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How to push down negative search results in Google

It’s a situation many business owners eventually find themselves in: In the wake of negative press appearing at the top of Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs), they find themselves wondering how to push down negative search results on Google so that they aren’t the first thing prospective customers see. These clients come to you to make solve this issue.

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Negative search results can pop up for all kinds of reasons. They can have a meaningful negative impact on a business’s online reputation, and ultimately, its bottom line. The old adage that all press is good press may sometimes be true for Hollywood celebrities, but when it comes to business, it doesn’t hold water.

Negative results can color the perception of a business’s trustworthiness, product, or service, nudging them away from making a purchase. Knowing how to push Google search results down can help when a client has tasked you with preventing this outcome. By the end of this article, you’ll know exactly how to deal with that negative search result that’s hurting your client’s business.

What are negative search results, and why should you care?

Nobody likes seeing a negative article or comment about their business, but does it really matter all that much? Is it actually important to do something about it, or should business owners just continue doing what they always do?

Unfortunately, negative search results absolutely do have the potential to lose business sales. According to reputation management stats, the overwhelming majority of people—86%—would rather pay more for products and services with better ratings and reviews, and nearly half say that they’ve seen something in an online search that made them decide against supporting a business. It’s clear that a negative search result, whether it’s a review, a blog post, or some other kind of media, has the potential to turn many potential customers away from a business.

When you consider how users interact with Google’s SERPs, it quickly becomes clear that negative search results can pose a serious problem if they appear near the top of the page. The top three results on a SERP get over 55% of the clicks, and the top 5 get over 70%. In other words, the majority of users don’t scroll far past the first few results. If a negative search result occupies one of those top spots, you can do some serious damage control by bumping it down. Users rarely scroll to the bottom of the SERP, let alone to page 2 and beyond. This means that maintaining positive search results in those key top spots can help you protect your client’s overall brand reputation.

By learning how to push search results down the SERP, you can have more control over the business’s narrative and reputation, ensuring that customers who search for the brand name (or other keywords related to the business) won’t be exposed to content that can bias them against the business.

Removing vs. pushing down negative search results

Before we dive into the actionable tips for how to push down negative search results on Google, it’s worth noting the difference between having them removed and pushing them down. In some cases, you may have the option to first try removing the negative content rather than pushing it down.

Removing content refers to either getting the offending search result wiped from the website on which it appears altogether, or having de-indexed. If a web page isn’t indexed by Google, people can only get to it by navigating directly to the URL or by clicking a link that takes them to the page. De-indexed pages still technically exist, but if they don’t appear in Google’s search results, they aren’t likely to be a cause for concern.

As a general rule, you shouldn’t have very high expectations about the ability to get disfavorable content taken down, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t sometimes worth a shot. It’s helpful to be able to identify situations in which getting content removed may be possible and to know which steps you can take to try to get it taken down.

How to remove negative results in Google search

Removing negative search results comes down to either:

  • Getting the owner, webmaster, or moderator or a website or platform to agree that the negative mention shouldn’t exist
  • Asking the person directly responsible for the negative mention to remove it
  • Getting Google to recognize that it violates a law or regulation and should therefore be removed or deindexed

Again: You shouldn’t expect these techniques to be reliably successful every time, but there are instances in which they can work. When these tactics are inappropriate or don’t work, you can move on to the many useful techniques for how to push down negative search results that we’ll cover in just a moment.

Remove negative results from Google: Request removal by the webmaster or platform

Let’s say the content that you want to have removed contains a false claim or violates the platform’s own stated moderation guidelines. In this case, you can try contacting the webmaster or the platform’s moderation team to point out the violation and request removal of the content.

For example, the popular review website Trustpilot has guidelines for reviewers indicating that reviews posted on their site shouldn’t be “harmful, hateful, discriminatory, defamatory, or obscene.” Reviews also shouldn’t be fake, among many other guidelines. If your client received a review on Trustpilot and they have some evidence that it may be fake, discriminatory, or defamatory, you can contact Trustpilot to have it removed.

