What not to do when negative search results attack

Something has happened and you have appeared on the first page of Google, but this isn’t something good, so you want rid of it. What do you do?

It starts by understanding what you shouldn’t do, and that is exactly what I explain here. I like to also stress to all readers, that I in no way affiliated with any other services – I am a completely independent freelance SEO consultant based out of Chester in the UK.

No-one likes anything negative being said about them, but when something appears on the 1st page of Google that you can’t control, it can often become a source of genuine distress. Yes, you can have negative search results removed, but it helps to know what you should and shouldn’t do first.

It might be you personally, your company or a product – equally, it is going to hang over you like a fog, so you naturally want to hit back and protect your good name.

But don’t…

Take a step back, a few deep breaths and then consider your options. Yes, you could always hire an online reputation management company, but before doing that, you might be able to do some of the ground-work yourself.

Never start a fight

This is more common than you might realise and is quite a normal knee-jerk reaction to being called out for something.  No-one likes bad things being said about them, so it is natural to want to argue your corner, but this can really work against you.

You have to remember that someone isn’t happy about something so rather than risk it being escalated, think about how you can pacify the situation.

Try not to take it personally, although I know how hard this can be sometimes. The goal here is to stop other people getting involved or the matter being moved from one platform to another. Spreading the problem is the last thing you want.

Apologise to hear that they aren’t happy and ask for a way to get in touch directly so that you can resolve the matter. Give them your contact details as well so

Instantly, you have prevented this turning into a full-on slanging match.

After a Facebook discussion today, I reached out to Alan Bleiweiss to ask for his thoughts on what not to do with negative press:

In spite of all the urges or instinct to want to fight back, it is rarely advisable to do so as if you were in the ‘fight fire with fire’ mindset.  Whether it’s through a lawsuit, or with an equal or louder volume of negative content online, most of the time those methods of combatting online reputation end up only bringing more attention to the original negative content.  It doesn’t go away.  People take sides. The “victim” only makes things worse.  If you want more insight, I recommend looking up  the “Streisand Effect”.

So unless you are willing to wait out what can often be a two year (or longer) legal process that will, itself, end up driving more links to the negative content you are concerned about, and where it’s often impossible to win due to protected speech laws, the best course of action is almost always to counter such problems with a large scale “positive visibility” campaign that steers completely clear of that negative content.

So remember – keep a calm head and work it out carefully.

Don’t keep searching for yourself

The idea with this is that if you have some negative article that has appeared in the Google search results, then you don’t want to keep fuelling it.

It will be tempting to see what is happening and if the article has dropped or raised, but by keep doing this, you are changing the search landscape.

Tests have shown that there is a correlation between search behaviour and search positions, so it is best not to keep performing Google searches. Instead, use a tracking application such as Ahrefs, SEMRush or Accuranker.

Don’t try and buy your way out

This has been tried many times over the years, and it always ends with disastrous consequences.

As soon as you try to pay to have something negative removed, it fuels the fires that placed it there in the first place. A whole new post / discussion can be started again by the aggrieved party, only this time, you are in a different position that tends not to throw an even less positive light on the whole situation.

Don’t just ask for it to be removed

Whatever has happened to cause the negative results, don’t just ask for it to be taken down without having worked the issues out in the first place.

Sometimes this isn’t an option for you anyway, but in some cases, it might seem a logical thing to do. If you do feel that the issue has been resolved and the client happy, then there is no harm in asking if they would mind updating the post to say it has all been sorted out – but go with cap in hand.

You may not really like it, and perhaps you feel it is wrong, but you have to keep in mind that the only person that can reverse what has been said, is the person that was unhappy in the first place.

Just don’t demand anything.

Don’t try and ignore what has happened

Mistakes will happen from time to time – we’re human and we all accept this. But the worst thing you could is just ignore an unhappy customer. This does a few things:

  • Shows you don’t care
  • Annoys the customer
  • Annoys other potential customers
  • Fuels additional arguements

No-one really likes confrontation, but sometimes you have to approach it head on. The sooner you do this, the sooner it will be resolved.


There are times when it is OK to ignore what is going on – and this might just be that you got dragged into an on-line slanging match or someone tried to call you out for something that hasn’t happened. You will know yourself if this is one of those circumstances. Let the haters destroy their own credibility and use your own moral compass to decide if this is really your battle in the first place.

Dealing with ex-employees

I have added this into the article as I was PM’ed and asked this question directly yesterday.

This is more common than you might realise, but can be a lot easier to sort out. Many employees that leave and start rumours or try to trash a businesses, can be brought back down to earth with a simple cease and desist letter. Very rarely do these matters need to go legal, but the threat alone is often enough.

Remember that they are probably hurt at leaving, so you could always invite them back in to discuss it in more detail. Perhaps they stormed out and feel hurt and never gave you a chance to fully explain.

If they are leaving negative reviews from fake accounts, these can normally be contested with wherever they have been left.

So remember…

Stay calm and know when and how to take appropriate steps. There is normally a solution to any of these issues.