A question that I am often asked during my workshops is how can one persuade Google to remove a page or information from the web. Sometimes the person wants personal photos or videos to be removed or they are asking on behalf of a company who wants less than flattering comments and opinions deleted. In most cases Google does not control the content put up on web sites or social media, it merely indexes it. So the short answer is that you cannot make Google remove information you do not like except in very specific circumstances, for example copyrighted material on YouTube, images of you or your house on Street View.
“Removing Your Personal Information From Google”
http://searchengineland.com/removing-your-personal-information-from-google-55014 is an excellent overview from Search Engine Land of how you should go about having sensitive information removed (if possible) and dealing with negative publicity. Your first move is to contact the web site owner yourself but unless the information is libellous, breaches copyright or data protection laws you might not have much luck. Suing the web site owner is an option but you could end up generating even more bad publicity for you and your organisation. Swamping out the negative information with your own positive responses is by far the best approach and one that requires you to know how to use social media.
The oft cited example of? how not to tackle bad publicity is that of Nestle. (Just Google Nestle social media fail or Nestle social media disaster.) “Nestle fails at social media – Attempts to censor Facebook” from TechEye http://www.techeye.net/internet/nestle-fails-at-social-media is a neat summary of the events. There are also umpteen Slideshare presentations on how Nestle “did it wrong”. Many people have forgotten or never knew what the original argument was about, but after the social media debacle the perception of Nestle as corporate bad boys was reinforced.
The Search Engine Land posting has links to other articles offering sound advice on the topic including:
The Real Lesson In the Yelp User Review Lawsuit
Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: Managing your reputation through search results
http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2009/10/managing-your-reputation-through-search.html (I love the bit “.. don’t assume that just because your mom doesn’t read your blog, she’ll never see that post about the new tattoo you’re hiding from her.“)