Similarly, a website may post defamatory comments about a client’s business. You may not actually be prepared to enter into a legal dispute with them, but contacting them to let them know their contact is defamatory may provoke them to remove it.

Remove negative results from Google: Request removal by the creator

Sometimes, the creator of the offending content may be available to be contacted. For example, let’s say a publication in your client’s niche has published a negative article about their business. By contacting the writer directly and helping them understand why what they wrote may not be fair or correct, you may be able to get them to modify their article or remove it.

In the example of a negative TrustPilot review that appears near the top of SERPs, contacting the customer and addressing their concerns could similarly result in them changing or removing their negative comments, which would in turn remove them from Google search.

Remove negative results from Google: Get the content removed or de-indexed by Google

In rare cases in which the content you want to have removed breaks a law, you may be able to get Google to remove it by using their reporting form. Since laws vary from one country to the next, Google only removes content from countries in which it is in violation of the law.

Of course, these techniques are primarily applicable in cases in which the negative search result is demonstrably false or in violation of the law or of relevant website regulations. Most of the time, the negative search result that you’re trying to get rid of won’t meet these criteria. It may be perfectly legitimate, but that doesn’t mean you have to just sit back and tolerate it. If you can’t get it removed or it isn’t eligible for removal, the next step is to push down that search result to where it won’t be read.

How to push down negative search results

SEO specialists make entire careers out of influencing Google search results to gain more visibility, traffic, and conversions for their clients. Learning how to push down negative Google results involves taking many of the most widely used principles from the world of search engine optimization and applying them to the task of reputation management to get other, positive search results to appear above the negative result.

As we’ve established, the further down the SERP a result appears, the less likely it is to be seen, let alone clicked on. Luckily, we have 13 tips you can use to push down that negative search result from the eyes of prospective customers.

Conduct keyword research and a sentiment analysis

A negative search result won’t necessarily appear on every SERP related to your client’s business. When you discover a search result you want to push down, the first step should be identifying the keywords that the negative result ranks for. Once you have this information, you can narrow your focus to how to push down negative search results on those specific pages. If you don’t do this, you risk spinning your wheels by getting other content to rank highly without actually impacting the negative search result you’re trying to hide.

Chances are, the search result your client isn’t happy with appears when someone searches for their brand name or the name of one of their products or services. Using a keyword checker tool, you can determine which other keywords the content ranks for.

Start by focusing on the SERP you are most worried about (likely, the SERP for the client’s brand name), and once you’ve pushed down the negative search result on that page, you can move on to other SERPs, if necessary.

Once you know which keyword’s SERP you want to focus on first, check to see what the sentiment is in the rest of the results on that page. This will help you identify how many results you’ll need to push down.

In the event of a negative publicity event, for example, there may be multiple negative search results that you want to eliminate from view. Going through all of the results in the search engine resul pages and determining if they express a positive, neutral, or negative sentiment can help you flag the ones that you want to push down.

Create a keyword-tracking schedule

If you’ve spent any time working on search engine optimization, you probably know that SEO isn’t a one-and-done kind of activity. Any efforts to impact the rankings of a SERP will need to be monitored, reviewed, and sometimes changed on an ongoing basis. SERPs are ever-changing, so while you may have figured out how to push a search result down for now, you’ll want to keep an eye on those keywords to make sure it stays that way.

Changing search engine results also takes some time, so even if you implement every tip in this article today, chances are it will be a little while before you see the results you’re hoping for. Only by tracking keywords can you be sure that your efforts are paying off.

So far, we’ve covered tips that help you prepare and focus your efforts. Now, we can get into how to push down negative search results for the keywords you’ve identified and are tracking.

