Expert guidance for removing—or burying—unflattering images online

Google probably won’t remove those embarrassing photos for you. Here’s how to take matters into your own hands.

How to remove images from Google

Sometime negative search results come in photo form.

Most often, undesirable images cannot be removed from the internet. When unflattering photos are removed, it’s usually directly done by the publisher of the blog post, mugshot site or article.

Google will remove images from search results under certain circumstances, but it is rare.

If you’re keen to make an unbecoming, embarrassing or distasteful picture disappear—or at least plummet in internet search rankings—take these six steps:

1. Create a better image to replace the undesirable one.

Think about what sort of image people might click on, and make sure it’s compelling enough to supersede the unflattering image you’re trying to bury.

Remember, search engines provide the images, but people judge them. Images with better lighting and formatting—or even pictures that are somehow jarring, intriguing or surprising—can make enough of a difference that people will click on it instead of the undesirable one.

Google’s image recognition AI is interpreting the content of images better all the time. So, it will recognize the new images and test them with searchers. Your job is to create an image that people—and ultimately search engines—will deem more clickable, relevant and useful than the image you’re trying to suppress.

2. Name the image correctly.

Google’s image recognition software is good, but you can help the search engine decipher content even better by naming the image in a way that Google will clearly understand.

In the example below, the image is named “lindsay-lohan-mug-shot.jpg,” which includes the key phrase we want search engines to find. It’s not named something like “image-123.jpg.” Accurately naming the image helps search engines figure out what exactly the picture depicts.

Be descriptive and precise with all your image file names, but make sure the text is somewhat different each time.

3. Post favorable images online—strategically.

Embed new photos on different types of web pages, such as on your own websites, social media platforms, press releases or third-party articles.

If you control a website, you can insert alternative text, which helps search engines (and blind people) discern what your content is about.

4. Mind the surrounding and supporting text.

The text around an image helps, too. Surround the image on each of the websites (or other web properties) with relevant, well-written text that includes the key phrase you’re trying to rank for.

Search engines take their cues for image relevance by examining not only the image and its HTML tags, but also the surrounding text and general theme of the page (and website if possible). So, make sure the text around the image makes it clear what the image is all about, and try to include phrases that relate to your photo.

5. Embed relevant images into third-party websites.

Everything you’ve read about so far relates to “on-page” optimization—things you can do to improve the search engine ranking of an image on a site you control.

It’s crucial to also get other sites to embed your new, favorable images. Just make sure your photos land on reputable, relevant sites, otherwise you won’t gain beneficial SEO juice.

6. Create a jarring image.

One way to bury an old image is to create a new photo that’s either shocking, jarring, intriguing or highly sharable. Of course, most executives are loath to upload anything controversial or outlandish—but sometimes it takes a bold, striking visual to overtake an unwanted photo.

The more an image gets clicked, embedded and shared, the more search relevance it will receive. The more relevant it is, the higher it will rank in search results—which should help bury the content you wish would just disappear.

A version of this post first appeared on Reputation X.

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