You may have heard a saying that goes something like this: “If it’s on the Internet, it’s forever.” And actually, that can be true to a large extent. But even if an old website, for example, still exists on the Internet, it’s possible that no one will ever find it.
When businesses and non-profit organizations refresh their web sites every couple of years, as they are wont to do, it is simple enough to just redirect the URL from the old pages to the new pages. Easy peasy, right? But sometimes old pages continue to linger, and they still are indexed by search engines such as Google. That means they may continue to show up in search results, even though you believe that the pages are completely defunct.
Is it possible to delete pages from the Internet completely?
Perhaps not. But you can prevent search engines from finding them with some effort and time. Here are the key steps in vanquishing the ghost of a past website that just won’t go away:
1. Contact the website host you were using for the ghost site or pages
This is the original source and is in the best position to delete the page. However, the host is under no obligation to do anything, so you’ll have to ask nicely and probably repeatedly, and your pleas still might come to naught. Make sure you explain a compelling reason why the ghost pages need to be removed.
2. Next, it’s time to address the search engines
Google has a URL Removal Tool that will allow you to ensure the ghost website does not appear on that search engine. Note that you must have a Google account to access this tool. Google will consider your request and render a decision. This likely will take some time. You must repeat the same process with other search engines as well, such as Bing or Yahoo, even though we all know the vast majority of people use Google for search.
3. Be prepared to pivot
If you get no help from the web host and Google denies your removal request, the ghost web pages might keep floating around forever. But you can “bury” them by offering better and more updated content (hyperlink to previous blog about quality website content) that Google will place much higher in its rankings. Since most people don’t venture beyond the first page of Google results, you can be fairly certain that defunct sites won’t be getting any attention from anyone.
If your current website was created using WordPress, there are some plugins available that might help you with ghost pages such as a search engine notification tool or a redirect plugin. We are happy to help clients use these features if necessary. Just let us know when you need assistance.