I recently received an email from a client who had a situation where another company had prepare a document for them and posted it to their website without consent. The document had some personal information on it that they did not want to be easily found in the search results. The document was now ranking #2 for a search on their name and the client wanted to know how they could get it out of there.
First, the company was politely asked to remove the document from their server. Done – or so you would think.
Google had already cached the document and was providing a “View as HTML” link with the result. Even though the document served up a 404 you could still get to all the information via the extra cached result because that is stored on Google’s servers.
I then found a handy-dandy tool that Google had put together called the “Webpage Removal Request Tool“. (Update: Webpage Removal Request Tool has been moved inside Webmasters Tools – sign in required).
This tool allows you to submit links to Google that you found in their index that are no longer available (404 or 410), inappropriate or just a page you would like removed.
This tool got me thinking… How could this be useful to an Search Engine Marketing Professional who’s goal is to try and get your site crawled and indexed?
I would not want to use it on any of the sites I am working on because if I were to delete a page (off a site) it would surely be redirected to another page to ensure I am still collecting traffic off the indexed page for as long as I can.
However, it could work in the situation where a competitor has deleted a page and not redirected it. That would allow me to alert Google to the 404/410 page on my competitors website, have it removed from the index and potentially increase my placement in the results.
So, keep your eyes peeled for deleted pages in the results and submit them to Google – it could definitely work to your benefit.