It is easy to follow the famous quote that “all press is good press”, but that is not always the case when it comes to digital marketing.
Whether it is a bad review or an article complaining about your brand, negative results relating to your business can be a huge problem.
If users are getting negative search results when they look up your business, then your reputation and customer base can be on the line.
One of the most obvious solutions is to bury negative search results on Google before they can do any damage – but is that even something you can do?
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What are Negative Search Results On Google?
Negative search results are anything that can damage your brand reputation – for example, a negative article.
While most of this negative stuff will be buried in the second or third pages (if not lower), there is always a chance that negative content could climb onto the first page.
Negative search results have a chance to harm your business’s reputation and damage your sales, something that can become a huge problem if you are barely keeping yourself afloat anyway.
Users generally only interact with the first page of results, with a bias towards the top three spots – so any negative content there can severely damage your marketing.
Since users do not scroll down very far on average, negative Google search results effectively eat up one of your prime marketing spots with bad press.
Thankfully, using the right online reputation management skills can make a big difference – but only if you know what to do.
How to Bury Negative Google Search Results Legitimately
When you are dealing with your online reputation, you do not want to suppress negative search results through black hat methods that might get you in trouble and cause even greater problems.
You need to remove the negative result in a way that leaves no lingering problems or after-effects.
In general, there are two core ways to deal with negative content releases and articles: removing them or suppressing them by burying them further back in your search results.
The first of these, removal, is the fastest option – but this will not always work.
How to Remove Negative Search Results
Removing an unwanted search result can be done in a few ways, which you usually need to do in sequence.
This is because Google (and other search engines) really do not want people abusing their system and often require proof that you have attempted to take the content down in other ways.
Content Removal Requests
You can advise a site to remove content if it violates either Google’s guidelines or the site’s guidelines. For example, many review sites do not allow reviews to include the full names of employees, which would be grounds for getting a review pulled.
You can also remove copyrighted content or any content that is not legal to publish (such as information gained after signing a Non-Disclosure Agreement.
Requesting Content Removal From Google
If the site owners (or whoever wrote/posted the content) will not remove it despite there being grounds for its removal, you can request that Google remove the page from its search algorithm.
Google cannot guarantee that the content itself is removed, but it will no longer appear in search results. This effectively prevents it from appearing when people are searching for your brand, but the article still exists.
Contact The Author
Sometimes contacting the author can give you an opportunity to arrange a content removal on friendlier grounds. For example, if there is a persisting negative review of a service you no longer offer, they may remove it since it no longer indicates something that your business does.
However, not all authors will do this. Having evidence that the article is incorrect can help, but some authors may have a personal bias against your brand or simply will not respond to the request.
How to Suppress Negative Search Results
If all else fails, then you need to turn to suppressing negative search results on Google rather than just requesting their removal.
This might seem like a more underhanded method, but it is actually entirely white hat and simply relies on you creating better content than the negative content.
The most important factor here is your content’s relevancy and quality – the former relies on keywords, and the latter relies on things like domain authority and your backlink profile.
Simply posting an article about how good your services are will not necessarily cut it – instead, you want to figuratively bury negative search results by creating new content that pushes it back until it is no longer on the first page.
In simple terms, you want to outrank your negative press releases and articles.
The higher your positive content is, the lower the negative content is forced until it is no longer readily visible on search results for your brand.
The first step is to conduct keyword research to find keywords related to the issue. If negative results are coming up in a search for your brand name, that is obviously bad – but not all users will be searching for your brand name alone.
Whether they are looking up “(company) reviews” or even something as simple as “(company) (product type),” there is always a chance that the addition of a new keyword could trigger the negative links to appear.
Say a furniture company gets bad news about one of their chairs injuring somebody. While this news might be hidden if you were to look up the company’s name, mentioning chairs in the search might be enough to nudge the negative article back into the search results.
Keyword checker tools and other SEO tools can be invaluable for finding out why negative content is appearing and then identifying a primary keyword and any other target keywords that might be linked to it.
Doing this is important since the target keyword set you find is vital to burying the bad press.
Using the same keywords in new content means that you are directly competing with the article you want gone, which means that you are already on track to overtake it in the rankings.
Prepare Keyword Tracking Tools
While you might find the keywords you need to bury negative search results, remember that SEO is always changing. Search engine results can be different only a few months after your initial search, so be sure to start using keyword-tracking tools if you are worried about articles resurfacing.
Depending on how prominent the bad content is, it can take effort to keep burying negative search results whenever they crawl back into your front page results. Do not just assume that the problem is dealt with initially, at least not in the long term.
Flooding Results Pages with Positive Links
The easiest way to bury negative search results is to make it harder for them to appear in the first place.
If you want to push down negative search results, then you need more positive ones to overtake them – and that means that flooding relevant searches with other pages can really work.
