Investing time and money into improving your websites’ brand awareness and Google ranking positions only to find a bad search result ranking high for your brand name, can be disheartening. However, it is not the end and does not mean the ranking page will be there forever. There are various actions you can take to remove this unwanted Google search result listing and improve your branded search results.
What do we mean by ‘branded search result’?
Quite simply, we mean any search result that includes your brand name, for example:
[Your brand] services
[Your brand] reviews
[Your brand] [product name]
Why Would a Google Search Result be Unwanted?
It is important to understand why a Google search result would be unwanted and how to identify them. A search result might be unwanted if it includes incorrect or false information; or contains negative content or reviews towards your brand. You would not want these website pages including this form of content ranking high in search results for your brand key terms.
To identify if there are any unwanted rankings in your brand search results, search for brand keywords in Google. Review the content on each external website which is listed in your brand search results, that are not from your website. Identify any sites which are negative, incorrect or you would like removed from the results. It is important not to just search for your one brand name and instead ensure you search for a variety of branded key terms. For example, ‘Amazon’, ‘Amazon Shopping’ and ‘Amazon Prime’ are all examples of branded keywords potential customers would search for, for Amazon.
How to Remove Unwanted Search Results
- Contact the Webmaster
The first step when realising a website has negative or false information about your brand is to contact the webmaster. Begin by reviewing the content on the website to better understand why it was added in the first place; as there will always be a reason. If you feel there is a valid reason to have the content removed, politely ask them, and explain your reasoning for requesting the removal. You can contact the webmaster through the sites contact form; or some websites have the webmasters direct email address in the footer.
There are a few different ways to approach contacting the webmaster and asking for the content to be removed.
- Ask for the Page to be Deleted
If you believe you have sufficient reasoning to ask for the page to be deleted, then this would be the best solution. However, it is rare for the webmaster just to delete the page completely and you would need a strong reason for the webmaster to accept.
- Suggest Alternative Content
Highlight to the webmaster exactly which section of the content you are displeased with and ask if they could adapt it. If the content is outdated or untrue, they would be more likely to update it as it would also benefit their website to ensure the information provided is correct. You could suggest alternative content to change it to, especially if it could be worded differently to reflect more positively towards your brand.
- No-Index the Page
If the webmaster does not want to remove or revise the content, you can ask them to no-index the page. This would enable the page to remain on their website but would tell Google to ignore it and ultimately remove the page from the Google search results. This option, however, does not remove the content or the page and it could still be accessed on the website. Providing the page is not a main landing page or easily accessible; for example, an old blog post, no-indexing the page would be a suitable alternative.
- Suppress the Content
Supress the negative content appearing in brand searches by expanding the branded content on your own website. This is an easier alternative to contacting the webmaster as you are proactively making the changes yourself rather than relying on the webmaster to accept and make the changes to their site.
Increase brand related content and keywords on your website to improve the usefulness. This can also encourage search engines to position these pages higher in branded search results. This would help to reduce visibility of the original, negative content and hopefully remove it from ranking highly in search results.
- Create blog articles around your brand including any business news, events or updates. Ensure these are of high quality to improve the likelihood of them ranking.
- If your business is in positive news articles posted by external news sites, Google may create a Top Stories section. It can be difficult to control the narrative here, but digital PR efforts may pay off.
- Ensure your brand has active social media profiles. These will rank in search results for branded terms, and further reduce rankings for the negative result.
- Optimise any Google Business Profiles to encourage Google to show the local map pack which takes up further brand space and may push down the negative results.
- Notify Google Search Console
Google Search Console (GSC) has an Outdated Content Removal Tool which can be used to alert Google of incorrect pages ranked in search results. The tool may only be used if the rich snippet showing in Google search results is different to the current page. Meaning the page has not been updated to the latest version in search results.
This tool is best used if you were able to get the webmaster to update their website content, but Google has not yet re-crawled and is not showing the revised page in search results. This tool can also be used for outdated images still displayed in Google Images.
- Personal Information
If the website contains personal information about either an individual or your brand, you can request for this to be removed. Using Google’s ‘request to remove your personal information on Google’ form you can explain the content you would like removed. The form allows you to request the removal of personally identifiable information (PII). This includes bank details, handwritten signatures, ID documents, personal contact information and more personal details. You will be asked to provide exact details and pages of what and where the information is being disclosed.
The form should only be used if the content is still live on the site. If the content is no longer on the website but is still being displayed in Google search results refer to point 2 and used the Outdated Content tool. It is important to note the tool only removes listings from Google search results, the information can still be found on the original website.
- Negative Reviews
Brand profiles on review websites will rank high in search results as Google views them as high authority. Having a low score or negative reviews can adversely affect a potential customer or client’s opinion on whether to purchase a product or service from you. Encourage existing customers and clients to leave positive reviews on these websites; either through word-of-mouth or including a link to leave a review in an email. The more positive reviews will increase brand trust and hide the negative reviews. Remember, negative reviews are normal for a business. If it does not seem like a natural number of negative reviews, it may be worth looking into online reputation management.
Unwanted or negative search results ranking for your brand can be resolved. While it is not always possible to remove them, there are other steps you can take to push them lower in ranking results. We look at these types of concerns and actions, as well as a whole lot more in our EAT SEO Audit. If you have any further questions don’t hesitate to contact us.