Google Won’t Remove Pages About You

    March 19, 2009
    Chris Crum

If you’ve been involved with the web for any significant amount of time, there is a good chance  there may be pages up somewhere that you’re not thrilled about, but are out of your power to remove. Whether it is a page you made in high school or somebody else talking smack about you, you’re concerned about your online reputation (as you should be) and would like to see the page removed from Google’s index altogether.

Unfortunately, Google cannot be held responsible for this because as they say on the official help page for "How do I remove content from Google Search Results?" they do not own the Internet. The company says, "In order for information within Google search results to change, the information must first change on the website where it appears."

Matt Cutts Blog

Google’s Matt Cutts posted about this on his own blog after receiving countless emails from people making such requests. He was kind enough to share his response to these emails, which usually goes something like this:

Unfortunately there’s not much I can do. The page you pointed out is not spam, and pretty much the only removals (at least in the U.S., which is what I know about) that we do for legal reasons are if a court orders us. We typically say that if person A doesn’t like a webpage B, only removing page B out of Google’s search results doesn’t do any good because webpage B is still there (e.g. it can be found by going to it directly or through other search engines). In that sense, the presence of that page in Google’s index is just reflecting the fact that the page exists on the wider web.

The best actions for you from our perspective can be one of a couple options. Either contact whoever put up webpage B and convince them to modify or to take the page down. Or if the page is doing something against the law, get a court to agree with you and force webpage B to be removed or changed. We really don’t want to be taking sides in a he-said/she-said dispute, so that’s why we typically say “Get the page fixed, changed, or removed on the web and then Google will update our index with those changes the next time that we crawl that page.” Our policies outside the U.S. might be different; I’m not as familiar with how legal stuff works outside the U.S.

This is pretty much the same thing you get from the official page. "If you can’t get the webmaster to do anything, we’re really sorry, but our hands are tied without action from the webmaster," is the position stated there. Though Google uses the opportunity to suggest reporting social security or credit card information in results, adult content in results when SafeSearch is on, defamatory content in results, and inappropriate images in video results. So if the content you’re trying to get removed falls into any of these categories, there might still be hope for you.

Once people understand that Google can’t take responsibility for listings they don’t like, they seem (for the most part) to accept the explanation. It’s the understanding in the first place that is often lacking. Hopefully Matt’s comments will set the record straight.

Ultimately this leaves you no choice but to amp up your reputation management efforts. Go to the root of the problem. Make nice with people if you have to. It won’t always work, but just like with the rest of life, sometimes you have to live with past mistakes and acceptance that someone might not like you.

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