In late May, the European Court of Justice ruled that Google is required to remove results deemed to be “irrelevant” and “outdated.” In order to comply with this ruling, Google set up a form that allowed people to complain about specific results. To prevent fraudulent requests intended to manipulate search results, the form requires users to supply documentation verifying their identity.
When results are removed from search, Google sends a message to the Webmaster via Webmaster Tools. The original notification Google sent about removing content from its European index was fairly sparse. The message just stated a URL had been removed and shared the referenced URL, but did not give any more information. Google linked to an FAQpage, but there was no additional information about why results are removed from search.
The tone and lack of context could have been quite scary if you were unaware of why Google was sending you this message. Any message that content is being removed from search results is bound to cause concerns for the recipient.
Now, Google has an updated message using much clearer language and even provides a method to dispute removal with a link to more information about why results are removed.
Screenshot taken October 07, 2014
The message states why the content is removed, informs the you that no action is required, and even tells the you not to bother figuring out why the content was removed since the name of the requestor might not even be in a prominent place on the page. Most importantly, the message should allay any concerns about a penalty since it very clearly says that the page has not been blocked from search.
Interestingly, they state results are only being removed for the exact query specified by individuals in their original request form. For example, if a user only requested to have a result removed for John Smith that showed John Smith’s arrest for a DUI, the result would still show for John P. Smith if it had previously ranked on this query.
What Should You Do?
If you receive one of these emails, you shouldn’t be concerned about any dramatic impact to your site, as it seems from the message Google is doing only the bare minimum to comply with the European law (for now). There’s also no harm in at least trying to make a good case for why the URL should not be removed from Google. To argue your case, head over to thepage linked in the notification and fill out the form.
Screenshot taken October 07, 2014
You can either show you have removed sensitive content from the story (if you can figure out what triggered the removal) or show why the URL contains information the general public needs to know. Google has stated repeatedly that they will not remove links that provide information that is in the public interest.
It is important for public safety to know an individual may have been convicted of a violent crime; however, a story about someone’s arrest for public intoxication is not really that important. If you can provide a good case for why the removed URL is in the public interest, you can at least provide a counterbalance to the complaint form.
Ultimately, as with any appeal to Google, you may not be successful, but at least you are not just allowing your content to be removed from European search results without a fight.
Featured Image: JuliusKielaitis via Shutterstock