Google Images has to be the most powerful image search tool on the Web. If a picture or graphic is published online with no access restrictions, you can probably find it with Google. But what if you encounter a picture of yourself or someone else that you don’t want to appear online? Is there anything you can do to block the picture from search results?
Well, the bad news is that there is no magic trick that will instantly delete all of your unwanted photos from Google search results or, indeed, the Internet itself. Google can neither censor the Internet nor force people to remove objectionable content from their websites. The search giant doesn’t own cyberspace; it only shows you what is out there.
But the good news is that you CAN ask Google to prevent outdated or deleted content from appearing in its searches. In other words, if the pictures are first taken down from the Web, you can then ask Google to update its image search database.
Why Bother Taking Down Pictures?
You may want to remove pictures from Google’s image search database for reasons such as:
• You found objectionable picture(s) of yourself and/or your loved ones online
• You removed photos from your online accounts/websites and do not want them to appear in searches any longer
• You want to protect your copyrighted photos/artwork from unauthorized use
Now here’s how you do it.
Step 1: Remove the picture from the server.
Before you can have a picture removed from Google Images, the owner of the site where the picture is stored must delete it first. If it is hosted on your own website, you can delete it yourself; if the picture is hosted on someone else’s site, you must ask them to delete it or block it from search engines.
You can delete a picture on your own website via either your web host’s file manager or FTP. If your site runs on a blogging tool or content management system such as WordPress or Joomla, you can also delete the image from there, assuming you can locate the file in the image uploads library. Of course, you will need administrative rights to do so (and you should have that if you are the webmaster of your own site).
If the picture is hosted on someone else’s website, contact the webmaster and ask them to delete or block the picture. Look for a contact form, email address or social media page. If there is no information on their website and they are unavailable via social media, look up their WHOIS data. If they don’t have privacy protection and their domain registration is current, you may find a valid email address, postal address or phone number there. Should that also fail to bring results, ask their web hosting provider for help.
After the picture has been blocked or removed, Google will update its database on the next crawl. If you cannot wait for this to happen on its own, you can speed things up with a removal request.
Step 2: Get the image URL.
You must tell Google where exactly the image is – or rather was – located.
1. Go to Google Image Search at images.google.com or type your keywords in the Google search bar and click Images.
2. Click the picture you want removed.
3. Next to the picture on the right, you will see two buttons: Visit page and View image. Click View image. If the file was already deleted, you should see a 404 or “file not found” error page.
4. Copy the web address in your browser’s URL bar.
Step 3: Submit a removal request to Google.
1. Go to the official Google page for removal of outdated content at support.google.com/webmasters/answer/1663691?rd=1. Choose the first option, which says “Remove a page from search results that’s already been removed from the website.”
2. Follow the link to “Remove outdated content” which will take you to a Google Webmaster Tools page. You could also go directly to the latter at google.com/webmasters/tools/removals?pli=1.
3. Paste the image URL in the URL form and click Request Removal button. (If you are not signed in to your Google account, you may be prompted to do so; otherwise the tool might not work.)
4. A small window saying “Analyzing URL” will open. The analysis will check if the file has been deleted or blocked from the server. This can take a few minutes. If it says “The content is gone,” and Google confirms you can submit a request, click Request Removal button.
You will now see the request in “Pending” status on a list on the page. Come back to that same page to check the status of your request. If you made a mistake or change your mind, you can cancel the request there as well.
As a reminder, please keep in mind that taking down one picture from Google Images will only take down that one URL. If the same photo appears across multiple web addresses, all copies must be deleted first; then you need to submit a removal request for each one individually.