Google Is Now Your Brands Afterlife
Google may as well be your afterlife
Search engines display information about pretty much forever, even if it isn't true.
When people are accused of a crime, written about inaccurately, or even libeled online, it tends to linger. That's because due to the way search engines work there's much more incentive to add content to a site than to remove it. Even lawsuits are seldom enough to get a publisher to remove inaccurate information. When it isn't removed, Google continues to display, and by the virtue of Google's power, amplify inaccuracies about you... forever.
How search engines reward bad behavior
Search engines like Google reward long-form content. Studies have shown that longer wordcount content tends to rank better. When webmasters learned this they began to make content longer so it might rank better. Some call this an "authority" signal.
Larger sites, and those that are brands, tend to rank better too. If Coca-cola posts almost the same article as that of a niche blogger in the same industry, Coca-cola's site will probably rank higher.
And let's face it, the more words a site has on it, the more chances there are for it to rank for a certain keyword. So why would anyone want to remove pages if there is a chance it could hurt Google rankings?
How freedom of speech helps bad information linger
Freedom of speech is generally a great thing. While you cannot yell fire in a theater (unless there is one), you can get away with a lot of inaccuracies online. Some inaccuracies are intentional, as in fake news. But most bad information online is a result of laziness.
For example, if a person is accused of a crime, and then released with an "I'm sorry, we got the wrong guy" from the police, the newspaper report has still published something about the accusation that will survive long after that accused has passed into the afterlife. The newspaper will almost never remove the article. Whether this is because of laziness, a lack of concern for other human beings, pride (removing it would admit a mistake), or just the cold, hard, publishers guidelines - it's still inaccurate, and often hurtful.
Journalists will often cite freedom of speech. They'll say it was true at the time therefore they refuse to remove the harmful content from their site, but Google treats it as if it's true and accurate.
Google inadvertently blesses bad information
Because people trust Google (for the most part) the inaccurate information published by a news organization receives the patina of truth because by showing the information in search results Google is essentially giving its blessing. The information shown in Google search results is in effect co-branded because the Google logo is right there at the top of the page. At Reputation X we call this the Google halo effect. Let's keep in mind though that there is no one at Google who reads the information on every web page and fact checks it. In fact, Google even says it doesn't endorse any fact checks it displays.
How long do search results stay up after a page is taken down?
Google generally removes a web page from its search results within a few weeks to two months after the page is taken down. The best way to have content removed from Google is to remove it at the source. But publishers generally don't remove content for the reasons mentioned above.
Even paying a journalist or editor to remove inaccurate online content rarely works. Some say they don't want to set a precedent of removing content from their publication. Sometimes it's just pride. Sometimes they're actually out to get the brand or person they are effectively libeling (but they won't admit it).
Why reputation management exists
Online reputation management exists to combat many of the factors written about above. When search engines display certain online content it can be damaging to people and companies. Publishers are rarely motivated to do the right thing. That's where Reputation X comes in.
“Reputation X has done an excellent job for our company. They deleted nearly all negative online content placed by a very active detractor, and pushed down the rest.”Ralph Serrano President | Safe Harbor Equity
"You will be glad to have Reputation X as a strategic partner."Rosemary Plorin CEO | Lovell