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Google And The Right To Be Forgotten

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Google And The Right To Be Forgotten

Have you ever searched for yourself in Google and found information that was incorrect or outdated?

It may be ancient history, and no longer reflective of who you are today, but it’s still prominently featured in Google’s search results.

Everyone makes mistakes. Should a person be punished for that mistake years or decades later because of indexed websites on search engines like Google?

Several countries, including including those in the European Union, back protections for “the right to be forgotten.” (RTBF)

It’s the ability for a person to request Google deindex pages that refer to their name or specific incidents related to them.

The information is still on the original sites, but won’t appear in Google’s index, and therefore is less likely to be seen.

Google recently published a video reminding people about this law, along with step-by-step instructions showing how to request content removals under the right to be forgotten.

Here’s more about RTBF, along with key highlights from Google’s video.

What Constitutes a “Right to be Forgotten?”

The exact laws of each country supporting RTBF are different, but the concept is personal information about a person can be removed from search results under certain conditions.

For example, a person commits a crime, was convicted, and served their sentence. A few decades later they want to apply for a job, but an Internet search shows the arrest. The employer passes on the potential employee even though they lived a life of lawfulness ever since.

There is a conflict between the right to privacy and freedom of expression. In 2014, a judge in the European Union set a precedent when a Spanish lawyer wanted websites deindexed that refer to a prior debt, according to Middle Tennessee State University.

There are many reasons why a person may want search pages removed including scandal, embarrassment, bad judgments, etc., or anything that can impede them from having a normal life.

The UK has the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act that states that criminal convictions should not be regarded after a specific time frame for conditions such as employment and insurance. In the U.S. transparency and the right to free speech rules supreme, but in the EU RTBF is a human right.

The following criteria is used to determine if a request is eligible for RBTF:

  • Is the information accurate?
  • Is the information inadequate?
  • Is the information irrelevant?
  • Is the information excessive?
  • Is there a public interest for the information to be available?

How To Get Information Removed

If you are in a country that allows RTBF, then a person can ask Google to remove certain pages for a specific search query, such as a name. This does not mean the pages won’t come up for other search queries.

The United States doesn’t recognize the “right to be forgotten” because it interferes with First Amendment rights and freedom of expression.

A person cannot apply for removal if they created the content. If a person creates a website or social media account, then they can make changes to the security setting or remove the website. The website must be from another party such as a news organization.

The first step is to visit g.co/legal and choose Google Search. You must provide proof that you are the person involved with the pages.

Check personal information and “right to be forgotten” for the removal reason. Fill out all the information needed including the website address, personal information, and specific search queries. The more information available, the better for Google to decide.

Google sends you an email verifying they received the request and then the decision process begins. The process isn’t automated and at least one reviewer goes over the request, but the amount of time it takes for a decision depends on the request.

The biggest issue is how the request weighs in on public interest versus privacy rights. For example, if a major public figure involved with a scandal wanted websites removed, the result would be negative because of public interest and information.

Other factors include:

  • Role in public life
  • Where the information comes from
  • How old is it?
  • Privacy issues

If the request is approved, the URLs are only removed from the countries involved. If a person from the EU requests URLs removed, then Google removes them from EU countries’ listings, but not the U.S. or other countries.

If the request is denied, then the person can appeal to the country’s data privacy division.

Abusing RBTF

Reputation management is big business and not everyone is using RTBF as they should. There have been attempts by some to make multiple requests from the perspective of different angles to increase the chances of approval.

Businesses that received negative reviews have also tried to get the URLs removed, but those are generally unsuccessful.

What If You’re in the U.S. or Another non-RBTF Country?

Google does allow people to make requests in the U.S., but the petitioner must describe what law would allow them to remove the URLs. In the U.S., there are some protections for a victim of revenge porn. In general, there is little to be done when it comes to delisting pages in non-RBTF companies.

This is still a hot-button issue and legislators continue to debate the legality of information privacy, so it is possible that this may change in the future.


