Today I learned that it’s possible to use the Google Removal Tool to request removal of pages on someone else’s website. Even if the page is on a website that you don’t own. I may be mistaken, but previously you had to be logged into a Google Account to use the Google Removal Tool and you had to be a site owner, verified in Google Search Console, to request removal.
Take a look at the screenshot that I just took while using the Google Removal Tool:
You can see where I put in a URL on Yahoo.com that’s a 404 error and Google analyzed that URL. They found that the page is, in fact, a 404 error. Therefore, I can request removal. They tell you that the webmaster of the site may be notified of the request.
Here’s what the message says when you request removal:
This content is no longer live on the website.
We’ve confirmed the content no longer exists, or is blocked from Google.
Now you can submit your temporary removal request. The site’s webmaster may receive a notice from Google that an outdated page removal was sent for this URL.
I see the pros and the cons of allowing you to request removal of a URL without being a verified site owner in Google Search Console, though:
Pros and Cons of This
The pros generally are as follows, which actually very handy for me in one particular instance:
- I’m not a verified site owner, and a bozo web designer allowed my client’s staging site to get indexed in Google. For example, dev.bozowebdesigner.com is indexed in Google, a new version of the site. I am not verified in Google Search Console for bozowebdesigner.com, so I previously wouldn’t be able to remove the staging site from Google even though they’re 404s and still indexed.
- There are pages on another site that you want removed because of an online reputation management issue. You get the pages removed from the site but it’s taking forever for Google to remove them. Pages are on a news site, you won’t get access to Google Search Console in order to remove them.
There are also some cons to this, though, as Google is allowing anyone to request removal of pages on any site.
- If the site owner is notified that someone requested removal, all sorts of URLs could be requested, which would be rather annoying for the site owner go continue to get notices.
- Someone could literally send messages to the site owner through URL removal requests. I know this is creative, but you could literally request something like hartzer.com/your-site-needs-SEO-and-we-can-help-contact-us-at-214-555-1212. That’s a bad URL, but if requested on a bunch of sites you might get a site owner to notice it and contact you. I could think of all sorts of messages to send site owners through URLs like this. And they could be positive AND negative messages. Someone could literally send messages to their competitors this way.
- There may be a limit to the number of URL removals that you can request per day or per month, there likely is. But it’s a lot of URLs currently, and could be done by a bot or a web browser macro recorder.
In most cases, I can imagine that it’s going to be handy to be able to use the Google Removal tool this way. For SEOs who might not have access to a site but need to get pages removed from the index, this could be handy. But I do recommend that Google change this back to requiring that a site owner be verified in GSC before a removal request can be made. If it wasn’t ever this way, then it actually should be this way.
In the case of bozowebdesigner dot com, I literally had to have the bozo web designer re-add the subdomain again and verify me in Google Search Console previously in order to remove pages from the index. This is a welcome change, but I can think of how some might abuse it.