Removing content and links from Google – how to do it and why?

Removing content and links from Google – how to do it and why?

If you’re a responsible webmaster, then you’ll probably try to keep a close eye on the content and links that reference your website and take active steps to ensure any outdated or otherwise harmful elements are removed as quickly as possible.

However, even after you’ve wiped all the offending content from your own domain, this information can persist as snippets or cached data in Google’s search results for a long time.

Sometimes, you can’t afford to wait for Google to update its Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), and will need to take action to ensure the damage caused by certain content and links is minimised.

If you’re interested in removing content from Google, and you’re not sure where to begin, then this post is for you.

In this guide on removing content and links from Google, we’ll be covering:

  • Why you might want to remove data from Google
  • 3 steps to removing content on Google from a website you own
  • How to remove content from an external website

Why would you want to remove data from Google?

With over 1.11 billion websites on the internet, there’s a lot of opportunities for other people to write information or publish unwanted content about your brand.

This content can be positive and negative and it’s important you have a grasp on what is being shared online. So, it’s no surprise that you might want to review and sometimes remove this content from Google.

Putting a process in place to regularly review this data will help build and protect your brand’s online footprint and brand identity long-term.

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons you might want to remove this data from Google.

Establishing trust for your brand online

Being able to present your brand as trustworthy is essential for any business’s success, and with so much trust placed in search engines, results and content that frames your brand in a negative light can deal immeasurable damage to your bottom line.

This is especially true if you’re in an industry where trust in a brand is especially important from the customer or client perspective, such as food, healthcare and personal finance.

Consider Your Money, Your Life (YMYL) when determining the importance of trust for your brand online.

Addressing misinformation

When content is left to exist on Google, whether it’s regarding a dark chapter in a business’s history or is simply misinformation, it will give people in your target audience a warped view of your brand, and could spread around through a kind of anti-word-of-mouth marketing.

In these situations, removing content from Google can be a prudent decision as part of your online reputation management, and help to accelerate your brand towards a more accurate reflection of its current state via Google SERPs.

Improve backlink equity

Aside from minimising the chances of your audience being exposed to inaccurate and harmful information, removing content from Google in the right situations may also help to improve backlink equity.

Google’s algorithm continues to be more advanced and effective at discerning the meaning behind written content and the context surrounding links, so this will only help the authority and trust of your brand’s website.

Now that we have an understanding of why removing content from Google can help with your online reputation, how can you start removing content from your own website as well as third-party websites?

How do I remove content on Google from my own website?

Here’s a 3-step guide to removing content on Google search from a domain that you own.

Step 1: Review the content and decide whether you need to manually de-index it

Before charging in and explicitly telling Google to stop indexing a certain piece of content, it’s advisable to review the kind of content that you have on your website, and how best to approach it based on certain nuances.

If you’re looking to hide content because it contains information of a sensitive nature, then it’s better to remove the content through your content management system (CMS), or add security layers such as password protection so that Google’s crawlers can’t access it.

If you decide to strike a page from your sitemap completely, then be sure to set up a 301 redirect that will guide visitors to a logical alternative page, rather than an error message.

If the content is inaccurate or harmful in some way, and needs to be updated, then simply make the necessary changes in your CMS, then have the page re-indexed by submitting it to Google Search Console.

If you’re looking to hide content because it’s duplicated or covered more effectively elsewhere on your site, then the best way to do this is by applying a no-index tag to the relevant pages, and adding a rel=canonical reference pointing to the page that you do want to appear on SERPs.

Step 2: List the URLs with the content you want removed

If you’ve determined that you need to request de-indexing from Google directly, the next step in the process is to locate the pages on your website that host the content you’re targeting.

If you run a particularly large site, such as an eCommerce store, and you’ve just become aware of the content that you’d like removed, then it’s important to ensure the information you’re targeting isn’t repeated outside of the page that first raised the alarm.

Be sure to carry out a thorough search of your whole sitemap to find negative content lurking in lesser-used folders or subdomains, and use your findings to draw up a comprehensive list of the relevant URLs.

Step 3: Submit your URLs through Google’s removal tool

Now that you’ve located the content that you want to get rid of, enter the URLs you’ve listed in Google’s Remove Outdated Content tool.

This tool is easy enough to use: simply paste in a target URL from a domain that you own, and this page will be removed from Google’s index immediately.

Once you’ve done this, it’s also important to hide or delete the information you’d like to remove from the page yourself.

Manual removals through the Remove Outdated Content tool are only temporary, and permanently removing content from Google will require a little tweaking on your part if you want the effects to last.

This can be done via the methods we outlined in our first step, such as:

  • Removing content completely
  • Hiding it behind password protection
  • Adding a noindex tag

Speak to Louisa about removing content or links

How do I remove content from Google on an external site?

The process for removing content from Google when you don’t own the domain is essentially the same as when you own the property, but with some added verification steps that help to prevent people from abusing it.

Google will only allow you to remove content from a domain that you don’t own if the page, image, or other content referenced by a search result has been removed or changed significantly.

If you find live content on an external site that you’d like to see removed, you’ll have to work with the webmaster who owns the content to try and negotiate a removal or de-indexation.

As with the steps above, you’ll need to create an accurate list of URLs for the content that you’d like removed. The most reliable way to do this is to find the relevant content as a result on a Google SERP, right-clicking the result, and select ‘Copy Link Address’.

Use the site:"{keyword}” boolean search operator to make this easier.

Copying the link address as it appears beneath the page title in the SERP, or visiting the site and copying the URL from the address bar, could run the risk of your list being formatted incorrectly, or de-indexing the wrong content.

From there, you can submit the relevant URLs in the same way you would for content that appears on a site you own. The request to remove the content will then enter a request queue to be approved or denied by Google.

If the content has changed significantly from the way it’s framed in its SERPs, then the request should be approved with no issue. However, there are a number of reasons why Google might decline one of these requests, such as:

  • Outdated content not in index
  • Page not indexed
  • Content still on page
  • Duplicate request
  • Unspecified

Visit Google’s Webmaster to read more about the reasons for page removal denial.

Final thoughts

Removing content from Google can be a tricky subject, and although situations where it’s necessary may be rare, it’s essential to understand the mechanics of it for long-term link building success and protecting your brand’s representation and presence online.

As we’ve covered in this guide, there are many ways to remove content and links from Google, but it’s important to prioritise accordingly and develop a methodical approach when removing content and links from Google.

For more support on removing content and links from Google and all other facets of link building, talk to the link building experts at Hive19 today for a free consultation!



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Louisa Delpy

Operations Director

Louisa is the systems and processes specialist and the brains behind HiveRank®

Meet Louisa
Email Louisa

Louisa is Operations Director

and is the systems and processes specialist and the brains behind HiveRank®