Featured Image: Ascannio/Shutterstock




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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

Google removed the Covid-era structured data associated with the Home Activities rich results that allowed online events to be surfaced in search since August 2020, publishing a mention of the removal in the search documentation changelog.

Home Activities Rich Results

The structured data for the Home Activities rich results allowed providers of online livestreams, pre-recorded events and online events to be findable in Google Search.

The original documentation has been completely removed from the Google Search Central webpages and now redirects to a changelog notation that explains that the Home Activity rich results is no longer available for display.

The original purpose was to allow people to discover things to do from home while in quarantine, particularly online classes and events. Google’s rich results surfaced details of how to watch, description of the activities and registration information.

Providers of online events were required to use Event or Video structured data. Publishers and businesses who have this kind of structured data should be aware that this kind of rich result is no longer surfaced but it’s not necessary to remove the structured data if it’s a burden, it’s not going to hurt anything to publish structured data that isn’t used for rich results.

The changelog for Google’s official documentation explains:

“Removing home activity documentation
What: Removed documentation on home activity structured data.

Why: The home activity feature no longer appears in Google Search results.”

Read more about Google’s Home Activities rich results:

Google Announces Home Activities Rich Results

Read the Wayback Machine’s archive of Google’s original announcement from 2020:

Home activities

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Olga Strel

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Google’s Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

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Google's Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

In a recent LinkedIn discussion, Gary Illyes, Analyst at Google, revealed that the search engine takes a binary approach when assessing a website’s lastmod signal from sitemaps.

The revelation came as Illyes encouraged website owners to upgrade to WordPress 6.5, which now natively supports the lastmod element in sitemaps.

When Mark Williams-Cook asked if Google has a “reputation system” to gauge how much to trust a site’s reported lastmod dates, Illyes stated, “It’s binary: we either trust it or we don’t.”

No Shades Of Gray For Lastmod

The lastmod tag indicates the date of the most recent significant update to a webpage, helping search engines prioritize crawling and indexing.

Illyes’ response suggests Google doesn’t factor in a website’s history or gradually build trust in the lastmod values being reported.

Google either accepts the lastmod dates provided in a site’s sitemap as accurate, or it disregards them.

This binary approach reinforces the need to implement the lastmod tag correctly and only specify dates when making meaningful changes.

Illyes commends the WordPress developer community for their work on version 6.5, which automatically populates the lastmod field without extra configuration.

Accurate Lastmod Essential For Crawl Prioritization

While convenient for WordPress users, the native lastmod support is only beneficial if Google trusts you’re using it correctly.

Inaccurate lastmod tags could lead to Google ignoring the signal when scheduling crawls.

With Illyes confirming Google’s stance, it shows there’s no room for error when using this tag.

Why SEJ Cares

Understanding how Google acts on lastmod can help ensure Google displays new publish dates in search results when you update your content.

It’s an all-or-nothing situation – if the dates are deemed untrustworthy, the signal could be disregarded sitewide.

With the information revealed by Illyes, you can ensure your implementation follows best practices to the letter.


Featured Image: Danishch/Shutterstock

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

There’s one thing standing between you and several days of SEO, socializing, and Singaporean sunshine: your boss (and their Q4 budget 😅).

But don’t worry—we’ve got your back. Here are 5 arguments (and an example message) you can use to persuade your boss to send you to Ahrefs Evolve.

About Ahrefs Evolve

  • 2 days in sunny Singapore (Oct 24–25)
  • 500 digital marketing enthusiasts
  • 18 top speakers from around the world

Learn more and buy tickets.

SEO is changing at a breakneck pace. Between AI Overviews, Google’s rolling update schedule, their huge API leak, and all the documents released during their antitrust trial, it’s hard to keep up. What works in SEO today?

You could watch a YouTube video or two, maybe even attend an hour-long webinar. Or, much more effective: you could spend two full days learning from a panel of 18 international SEO experts, discussing your takeaways live with other attendees.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve speakers from around the world.