Aim for Google local 3 pack and snippets

Google search result pages sometimes feature more than just the 10 top hits for a search query. They can also include other sections, such as the so-called local 3 pack, Google snippets, and the People Also Ask (PAA) box. These are, effectively, additional search results that appear above other results. Not only does getting one of these coveted spots mean you’ve earned a positive, traffic-boosting position at the top of the SERPs, but it also means you’ve pushed down the negative search result to make room for the snippet, PAA box, or local 3-pack.

So, what are these, exactly?

The local 3-pack, also known as the map pack, is the list of 3 local businesses that appear at the top of Google’s SERPs when users search for a product or service in a particular location. They may include the location in their search query or Google may simply use location data to showcase the appropriate 3-pack. Google takes into account the searcher’s location, search history, and other variables to generate the 3-pack.

For example, take a look at this Google search result for an electrician in Seattle. Before the first search result, which is a Yelp page, three businesses appear in the 3-pack. These are not paid-for listings. If any of these electrician businesses have a negative result in the SERP, users would have to scroll down beyond the fold to find it. They are far more likely to click on the 3-pack result and never see the negative search result, which has effectively been pushed down.

The PAA box is also visible in this screenshot. PAA answers are pulled from websites and link directly to the websites from which they’re pulled. This means that if your client can rank for a PAA box answer, they are more likely to get traffic to their site from users who won’t scroll down enough to see the negative search result.

Finally, Google snippets are brief, concise summaries of pages that can appear at the top of Google’s SERPs. These are frequently made up of the headings of a web page, like this example for the search query “how to wire a lamp.”

Landing the Google snippet for a target keyword effectively puts your client at the very top of the SERP in a prominent, unmissable position, pushing down the negative search result that is damaging their reputation.

Getting any of these three unique positions on the SERP can significantly push down unwanted search results.

How do you optimize content for Google snippets?

  1. Use headings that are phrased like common questions, for example beginning with “what is” or “what are”
  2. Begin the first line beneath the heading by directly responding to the question. For example, if the heading is “What is lamp rewiring,” the sentence should begin with “Lamp rewiring is…”
  3. Don’t use your client’s brand name; Google Snippets and PAA answers are generic.
  4. Use the format typically seen in featured snippets. These are usually short paragraphs or bulleted lists.
  5. Check the keywords that webpages with featured snippets rank for, and incorporate them into your content if you want to rank for that snippet.
  6. Ensure that all of your client’s listings are correct and up to date, and maintain their Google Business Profile. Apart from offering reputation management services, it’s a good idea to offer listings management and local SEO services, since they’re all interrelated.

Optimizing for any of these 3 features can help push negative search results out of view.

Boost already-ranking content

In order to push down negative search results, you have to get positive search results to appear higher on the SERPs. Every tip in this article fundamentally boils down to this. Existing content that you have control over, such as blog posts, can be one of the best places to start.

Why? Because if you have pages that are already ranking reasonably well, they represent low-hanging fruit. A new page will take some time to be crawled, indexed, and start ranking. However, existing content is more likely to rank already, and by optimizing it further, you can get it to the top of your desired SERP faster. Just remember that any content you choose to optimize should currently rank below the negative search result so that getting it to rank above it will push that result to a lower position.

How do you optimize website content?

  1. Incorporate the keyword that the negative search result ranks for throughout the content. The keyword should be used in headings, body text, image descriptions, alt text, and wherever else it can be used naturally.
  2. Clean up the content. Make sure it’s well organized and reader friendly, relevant to what your audience cares about, and grammatically correct.
  3. Optimize for loading speed. Page loading speed can impact the ranking of a page, so run it through a loading speed-checking tool and see if it can benefit from further optimizations. Large image files, complex animations, and clunky code can all contribute to a lagging load speed.
  4. Link internally. Ensure you’re linking to the page you’re trying to boost from other pages on your website. Internal linking may not pass as much link juice as links from high-authority outside pages, but it still helps Google’s bots register that the page is important.
  5. Ensure the page is responsive. The entire website should be responsive so that mobile users, who constitute the majority of internet browsers today, get a great experience. Site responsiveness can impact where a page appears on the SERP.

