How to Ungoogle Yourself
Everyone likes to secretly Google himself, but what happens when Google turns up results you don’t like? How do you get your name removed from the search engines when the material is damaging?
An established New Jersey financial consultant woke up one morning to discover his reputable name was falsely accused of ethical violations. He first learned of the article three months after it was published when a client read it on the Internet and asked him about it. Making it worse, the writer never called financial advisor for a response.
These strong allegations can destroy nearly any person’s business but in an industry built on trust – like the financial industry – the article nearly destroyed his private practice.
The financial consultant hired an attorney who unsuccessfully tried for months to get the article pulled down. Then, he reached out to MaciasPR.
We took an insider’s approach in getting the story pulled down. We went after the publication that wrote the story, Investment News, and it’s parent company, Crain Communications, and explained to them how their story was inaccurate. No publisher will pull down a negative story that is accurate, but if you can prove that the story in inaccurate or libelous, you will succeed in getting it corrected. We applied these strategies to the case for the financial consultant and within weeks the article was pulled down.
If you find a negative news story appearing on the web, there are several steps you can take to get the material removed from the Internet. Contrary to the popular saying, “the Internet is written in ink,” it is possible to modify the record if you apply some proven crisis communications strategies. Here are some of the strategies I learned during my career as an Investigative Producer with NBC, CBS and American Journal that will help you in these situations.
Hold the Power Brokers Accountable
Go after the people who finance the publication, which includes the publisher, city editors, Executive Producers, and most important: the legal counsel for the publication. Do a quick google to find out who owns the website or publication. Most people, like the financial consultant, contact the writer when a negative article is published, but that’s like complaining to the sales clerk when the cashier gives you the wrong change. You need to complain to the people who control the money. Your letter to these power brokers needs to state why this article is inaccurate and most important, how the article has financially harmed your business. If you can’t show any financial duress from the article, you won’t succeed in the court of law or with the publisher.
Understand the Difference between Libelous, Slander and Opinion
If a blogger writes that you smell, you can’t take legal action to bring down the story. However, if the blogger writes a factually inaccurate article that accuses you of wrongdoing and harms your business, you may have a legal right to bring down the damaging article. And you don’t always need an attorney for this. Sometimes a strongly worded letter that outlines the bullet points from above is enough to get the publisher’s attention.
Don’t wait. Go after the Website’s Owners Immediately
The longer the website is up, the more time search engines have to index the web page. Unfortunately, it took the financial consultant several weeks to get ahold of the reporter and her superiors, which is sometimes the secret strategy many journalists take to diffuse the threat from any lawsuits. They suspect you will are just complaining because you didn’t like the story and you will go away. This is why it’s important in your initial contact to understand the previous points intimately. Google will stop indexing the website if you can prove the website displays private personal information like social security numbers, however you need to make a case to them if it involves other matters. You can find this page on Google.
Push the Article off the first Google Page with New Content.
There is another strategy you can take to bury the article off of the first page from Google. You can accomplish this by creating your own blog or by writing new articles. Make sure it is indexed with the proper search engine optimization. Once the page is removed, you should write a letter to all the search engines to make sure the page is no longer indexed.
This form of crisis communications will only grow in the future as more bloggers and news organizations post articles on the Internet. It will also become more rampant as younger and more inexperienced journalists are hired by the larger news organizations. If the article is false and inaccurate, don’t be afraid to fight back. Just make sure you’re not picking a fight over someone’s opinion because luckily the First Amendment still protects us from that. Want to learn more? Click here to watch a TV news story where Mark Macias gives advice on how to UnGoogle yourself.