Our world-class speakers are tackling the hardest problems and best opportunities in SEO today. The talk agenda covers topics like:

  • Responding to AI Overviews: Amanda King will teach you how to respond to AI Overviews, Google Gemini, and other AI search functions.
  • Surviving (and thriving) Google’s algo updates: Lily Ray will talk through Google’s recent updates, and share data-driven recommendations for what’s working in search today.
  • Planning for the future of SEO: Bernard Huang will talk through the failures of AI content and the path to better results.

(And attendees will get video recordings of each session, so you can share the knowledge with your teammates too.)

View the full talk agenda here.

There’s no substitute for meeting with influencers, peers, and partners in real life. 

Conferences create serendipity: chance encounters and conversations that can have a huge positive impact on you and your business. By way of example, these are some of the real benefits that have come my way from attending conferences:

  • Conversations that lead to new customers for our business,
  • Invitations to speak at events,
  • New business partnerships and co-marketing opportunities, and
  • Meeting people that we went on to hire.

There’s a “halo” effect that lingers long after the event is over: the people you meet will remember you for longer, think more highly of you, and be more likely to help you out, should you ask.

(And let’s not forget: there’s a lot of information, particularly in SEO, that only gets shared in person.)

The “international” part of Evolve matters too. Evolve is a different crowd to your local run-of-the-mill conference. It’s a chance to meet with people from markets you wouldn’t normally meet—from Australia to Indonesia and beyond.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve attendees by home country.

If you’re an Ahrefs customer (thank you!), you’ll learn tons of tips, tricks and workflow improvements from attending Evolve. You’ll have opportunities to:

  • Attend talks from the Ahrefs team, showcasing advanced features and strategies that you can use in your own business.
  • Pick our brains at the Ahrefs booth, where we’ll offer informal 1:1 coaching sessions and previews of up-coming releases (like our new content optimization tool 🤫).
  • Join dedicated Ahrefs training workshops, hosted by the Ahrefs team and Ahrefs power users (tickets for these workshops will sold separately).

As a manager myself, there are two questions I need answered when approving expenses:

  • Is this a reasonable cost?
  • Will we see a return on this investment?

To answer those questions: early bird tickets for Evolve start at $570. For context, “super early bird” tickets for MozCon (another popular SEO conference) this year were almost twice as much: $999.

There’s a lot included in the ticket price too:

  • World-class international speakers,
  • 5-star hotel venue,
  • 5-star hotel food (two tea breaks with snacks & lunch),
  • Networking afterparty, and
  • Full talk recordings to later share with your team.

SEO is a crucial growth channel for most businesses. If you can improve your company’s SEO performance after attending Evolve (and we think you will), you’ll very easily see a positive return on the investment.

Traveling to tropical Singapore (and eating tons of satay) is great for you, but it’s also great for your team. Attending Evolve is a chance to break with routine, reignite your passion for marketing, and come back to your job reinvigorated.

This would be true for any international conference, but it goes double for Singapore. It’s a truly unique place: an ultra-safe, high-tech city that brings together dozens of different cultures.

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Little India in Singapore

You’ll discover different beliefs, working practices, and ways of business—and if you’re anything like me, come back a richer, wiser person for the experience.

If you’re nervous about pitching your boss on attending Evolve, remember: the worst that can happen is a polite “not this time”, and you’ll find yourself in the same position you are now.

So here goes: take this message template, tweak it to your liking, and send it to your boss over email or Slack… and I’ll see you in Singapore 😉

Email template

Hi [your boss’ name],

Our SEO tool provider, Ahrefs, is holding an SEO and digital marketing conference in Singapore in October. I’d like to attend, and I think it’s in the company’s interest:

  • The talks will help us respond to all the changes happening in SEO today. I’m particularly interested in the talks about AI and recent Google updates. 
  • I can network with my peers. I can discover what’s working at other companies, and explore opportunities for partnerships and co-marketing.
  • I can learn how we can use Ahrefs better across the organization.
  • I’ll come back reinvigorated with new ideas and motivation, and I can share my top takeaways and talk recordings with my team after the event.

Early bird tickets are $570. Given how important SEO is to the growth of our business, I think we’ll easily see a return from the spend.

Can we set up time to chat in more detail? Thanks!

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