The more space your own links and profiles occupy, the less space third-party reviews can take up. With the right combination of sites, this can make it very difficult for negative results to reach the front page.
Start Optimizing Your Site Links
One of the best features that Google offers is the added snippets that you can attach to links. These can be alternative pages, search bars that use your own site search feature, or even just a longer description based on existing content.
While you might not realize this at first, these actually impact search results. Having more content in your links can actually reduce the number of results that Google suggests, so beefier search result listings can actually help you push negative Google search results right back into the second page.
The same goes for adding brand names to your page titles and metadata. If somebody looks your business name up, Google wants to show pages with that name in them first – which usually just means your main page.
However, by including your brand name on as many pages as possible, you might start seeing existing content, such as your contact page, appearing underneath the main result for the site itself. Once again, this eats up space and makes it harder for bad content to rank easily.
Create Profiles on Social Media Sites
Flooding the first results page with your own links is the best way to shunt bad results back a few pages, and this is incredibly easy to do with major social media sites. Really, this works with anywhere that allows you to build a profile for your own site, from YouTube to LinkedIn.
Again, since most social media accounts are going to use your business name, they will rank highly for your brand name. This saves you from having to make your own content since you can effectively just reuse existing assets to quickly set up profiles.
Even lesser-considered sites like Pinterest can be perfect for this. Pinterest has very little to do with most businesses, but it ranks so high that it can swallow up a space on the first page of results anyway.
Set Up a Blog
If your site does not already have a blog, it can be an incredibly fast way to fill the first page with even more links.
It only takes a little while to slightly rewrite some older content and use it as a basic blog post – and each individual piece of blog post content can be tailored to meet your target keyword.
While this might not be all that effective, it can still be a good option for quickly pumping out a lot of specially prepared pages without much effort.
Create Business Apps
If you have the resources, creating apps is a good way to add more links to the front page. These take up yet another results slot, no matter how basic they are – and the more good reviews they get, the more likely they might be to rank.
This is another option that allows you to use the business’ name, meaning that you will probably get some extra priority when trying to link for all the right things.
Creating New Content
If you can’t bury negative Google search results with more pages, then you can do it with more content. Pushing negative content back is as easy as having more positive content to overwhelm and suppress it.
New content can be custom-written to fit whatever keywords you need to target, meaning that you can take whatever steps are needed to push negative search results back.
Unlike simply optimizing existing content, this can also double as a way to push out more high-quality content that might improve your personal brand anyway.
By creating more content that falls into the right niches, you can weaken negative Google search results without having to actually engage with them directly – and the content you create will have a positive effect on your SEO overall.
As mentioned above, blog posts on your primary website are a perfect option. You can create content that paints specific parts of your brand reputation in a positive light while also stifling any brand-damaging sentiment over those same topics.
Beyond that, a good mix of branded keywords and other target keywords means that each blog post can appear for different topics across multiple searches, giving you a network of posts that can all work as specially prepared reputation management tools
Remember that good blog posts can also improve the user’s perceived value of your site and boost your Search Engine Optimization efforts, too.
This gives them a use beyond simply trying to suppress negative search results.
Google likes to push sites with relevant domains into search results if it can, and that gives you another option to work with.
Buying the same domain across multiple TLDs (such as .uk, .net, .org, and so on) will let your site appear in multiple spots at once.
If these alternate domains are well-optimized and actually used for something, then you basically get another way to eat up search results space with very little effort.
Address Negative Content
One last resort is to address the negative content directly without linking to it. This denies the negative content any SEO benefits while also giving you a chance to directly address your online reputation.
This option is not always reliable, but it can be a good way to recapture a positive online reputation while also being able to remove negative search results from the top spot.
While addressing a controversy draws more attention to it, this can sometimes be worth it, depending on what the issue actually is.
For example, if a lot of the negative search result options are reviews of outdated products, publishing an article about what the new version gets right could be enough.
If you do this well, you might actually boost your positive online reputation among your audience just by addressing the negative results.
However, it is important to make it look like a move focused on being honest and direct rather than an effort to replace negative news with positive press.
Use Official or Respected platforms
Whether it is creating a Wikipedia page or adding your personal brand to Google My Business, putting yourself on listing sites and other resources can help you push down negative search results on Google quite easily.
Google likes to promote informative content, so using platforms like Wikipedia to manage your online reputation and suppress negative search results is an entirely viable option.
There are various platforms, such as Newswire and PRLog, that exist primarily to let businesses host press releases.
This is another great tool for overwhelming negative results with positive information, this time written by your business itself.
Well-prepared press releases that are obviously positive in nature are ideal because these become positive search results that can hinder negative feedback.
For example, a press release about a positive result in an employee reward scheme can completely drown out a couple of negative reviews.
