A Guide on Google Removing Content from Search Results
Google has the majority of the search market share which makes sense since they are at the forefront of bringing relevant and informative results to the users compared to other search engines. This is why Google is always the search engine SEOs primarily choose to optimize for whenever we have clients that are looking to improve their search performance. This means that a good number of SEOs and webmasters want their pages to be displayed in the search results for obvious reasons. But there will always be instances that Google will remove content or pages in the search results for various reasons. Everyone can be affected by this so here’s a guide on why Google removes content from the search results and how you can, possibly, remove content from the search results as well:
Why Google Removes Pages and Content From the Search Results
Danny Sullivan, Google’s Search Liaison, recently published a post that details on when and why Google removes content from the search results. Here are the reasons they mentioned:
The first reason Danny Sullivan mentioned is when they need to remove content from the search results when it violates their legal requirements and it’s important we remember that their legal requirements change from country to country.
This is understandable since Google is a global platform and it’s necessary for them to adhere to local legal restrictions. However, Google can’t automatically detect pages that don’t adhere to local legal restrictions which is why they primarily rely on users reporting pages that they think violate the law. Surely, they have algorithms and systems in place that ban content that are illegal in most countries such as child abuse content, etc. But for complex topics that differ from country to country, they need the help of users to determine the violation.
After receiving the report, Google looks into the violation claim to ensure that the removal of the content/page is the right course of actions. Once they determined that a page violated the law, the webmaster of the page will be informed about the removal request report in their Search Console.
Aside from having to consider local legal restrictions, Google also goes the extra mile to protect users. So, even if some pages do not violate any laws, as long as they contain a person’s private information that should not be publicly accessible such as government IDs, medical or financial information, etc.
They also allow users to request the removal of pages that contain the information mentioned above since public accessibility to those kinds of information can lead to identity theft and other harmful acts.
But removal requests will be under review by Google and the primary criteria mentioned when they’re reviewing removal requests is when the potential harm of the content outweighs its usefulness for the users.
Although the aforementioned reasons are great and somewhat effective, the sheer size of the world wide web where trillions of pages are being made available constantly, Google can’t really rely on the users for every page that violates the law or their own policies. So, they’re constantly refining their systems to automatically detect these types of pages.
The simple way of explaining their systems is that they rank high-quality, informative, legal pages at the top of the search results and bury the low-quality, non-compliant pages almost to the point of removing their visibility in the search results.
So, as Google’s ranking algorithms improve, so does this system. But aside from operating from their side, they also consider signals from user removal requests. The best way to understand this, as Danny Sullivan mentioned, is when a site received multiple valid user removal requests for their pages, Google takes this as a signal that the whole website may contain non-compliant pages which will demote the overall rankings/authority/trustworthiness of the website. Here’s the full example used by Danny Sullivan:
“…when we receive a high volume of valid copyright removal requests from a given site, we are able to use that as a quality signal and demote the site in our results. We’ve developed similar approaches for sites whose pages we’ve removed under our voluntary policies. This allows us to not only help the people requesting the removals, but also scalably fight against the issue in other cases.”
Our Experience on Having Our Content Removed From the Search Results
Since SEO Hacker is primarily an SEO Agency located in the Philippines, it’s normal for us to have experienced either our own pages or even our client’s pages suddenly being removed from the search results.
But one of the most memorable instances where our content was removed from the search results is not because we violated a local law or Google’s policies but because we were experiencing problems with our servers for one of our clients. The client mentioned was already successful wherein their landing pages were already ranking first for highly beneficial and relevant keywords and a constantly increasing visitor count.
After we noticed that the servers were having problems (we needed to reload pages multiple times for them to open), the rankings for this client suddenly dropped by 2-3 pages. So from ranking number 1 in the search results, our rankings dropped to the 2nd page, approaching the 3rd page of the search results. Here’s the graph of the ranking movement:
After thorough investigation, we noticed that the drops came from our landing pages being removed from the search results. The only reason why we still somewhat retained rankings is because Google used a blog post as a replacement for the deindexed Landing Page. Of course, we were able to regain our rankings and have our landing page indexed again after fixing the problems caused by our servers.
This means that aside from legal and user protection reasons, Google also removes technically unsound pages. This includes pages that are broken, experiencing server errors, etc. So aside from ensuring you’re complying to the local laws of your country and Google’s policies, it’s important for you to ensure that your website is working fine without the slightest bit of technical problems.
It’s always a headache when our pages are suddenly removed from Google’s search results. But, more often than not, you can see the specific error/reason why Google removed the page in your website’s Search Console (this is how we found out the problem with our client’s landing page). So, I strongly recommend that you constantly monitor your website’s search console since it’s usually the first place where you can see problems in your website that was detected by Google.
Have you experienced having your pages suddenly disappear from the search results? Let me know in the comments below!