Create new high-quality content

While existing content is the best place to start when it comes to optimizations that can help you push down negative search results, you might have ideas for content that doesn’t exist yet. Now is a great time to start creating it. The more excellent content you add to your client’s website, the likelier those pages are to climb the SERPs for their brand name or other relevant keywords, and the greater the chances that you’ll be able to crowd out negative search results with positive, owned content.

If appropriate, you might want to create content that directly addresses the subject of the negative search results. For example, let’s say your client sells a food product, and a popular health blogger has written an article mentioning the product as an example of a commercial food product that uses an undesirable ingredient.

In this case, you might benefit from creating a blog post linking to authoritative sources such as high-quality studies that exemplify why the fear-mongering about the ingredient is not based in fact.

Or, if your client has faced some kind of PR crisis, you might want to create a piece of content expressing their ownership of the problem and the steps they plan to take to rectify it.

The new content you create doesn’t have to directly address the negative search result you’re concerned about, but in some cases, you might feel it’s appropriate.

Publish on high-DA sites

DA, or domain authority, is a ranking score that is correlated to how likely a website is to appear at the top of search results. Different companies offer domain authority calculators that may differ slightly, but the score generally takes into account a wide variety of inputs including the number and quality of backlinks pointing to the site.

If you can create content that will be published on a third-party, high-DA site, your content may have a greater chance of ranking highly, thereby working to push down the negative search results on Google that you’re worried about.

For example, there might be a high-DA online publication for people in your client’s industry. You can try pitching article ideas, and once you have the go-ahead, create an article that incorporates the keyword for which you’re trying to rank.

By targeting high-DA sites, you may be able to see results faster than if you focus solely on your website or lower-ranking sites.

You started this process by going through all of the top search results for the target keyword and determining whether the sentiment they convey is positive, negative, or neutral. To push search results down, the key strategies you can employ are all about influencing the SERP so that positive search results appear before the negative result, making it less likely for users to see it.

One of the most important determining factors for how high a web page ranks on Google’s SERPs is the number of high-quality backlinks pointing to it. Backlinks are links from other websites. Getting backlinks for clients provides Google’s bots with a vote of confidence that the page earning the backlink must have relevant, informative, high-quality content on it. Therefore, it should appear higher in the SERPs. The more “votes” in the form of backlinks from reputable sites that a page has, the likelier it is to rank high.

Going back to your list of search results, identify those with positive (or even neutral) sentiment that appear just below the negative search result. Next, consider if you can link to them in your own content. For example, if there is a search result from a blog raving about your product, you can create your own piece of content with a quote from that blog, linking back to it.

The extra backlink from your site provides an extra little nudge for that content, which can help push it higher up in the search results. If there are other websites that you have control over, consider if there is a way that you can naturally link to the positive search result to boost it further.

If it can rank higher than the negative search result, you’ll have successfully pushed that search result down the SERP, further out of view.

Earn more backlinks

While we’re on the subject of backlinks, let’s discuss another related strategy that you can employ to push down negative search results on Google. If there are some pages on your client’s website that appear on the same SERP as the negative search result, building links to those pages can help push them up based on the principles we just discussed.

Link building, or link earning, encompasses a wide variety of activities aimed at getting backlinks from quality websites pointing toward your content.

How can you build backlinks?

  1. Guest blogging on other websites in your industry.
  2. Using social media to share content you’d like to boost, in the hopes that it will be shared by others.
  3. Using email outreach to other sites, influencers, and bloggers in your niche to build relationships and potentially obtain backlinks.
  4. Working with influencers who can link back to your content.
  5. Working with an agency that specializes in link building.

