When you Google your name, you may cringe to realize that you have content out there that possibly even you put out that may not paint you in the most professional light. What might have seemed like harmless fun in your college years, may not be something you want your future boss finding down the road. Or maybe you’ve decided to have a specific username for personal purposes while using your given name for your professional image.
On the plus side, these are profiles or content that you control so it should be easy to adjust or remove. The problem is, even after these pages have been removed they can stay indexed in the search engines for weeks even months after you’ve altered them. Not so convenient if you’re attempting to clean up the SERPs just in time for that big job interview.
This actually happened to me a while back, when I was going through a routine search with my name. I realized that I had carelessly used one of my personal usernames on a site attached to my full name and it was showing up at the mid top of the SERPs for Lauren Starling SEO.
The first decision you need to make is what to do with it. Delete the account all together? Or try to alter the account to the appropriate name? Since it was ranking pretty well for my name already, I decided to see if I could change the username to my full name, instead, and solve the problem that way. Some sites will let you do this, others tell you you’re stuck with what you signed up with. Luckily, this one allowed me to switch out the username for my full name.
So it’s logical to assume that a massively popular social site would have the search engines reflecting any change quickly, right? Ironically, because it’s a massively popular site, Google is going to use it’s resources efficiently when dealing with it. Meaning-Unless Google detects a good reason to, it’s not going to continually crawl profile pages. So even though I have a fresh new page on the site for my name, the old page with my username (now with a 404 error) is still the one showing up in the Google results for Lauren Starling SEO. I have no idea how long it will take for Google to naturally find the 404 error on this Juggernaut of a website, so instead of waiting around to see, I decide this is a perfect opportunity to try out the Google URL removal tool.
Google URL Removal
Google understands that sometimes you want a page removed from Google’s index faster than they are able to update it organically. So they’ve set up a url removal tool to help you expedite the process of removing the outdated page from the SERPs. It’s important to note that this tool only works if the site has already been updated to reflect the changes. This will not help you if you’ve not already had the information, from the source, updated.
Google URL Removal Tool
To remove a url from Google, first make sure that you are logged into your Google accounts. Next, go to the Google webmaster tools and click on the New Removal Request. Then, type in the exact url that you want removed and then click continue. Finally, click Remove this page. You will see that there is a pending request for your URL removal.
*Note: Google will only remove the url you submitted and will not investigate further. It’s common for large sites to have multiple urls with the same content, so be sure you weed all those out and submit the request for multiple removals. The quickest way to find all the urls you want to remove is to do a query in Google for site:whateversite.com/username. So, in my case, I did a search for site:pinterest.com/mytopsecretusername While only one url was showing up in the search for Lauren Starling SEO, using the site:domain.com/username query showed that there were still many more indexed urls out there. I ended up having to submit 19 urls all together.
Remove Google Cache
A URL removal is not to be confused with an attempt to remove Google cache. For the above example, I had physically altered the url by changing the username, thereby rendering the previous page unusable. Therefore, I wanted the old url removed completely. If, perhaps, the url had been fine but, instead, I needed to alter the username on a page in the site; I would need for Google’s cache to be updated if wanted it to be reflected in the search engines results. Google does offer you the opportunity to remove a cached page from Google by submitting the url that you want updated and then typing a word from the previous (out of date) version to demonstrate that the live version and the cached version don’t match.
Remove Search Results from Google
Your part is done. Now it’s time to let Google take over. Once you’ve submitted the URL, Google will check the validity of the request. In my case, Google could clearly see that the page was returning a 404 error and so they updated it accordingly. The period of time from submission until actual removal from search results was less than 24 hours.
How To Remove a Website From Google
Some of you maybe thinking: Good to know, but my real problem is I want to remove my name from Google, or remove a page from Google or even remove an entire website from Google. Oh, and by the way, I don’t control these sources. But, man, they’re truly harshin my online reputation. Don’t worry, I’ve got tips on how to remove all of the above a from the search results… in my next post. So be watching for it.