Look Up Page

April 23, 2010

One little known tool offered by Google is their Webpage Removal Request Form. This allows webmasters to request that Google remove pages from their index that contain potentially damaging material pertaining to a brand or personal name. Although Google tries very hard not to police these sorts of things by making decisions about questionable content, they do offer this tool for people who feel their name is being truly besmirched by a website out there.

While you can’t simply request a page be taken down for saying something bad about you, there are four cases in which Google says they will remove a page:

    * If a bank account or credit card number is listed
    * If a Social Security number is listed
    * If an accurate image of a signature is listed
    * If the name of a business or personal name is listed on a pornographic site as a way of spamming the search engine

Of these, the first three are unlikely to come into play for most people looking to manage their online reputation – they represent an altogether different sort of problem. The last reason, however, is not uncommon, and is something everyone interested in brand and reputation management should know how to address.

Once a brand becomes sufficiently popular, it will begin registering on various tracking tools as a frequent search. A number of unscrupulous business people harvest these frequent searches en masse, and build pages consisting of lists of those words as a way to spam Google and other search engines, to draw in unsuspecting traffic. These pages generally forward to a pornographic website, a gambling site, or some other site that may use these black hat SEO tactics.

This can be incredibly damaging to your online reputation, as potential customers or employers may think they are going to a site to learn about you, only to be sent to a pornographic site. These listings may also push positive listings down off the first page of results, burying information about yourself or your brand that you want to be shared.

It’s for situations like this that the Google Webpage Removal Request Form exists. The form allows webmasters to submit a site that has their name or brand on it in a spamming context. Each submission is investigated by a human being, and most are handled within only a few days.

Google does request that people first attempt to contact the webmaster responsible for the spamming, before submitting a request. If the webmaster does not respond, then a request may be made to have the offending site entirely removed from the Google index. If the webmaster does respond, and does remove the offending material, a slightly different request can be made using the same form. This alternate request confirms that the webmaster has removed the offending material, and Google then removes the cache of the offending page, so that only the up-to-date, non-offending version of the site remains available to users.


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