Many people have a personal website (or even a personal brand site).
Simply linking to your online business from these sites can help a lot, especially if you have a page there that is exclusively about your work with that business.
This becomes a great online reputation management tool if you can get multiple employees or company members to do it since it basically allows you to cover the font page with personal pages about how much employees enjoy (or achieve) working under that brand.
Using Existing Assets
If you do not want to create new content on each web page just to hide a negative result, then you can use existing content to start suppressing negative search results instead.
Doing this well can help you rank highly and make the entire process more efficient.
It does not even need to be high-quality content: all you need is something that can smother negative Google results with positive Google results.
Putting software on trusted download sites is a good way to hide negative content associated with that software. As long as you are not putting it on scam sites, these software download sites can usually overtake negative search result pages.
Adding a listing to a directory can create a new set of search results that search engines will be willing to see as positive content, and a few might sneak onto the front page when users are looking for the right search terms.
Again, more space taken up by these pages means less space for negative content.
Sometimes it can be a good idea to try splitting longer pages up into smaller ones, meaning that you have multiple pages focused on the same topic. For example, a long tutorial could be three or four pages, accessed one after the other.
This does not really harm the user experience much, but it does give the search engine more options to put on the first page. It also means that the search engine has multiple pages focused on similar search engine results and keywords.
Simple Guide to Burying Negative Search Results for Search Engine Optimization
Google search results can be fickle. One day, search engines might push down negative search results easily in favor of positive reviews, but a small change to those negative results can have them back on the first page again.
Proper Search Engine Optimization techniques – and, ideally, help from a real online reputation management company – are the best way to monitor and manage the search rankings of negative content.
Everything above was just an example of what to do and a detailed look at some of the techniques that you might choose to use.
Just in case, here is a short recap – along with some quick details on how to bury negative Google search results correctly.
Identify the Negative Result
The most important step is to identify the search result content you want gone.
Is it a bad review, or an angry blog post about a job candidate that was turned down, or a Twitter account post that somehow gained enough traction to appear as a search result whenever you type “(brand name) Twitter”?
Know what you are dealing with. Not all negative articles are the same, and you want to at least understand the basics of the situation.
In some cases, the review might be small enough that it does not really matter.
In other cases, you might need to seriously consider using professional reputation management services to deal with the problem. It all depends on how severe the issue is.
Know the Keywords
Both negative and positive search results rely on keywords in Google’s algorithm. Negative articles will not just appear at random – they will turn up when you put the right things in the search bar.
Finding the right keywords can give you actionable tips on how to approach the Google search results and how you can push down negative search results without having to constantly adapt the content until it works.
Remember that some keywords are stronger than others and that you need to consider how often a user is searching for them. The more likely they are to be used in a regular Google search, the more presence the bad content has.
Context matters: A user looking up “(brand) negative review” is obviously looking for bad reviews, but one looking for “(brand) contact page” is not.
Target the keywords that can do the most damage – meaning keywords that have the most impact on customers or visitors who do not know about the negative sentiment already.
Push Down Negative Search Results
The most important piece of advice is to actually start trying to push down negative content. It is easy to get hung up on things like exploring the Google search results keywords or trying to find positive reviews to boost with SEO, but you need to at least begin the process.
The sooner you can start to improve your Google search results, the better. It can take time for a negative search result to be overpowered by your SEO efforts, and the longer you leave that negative search result available, the more damage it can do.
It is important to get started as soon as you can, even if that means simple things like getting a free consultation from a reputation management company or gathering Google search data about your site and branding.
If you are ready to start dealing with the negative content being posted about your brand or just want to prepare yourself in the event that it happens, then be sure to start gathering relevant data as soon as possible.
It also does not hurt to future-proof things by creating content ahead of time or making sure that you have a dominant share of the front page for your own brand name anyway.
Even if you have not seen any negative search results related to your business, it is a good idea to prepare yourself for the future. You never know when a disgruntled customer might post something that harms your reputation – which is especially bad if it is completely untrue.
Also, remember that some negative content can simply be removed through regular channels or by talking to the author directly. It doesn’t hurt to make an effort to resolve the problem that way before turning to more extreme methods.
Whatever you do, and however bad the content is for your brand, remember to think carefully about everything you do. Rushing into a solution could cause more problems than it solves, especially if you end up harming your SEO in the process of trying to take down a single Google search result.
Scott Calland is a highly regarded content specialist with an English Degree. He has a passion for creating compelling content as a UK journalist that engages, informs, and entertains readers. With over 10 years of experience in creating news publications as a reporter, Scott has developed a keen eye for detail and a deep understanding of how to craft content that resonates with audiences. Working closely with data analysts Scott’s research on topics is unrivalled for latest news updates.
Scott is also an investor in Searcharoo.