Root Cause: The Case Against Suppression and De-indexing.

To put it on record, bsquared intel does not do suppression of negative/questionable information/data about you. Nor can we get search engines to de-index results. We can only help you control what you have direct access too and to search for where things managed to get out into the wild. If things do escape your perimeter, we can recommend other avenues for you to pursue, but with the caveat those avenues may not work out nor will there be instantaneous results. In the following paragraphs we’ll lay out our case and the challenges. To start, let’s take a look at suppression of negative information/data.

How does one suppress negative information? The short answer, is to flood the Internet with information that pushes negative results off of Google’s front page. That is the goal, at least. Maybe it’s a critical review of an individual they want buried, an arrest record, or to differentiate themselves from someone who has the same name as them, but their doppelganger is truly their evil twin. It is understandable to want to bury something that may harm one’s chance of landing their dream job, or get into their first choice college/university, or whatever reason someone has to worry about their past being dug up to expose their “digital dirt.” Let’s talk about the issues surrounding suppression next.

To start, we were asked by a University to evaluate the use of a brand reputation platform they recommend to students and alumni. The company is very forthcoming when discussing suppression. They make it clear that this isn’t an immediate fix. It takes, according to them, 2-6 weeks for Google’s indices to change and it might not make a dent in getting something pushed off their front page. Even more, as this company states, it can take months or well over a year to see any noticeable difference. This is in part due to the authority of the entity that holds this negative data. The company states that these authorities range from news outlets, to government databases, to long running, well established blogs. In order to take advantage of suppression, people need to be in it for the long haul. Unlike a corporation, where they may have an ability to squelch negative stuff, whether it be through addressing customers’ concerns in a genuine way, to playing games of creating a conflicting message from fake users, an individual is at a disadvantage. If a person pays for a suppressing service, with the right search query, and looking beyond the first page of search engine results, the time and money spent is for naught. The underlying problem is that the data still exists and is indexed in the search engine.

When Google sends it’s web crawlers and bots out to the Internet, the data from web pages they come back with are stored in the search index; whether it’s a new web page or one that has been updated. It’s this index that allows someone to quickly search for something. If there is something you want removed, Google will most likely not do it, although there are exceptions. Even if Google does remove the search result from their index, that web page, or photo, as examples, still exist on the Internet or are stored offline somewhere (screen shots, copies of web pages, etc) To really get something removed, a person needs to contact the publisher of a negative review, or article, or photo. If it’s well within the publishers’ legal rights, it will be very difficult to remove. Oddly enough this comes back around to suppression. Unless a search result and the website tied to it put someone at harm, such as their SSN is exposed publicly, the only course of action someone can take is to regularly publish stuff online that paint a positive message so that Google and other search engines pick that stuff up. It’s a band-aid.  For your reference, this is Google’s removal policy.

To get another perspective on the matter I turned to Phil Langin of Connecticut Business Link who, among other things, specializes in digital marketing.

How would you describe what a brand reputation company does? More specifically, those that target their demographic toward an individual rather than a business, if there is a difference.

I think there is a difference between companies that target individuals and companies;  People have different goals than a business. Plus a business with a bad reputation can change its identity easier than a individual. At the core I think the mission of a “brand reputation” company is to protect their clients.  Awareness is the first step, much like how you can’t repair your credit without seeing your credit report first.   Also it’s easier, in my opinion, for businesses to be made aware of a bad or good reputation. Half of search results of a business are reviews. It’s clear just by looking if people are having a good experience with a company.

For individuals I don’t think it’s as clear. There can be a lot of ambiguity with a picture or post and is open for interpretation.  Individuals need to dig deeper and so does anyone that wants to get the “scoop” on someone.   

What types of services do they generally provide?

Monitoring and advice. I do not personally believe in creating a false narrative for a company or an individual. I think these types of strategies will ultimately backfire and make a bad situation worse.  

What should a person know before hiring such a firm?   

A person should know what their own expectations are. As far as I know, not one company has any control over telling another publisher what they can or cannot publish unless its outright slander. At that point someone should probably hire an attorney.  Otherwise a good PR firm would have an attorney on staff or retainer. Also a good idea for anyone is to read all the small print before entering any contract.  Again it all comes back to expectations. It seems that erasing all of someone’s bad experiences from the vast realm of the Internet is a tough order to fill.

What are the pros of suppressing search results?  

Depends on what side of the fence you are standing on.  Obviously negative press is bad for business and bad for a personal reputation. If you are the one with a bad rep and you don’t want anyone to know than that could be a good thing.

What are the cons of suppressing search results?

Missing the opportunity to right a wrong, from a marketing view. When someone has a bad experience with a company and the company rectifies that negative experience publicly its sends the message that there is little risk to doing business because they will make any potential problem right. THAT has a lot more weight in the court of public opinion than any positive reviews.  I guess this may prove true at the personal level as well.

From the consumer stand point there is a level of “unfairness” that they are not getting all the information and then able to make a decision based on all the facts when hiring a professional. However for negative information being suppressed at a personal level the pros and cons may not be so black and white. For instance someone should be able to know if a registered sex offender lives next door. That public information comes with its own set of disclaimers on how to use that info too. Police blotters are made public. Years ago it was only in the newspaper and someone’s crime, no matter how serious, could pretty much fade into obscurity. Now any level offense is permanently “findable.” Its my humble opinion that not every crime should carrier a life sentence from the court of public opinion. People make mistakes. I think that people have the right to make things right and turn things around for themselves the same way a business can apologize for bad service and right their own errors.

bsquared intel would like to thank Phil Langin for contributing to this article.


This is a nebulous topic as there are several things to consider, such as the ability/inability to remove harmful/inaccurate data from search engines and publishers, to where does an employer draw the line at coming across an arrest record of a job candidate that was years ago that the candidate has resolved.

At bsquared intel, if there’s something out there within your direct control, we are happy to help mitigate that issue. If it’s beyond your control, it’s still important to know what is out there about yourself. In such an instance we will bring that information to light and assist in finding resources to help you, with the understanding/expectation that these resources may not be able to make headway because of First Amendment protections. To learn more about our services and to sign up with us, drop a line.

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