Seeing negative links about your company online is always going to be an unpleasant experience. It could be that one small misstep or incident has tarnished your online reputation to the point where you feel it is having a noticeable impact on your business. But while your first instinct will likely be to try and get them removed, the way you go about doing this is crucial.
You may assume there is some kind of black market service to remove negative links — there isn’t. And this certainly wouldn’t be the simplest way to go about getting them removed. The reality is, the most simple and effective strategy to remove links is to simply ask. Below are the four main steps you need to follow in order to get negative links about you or your business removed.
What are Negative Links?
A “negative” link is a search result on Google that can be deemed detrimental to your business. Often, the links that are hardest to remove are published in journalistic outlets, separate to things like reviews and forum posts. These articles could be the result of a crisis your company faced — perhaps a shipping and supply issue, an unfortunate customer experience, or a misjudged social media post. For that reason, a negative link may be entirely fair and justified for its coverage in the press.
However, this doesn’t mean that the press can say anything they want about your company. Negative links might have false information or lack a statement from leadership — this is called the “right to reply”, which every journalist is obliged to offer when a company or person is accused of something in an article. If this is the case, you might have fair grounds to ask for the link to be removed, or at least edited.
1. Compile a List of Links
Compiling a list of negative links is the first step to identifying what you want removed, but also to finding the right approach in ultimately removing them. You will then need to go about finding the best person to reach out to. It might be the work email of the journalist who wrote the piece, a general editorial email, or — if applicable — a complaints or general email found on the outlet’s “Contact Us” page. Once you have your list of outlets and a rough contact sheet of emails to reach out to, double check if there are any articles in outlets that work together — like sister publications or syndicated media — to reach out to the same contact for multiple links.
2. Contact the Outlet
If you are looking for compassion and understanding from journalists and media outlets, you have to approach the matter with the same perspective. The reality of getting negative links removed is that you simply have to ask nicely — most people will be understanding and able to offer help.
Contact the outlet and explain why you are reaching out: that you need links removed because it is impacting yours or a clients’ business. If there’s wrong information or inaccurate details, or perhaps an extra element to the story that changes the angle of the article, be sure to share.
3. Follow Up
Journalists are extremely busy people, and there is a good chance they will miss your email. Make sure to follow up after a week — asking nicely if they’ve had a chance to read your email — and then again one more time. If you continue to follow up insistently, the journalist will no-doubt feel harassed and either won’t take your request seriously, or will simply block your email. Perhaps try circling back at a quieter time, perhaps a Friday afternoon, sharing that you’d appreciate if they could take a look whenever they get a spare moment.
4. Find an Alternative Route
If email is unsuccessful, you might have more success through Twitter or LinkedIn. But not all journalists use their social media in a professional context, so be wary that if you do not hear back through any of these avenues, it might be time to explore some alternative routes
Negative links are a burden to your business’s online presence, but getting them removed is not the only way to improve your reputation. You can balance out the negative with positive through a strong, targeted PR campaign that focuses on all the good your business is doing. Combined with sophisticated SEO efforts, this can bury old links several pages into a Google search where people are far less likely to check for them.
Removing negative links isn’t totally out of reach, but reputation is all about management, and that’s something you will always have more control over than outdated search engine results.