What shows up in a Google search?
Have you ever Googled yourself and found that a load of embarrassing images and information pop up? It can prevent you from getting jobs, lose you your friends and even attract hate mail. Would you like to do something about it? If the answer is yes then read on.
I’m going to tell you how you can get your information and images removed from the Internet and Google’s search listings. It’s a simple and straightforward process but it can be time consuming and sometimes difficult bearing in mind that your details could be all over the place. The more web pages that are embarrassing you the more work you have to do to get rid of them.
You may decide that you need some help to do this and if this is the case then you can enlist the services of an online reputation and privacy management organization. Just give them as much information as you can about where your information is being displayed and let them do the hard work for you.
How do search engines and search result listings work?
Before you can start trying to remove things from the Google search results or Yahoo or Bing or any of the search engines for that matter, it’s vital to understand how your images and information get into the search results in the first place.
The first thing to understand is that nothing is ever stored on Google servers so the web page that the search result refers to must exist for someone to click through and see your information. So if you manage to get the embarrassing information removed from the web page then it will not be seen when you get to the page.
The aim of a search engine is to deliver links to the very best and most relevant web pages it can find so they send out automated software robots or ‘spiders’ as they are called. These spiders crawl through the links in all web pages they can find, indexing the pages as they go. They are relentless and typically crawl through the same web page every few days or weeks. It isn’t in the interest of the search engine to offer you a link to a page that doesn’t exist and it isn’t in your interest either.
Your photos and information will be removed in time
I know how this works by bitter experience. I run a few web sites and from time to time there are technical difficulties which take them off line for a while. If this happens at a time when the spiders want to crawl my pages they will be unable to see the content. Now the spiders know that web sites have trouble occasionally so the page may not get withdrawn from the listings immediately. It will most certainly disappear if the spider fails to find the page on subsequent visits however.
when a web page is removed from the Internet then the Google listing will also be removed eventually but it will not happen immediately. The reason for this delay is because Google stores a cache of the search listing on it’s servers ready to be shown when you do a search. The web page will remain in the listings until the Google spider gets around to reading the web page again and decides that it isn’t there anymore.
A similar thing will happen if some of your information is being shown in the description of the search engine listing. This is the worst scenario because the reader doesn’t even need to click through to the page to see your details. In this case when you manage to successfully remove your information from the web page it may take a little time for the search engine to update the listing in it’s cache. It will vanish eventually however. You need to be patient when it comes to the Internet.
Identify the urls of the offending web pages
The first step towards getting your photos and information removed from the web is to find and identify all the web pages that are displaying information that you would like to have removed. You need to note the url of the page and the specific information on the page that you are objecting to.
When you have a list of urls to target the next step is to approach the webmaster of each site your information appears on and ask them to take your details down. If you can supply them with proof that the information is untrue or a good reason why the data is damaging to you then it may help the process.
Finding webmaster contact details
There are often several ways to find the contact details for the webmaster of a site.
- Generally the easiest way to find contact details is from the contact page on the website itself. Most reputable websites want to be contacted so you should look for a link to the contact page somewhere on the site. This will be the easiest way of making contact.
- Use an Internet service that is often called ‘whois’. There are many places offering this service but you may have to try more than one before you find useable contact details. A simple Google search for ‘whois’ should provide you with starting points. The whois listing will often list an email address for the webmaster but not all whois services provide the complete details. Whois listings are generally free to access.
- if you can not find contact details for the webmaster then you can try contacting the site’s hosting company. This information is usually listed in the whois information. They should be able to give you contact details for the webmaster or even deal with your complaint directly if it’s a serious matter of copyright or defamation etc.
Write to the webmaster requesting image and information removal
You should bear in mind that the webmaster has no obligation to comply with your wishes unless the offending content is infringing copyright or there is slander or defamation involved.
You must write a nice polite note to the webmaster explaining why you wish to have the offending content removed. You must also supply the exact location and nature of the information to enable the webmaster to locate the content and delete it.
If you are asking the webmaster to remove your mugshot or other information because it was put there after you were arrested but you have subsequently been cleared of the offenses then you should send all applicable proof that this is the case.
Not all information will be removable
let’s face it. Most webmasters are good people and will comply with your reasonable requests for data removal. Unfortunately not all will be so obliging, especially if they are not in the US. It may take several follow up emails to get some web owners to take action and sadly there will be some who will simply ignore all your communications. Unless they are legally obliged to do what you are asking then you may have to accept that you will never succeed in removing all offending material from the Internet.
Privacy Online will do all this for you
Getting stuff removed from the Internet can be an arduous and time consuming task so it isn’t something you jump into lightly. Sometimes you have no choice unfortunately. Personal information about you published on the Internet can range from being slightly embarrassing to preventing you from getting jobs, losing your friends and even attract abuse. If you have a business then your online reputation can make or break it. It is vitally important that you keep it under control.