Can you permanently remove content from Google? And what is the procedure to delete the page and the URL from the search engine? They are two of the questions addressed in the new appointment with the Google Webmaster Conference Lightning Talk, the virtual speeches with which different Googlers give useful advice to site owners and managers, professional SEO and developers.

How to remove content from Google

Guiding us through the different techniques to remove content from Google Search is Daniel Waisberg, Search Advocate of the US company, who offers an overview of the different tools, such as the Search Console Removals tool, permanent removals and other solutions.

The choice of a tool or process depends on various factors, and in particular the type of content – whether it is present on our site or elsewhere – and the type of removal, because there is a difference between asking for information from all over the Web or just from Google Search.

Which types of content it is possible to remove and which not

First, however, Waisberg gives a brief overview of what we can and cannot remove. That is, you can delete content from our website quickly and easily, and you can also remove it from Google or the entire web. In addition, we can ask Google to remove content from its properties (such as Youtube, Blogger and others) if they violate the strict policies of Mountain View.

Moreover, we may ask for the deletion of content that violates Google’s policies even if they are hosted on third-party websites, but this will only lead to the removal from search engine results.

Il processo decisionale della rimozione contenuti

 

This mirror – defined decision tree – is useful to understand what kind of possibilities we have concerning the removal request.

The decision-making process of the removal request

The first question we have to ask ourselves is the ownership and control of the content: if it belongs to us, in fact, the removal is much easier as we only have to use the right tools.

Next, we have to ask ourselves if we want to remove (our) content permanently or temporarily: if we need quick and immediate action, you can use the Search Console Temporary Removals tool, that will give us 6 months to work on a different or definitive solution.

If we have no control over the content, instead, the process is more complicated, but not impossible in the face of obvious cases of violations of Google’s rules and policies (and not only). For content hosted on a Google service such as Youtube, Blogger or Ads there are specific troubleshooter tools, while in case of problems with pages of other websites “the best option is to contact the owner of the site”, although in some cases it is still possible to ask (and get) the removal at least from Google Search.

How to perform the permanent removal of the content from Google

If our goal is to remove content we control from Google Search, we have three ways:

  • Return an HTTP 404 or 410 status code each time the content is requested;
  • protect the content with a password so that it is not accessible by Googlebot or other bots on the web;
  • use a noindex meta tag to indicate that the page should not be indexed.

Making a simple redirect 301 of the old page with an answer or using a robots.txt directive may not be enough to remove the old content from the search results on Google.

Waisberg spiega come rimuovere i contenuti

As it is a process of permanently removing content from the Research, Waisberg suggests that you be careful and carefully evaluate the various steps, which may not be reversible.

How to request Google a temporary removal

In other cases, we may need to simply ask for a temporary removal of content from Google: in practice, “hide” for a limited period of time the page from the search results to correct any problems or errors present in view of a resolution (in a positive sense, with the return of full visibility of the page, or with a total removal).

Two request options are available, which serve to block the URL from the search results on Google for about six months or delete only the copy of the page in the cache. If we delete the cache, the page description snippet will also be removed, which will remain empty until the next crawling: this option can serve when we need to quickly remove sensitive information from a page and want to update the results in Google Search without removing the page itself from the search, but you have to intervene before the new scan of Googlebot or we will simply find the same information in snippets.

Waisberg points out that the Removal tool should not be used, however, in some cases:

  • manual action on the page
  • hacked website
  • transfer of the site to another domain
  • removal of pages that are not useful or up to date anymore
  • report to Google of the version of a page that we want to be indexed,

all cases requiring other types of intervention.

Request for content of other people’s property

As we were saying, it is more complex (but not impossible) the way to request the removal of content that we do not possess or control.

If that page “lives on a service owned by Google“, you can use the appropriate troubleshooting tools that allow you to “report the content you want to remove from Google services”, providing “as much information as possible to help us investigate” and possibly remove the information.

Among the information that Google might take away from the search results are:

  • copyright infringement and other legal factors;
  • content concerning sexual abuse of minors;
  • non-consensual, explicit or intimate personal images;
  • involuntary fake pornography;
  • financial, medical and personal identification information

and more.

If the content is present on a site that we do not control and is not hosted on Google services, our “best option is to contact the owner of the website to request its removal”, by sending a message via the contact link that is usually available on websites or by searching the email of the website owner through a Google Search search that includes the whois example.com.

Finding the best approach

To sum up, if we want to remove content from Google or the web in general, we have to ask ourselves two important questions: “Who controls the content?” and “do I want to remove the content permanently or only for a period of time?“.

The answers will make us understand what is the best approach to reach our goal and solve the problem.

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