KNOCK THE SEARCH RESULT DOWN
If there are multiple search engine result entries that are causing concern, chances are you won’t be able to get them all removed. This means you’ll be forced to “knock the unwanted results down.” What this refers to is publishing flattering content online on websites that normally rank high automatically in search engines. The most common type of websites that fit into this category are those related to social media. By piggy-backing onto the Search Engine Optimization of sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare and others, you can slowly but surely get those pages to rank highly for your particular search term (your name or company’s name) in order to knock down a less flattering result.
Although this method doesn’t result in getting the content removed from the Internet, it does do wonders for eventually getting more flattering entries to “drown out” something that you don’t want a lot of people to see. This requires data entry skills more than anything else, as you’ll need to input as much information as possible in order to encourage the page to do well in search rankings. This means attempting to get your real name or company name precisely entered in the social media site’s database, completing your profile to the best of your ability, and updating it frequently.
You can also work at trying to get content published on blog websites that is much more flattering, although in order for this to work the website in question will need to be ranked highly by search engines in order to have any impact. You can even start your own set of websites if you have the long-term desire to update them frequently and work on their SEO. Although this is very time consuming, it can pay dividends if you stick with it.
Nobody enjoys being on the negative end of a bad search result. This affects many more individuals and companies that one might assume regardless of whether there is any justifiable reason for the content to be there. There are many more “tricks” that one can use depending on the specific circumstance, but hopefully this guide will get you started and help our readers decide how to proceed once a high ranking negative search result is discovered.
If you have any questions or would like to comment, feel free to leave a reply below and I will respond as soon as possible.
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