With this strategy, it’s important to be cautious and avoid so-called black hat link-building strategies. This term refers to spammy, unethical link-building tactics that aim to manipulate SERP rankings quickly. They typically violate Google’s guidelines and can result in your content being de-indexed from Google altogether. Since this is an extremely undesirable outcome, it’s important to avoid things like shady link-building schemes. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Link building the honest way takes time, so anything that promises overnight results is likely going to cause problems in the long run.

Put social media accounts to work

If you don’t already have social media accounts created for your client’s brand name, this can be a very effective and low-effort way to push down negative search results on Google. Assuming that your client’s brand name is the primary keyword that you are focused on, having social profiles with that keyword in the name can push the negative mention you’re worried about well out of view.

Social media profiles for websites such as Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter frequently appear on the first page of Google, and often at the top of the SERPs. If the negative search result that you want to hide is in the fourth spot, having a Twitter account and a LinkedIn account for your client’s brand name show up above can be enough to reduce the click-through rate on that result from about 8% to roughly 5%.

It’s worth mentioning that if you’re going to create a social media account, you should also plan to maintain it since abandoned accounts are not a good look. Consider offering social media services to ensure you’re posting and engaging regularly on all of your client’s social media channels.

Build listings

Listings on popular directories such as Yelp and Trustpilot also show up at the top of SERPs. By ensuring your client has listings on all the important directories (and keeping them up to date with the correct business info), you can increase the chances of those listings showing up on the SERP. Coupled with the use of a review-generating solution like Customer Voice, you can ensure that those listings have plenty of recent, positive reviews that can assure your client’s prospective customers feel more confident buying from you.

In other words, having these listings appear on the SERPs for your target keyword can crowd out a negative search result with a collection of positive, reputation-boosting reviews. Plus, this is an essential practice for local reputation management. It’s well worth doing even if you don’t have an active negative search result that you’re trying to push down.

Create a PR campaign

Good old-fashioned public relations practices can go a long way in helping you push down negative search results on Google. Your PR campaign can consist of participating in a wide range of PR-friendly activities. You can submit press releases to syndication sites, but make sure you only use highly reputable ones. You can also go on a “press tour.” Luckily, in our digital age, this doesn’t have to involve travel. Instead, look for opportunities to have your client interview for blogs or publications, speak on podcasts, appear in panels for digital conferences, and otherwise get their business name out there in a positive light.

Each of these PR activities creates more opportunities for others to link to the business and create positive press, which can eventually push down negative Google results.

Secure new domains

Creating multiple websites that can rank for your target keyword, which in this case is likely your client’s brand name, can sometimes be an effective strategy.

For example, let’s say your client has a tech company with multiple products. They might have a domain that is their brand name, but they could also purchase additional domains for the product names of their key products. Their brand name doesn’t necessarily have to be in the domain name. The newly created websites can contain landing sales pages about the product, linking back to the primary website.

Even if the brand name (the keyword) is not directly in the URL, it will still appear throughout the new websites, indicating to Google that the new sites should rank for the keyword. This can help you capture the first few spots on the SERP for your client’s brand name, pushing negative search results down the list.

Get employees involved

Sometimes, the negative result that you’re concerned about may be from websites like Glassdoor that publish employee reviews of workplaces along with salary information. If there are negative answers to questions about what it is like to work at your client’s organization, you might want to push those down with more recent, positive feedback.

You can encourage current employees to leave positive reviews about their experiences (if, of course, you are confident their reviews will be positive), pushing the negative feedback out of view. You may also want to respond to the negative review with compassion, understanding, and professionalism so that anyone who sees it is also left with a positive impression.

About the Author

Solange Messier is the Content Strategy Manager at Vendasta. Solange has spent the majority of her career in content marketing helping companies improve how they connect with their prospects and customers. Her diverse background includes magazine publishing, book publishing, marketing agencies, payment processing, and tech. When she's not working, Solange can be found spending time with her family, running, and volunteering.

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