Bing & Google: “Spreading Romney” Ranking Tops For “Romney” Is Normal

Bing and Google have weighed in on the amazing rise in less than a month of the Spreading Romney site to the first page of their results for a search on “romney.” That’s apparently business as usual. Prepare for further “Spreading” sites for other candidates to rank as well? Perhaps, but without some Rachel Maddow-like mentions, they might not get there.

Spreading Romney’s Remarkable Rise

My earlier story, Now, Mitt Romney Has A Santorum-Like Bing & Google Problem, explains how the Spreading Romney site created by Jack Shepler skyrocketed to the first page of Google’s listings within days after being launched. It remains that way on Google today, as well as Bing.

It’s a remarkable gain given that it beat out news stories and existing sites like the pro-Romney “Committed To Romney” site and the anti-Romney “Dogs Against Romney” site that are both years-old.

The Search Engines Speak

Bing told me about the gain:

Bing uses multiple signals and approaches in ranking search results. We don’t have anything else to add.

Google told me:

This site has been live for about a month and has attracted a fair amount of attention both on TV and online, and Google’s algorithmic rankings are reflecting that fact.

Those statements shed little light on the situation.

Search engines use many factors to rank web pages. To understand more background about this, see our key resources below:

With that background in mind, I’ll explore some of the factors that might be at play here.

The Freshness Factor

How people link to a web page is one of the primary ways that both Google and Bing determine how and what it should rank for. As I previously covered, the single-page site does have some links, but not so many as to expect it to do so well, so quickly.

One explanation is that it might be benefiting from something Google calls “Query Deserved Freshness,” which is when new content is given a boost for searches that seem to be especially geared toward needing fresh material.

Searches for “romney” certainly qualify, here. People conducting them are likely looking for new material, in particular news content. As a new page, Spreading Romney might be getting a QDF boost that may wear-off in the near future, as the site is deemed older.

Older doesn’t mean you can’t rank. Indeed, the Spreading Santorum site that inspired Spreading Romney maintains its first page position for “santorum” because of its age, the amount of earned links and authority it has gained over time, in my view.

In the end, perhaps freshness is an issue here. I’d largely discounted that because Spreading Romney isn’t a news site. But just being new, even if not necessarily a news site, might be enough for both Google and Bing, an interesting observation.

The Social Factor

I’ve seen a number of people question if social activity has caused the page to do well. Perhaps, though the challenge with this is that Google and Bing see completely different social signals.

Google has been adamant that Facebook data isn’t used for its rankings. The number of Facebook shares a page has carries no weight, Google has said. My understanding is the same is true for the number of Facebook Likes.

As for Twitter, while Google sees some tweets, it has suggested is has no way to properly count the tweets a page may have gained since the expiration of Twitter’s deal with Google last year.

Google does see Google+ data, of course –and the Spreading Romney site had gained about 300 +1 votes when I first wrote about it (today, the figure is up to nearly 700). Perhaps that’s what’s causing the rise with Google?

If so, what about Bing? Bing, to my knowledge, doesn’t use Google+ data. It does have deals with both Facebook and Twitter, however. The site had nearly 3,000 Facebook likes when I first wrote about it (now just over 5,000) and about 1,200 tweets (now about 1,700). Those might be factors helping on Bing.

Maybe. Maybe the completely separate sets of social data that Google and Bing both have, coupled with linking data and the freshness of this site, helped it move up so quickly. But it would be more compelling if there were a common factor.

“The Maddow Factor”

What about that “attention” that Google mentioned. It’s true. Rachel Maddow did mention this site had been created in January, as I wrote about before. Below is the video where she covers it. Note that she’s not saying that the site is ranking on Google, only that there’s an attempt for this to happen:

That mention would have caused two different things to happen.

  1. Visits: People go to the site, or search for it and click to it from search results
  2. Votes: People link to or talk about the site after finding it

I’ve already covered what happens with the second item, the way people effectively vote for the site. Yes, there were links, but not an amazing number of them. Yes, there was “talk” in the form of social sharing, but there are issues about how each search engine would “add up” those votes.

Measuring The Maddow Factor & Interest Spike

That leaves the idea of visits having an influence. There are ways that both Google and Bing can detect if a site has gained an unusually large number of visits than might be expected, both by watching how people surf the web through their respective toolbars and by watching how people click to sites on their search results.

Were lots of people searching for “Spreading Romney?” Consider this:

After typing only a few letters of the word “spreading,” the suggestion of “spreading santorum” comes up on Google, suggesting this is a popular related search that people are doing. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be suggested.

At Bing, you also get the suggestion, but only if you type the full word “spreading” followed by the letter “s,” suggesting that it’s popular as a related search, but not super popular.

Now let’s consider Romney at Google:

 Yes, it comes up as a suggestion now, though you have to work for it. At Bing, it doesn’t at all:

Still, it does register to some degree on Google. How does it compare to interest in Spreading Santorum? Fairly well, initially after the Maddow mention:

That chart is from Google Insights For Search. It shows the relative number of people searching for the words “spreading santorum” (the blue line) versus “spreading romney” (the red line). You can see the red line spike right around the time the site appears to have been mentioned by Maddow, approaching about half the interest in “spreading santorum.”

The Ranking Trifecta

My guess is that Spreading Romney hit on a perfect storm of things in its favor to rank well:

  • It was new
  • It picked up a few links to add some relevancy
  • It gained an immediate interest spike associated with “romney” searches

Had the Maddow mention not happened, I’m not sure it would have gained these rankings. The interest spike may have been the extra factor it really needed.

By now, a Spreading Gingrich site has sprung up that’s getting some attention. But will it get the trifecta that appears needed to gain top rankings on Bing and Google? Or is there no trifecta, and will spreading-style sites instead spread out to search results near you?

Stay tuned.

Related Articles

Postscript: There have been many updates to this story. See our Santorum’s Google Problem category for the latest articles.

Related Topics: Channel: Consumer | Features: Analysis | Link Building: Link Bombs | Search & Society: General | Search & Society: Santorum Google Problem | Top News


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • T.T.

    For UK based clarity, is Rachel Maddow a fairly big deal? I’m only dimly aware of her really. I’ve seen her interview Jon Stewart, which I thought was a good piece, but nada other than that

  • Danny Sullivan

    I don’t know her ratings, but yes, she’s a large news personality with a big following.

  • GalenaAlyson

    Hullo Mr. Sullivan, and thank you for the mention at the close of your article. At this writing you have driven a massive herd of 20 searchenginelanders to our site, for a whopping 1.5% of our all-time grand total since our first visitor way back on January 24th. (Keep it up – we’re counting on you to move us up to the top of the googleverse! :-)

    I’ve learned a lot reading your two recent articles, and I’d like to return the favor (assuming you’re interested). I am far from a search engine guru, but I have been on the net twice as long as Google (almost exactly), and these things interest me…

    …which is why I bought only minutes after seeing the Rachel Maddow feature on Spreading Romney — I could hardly believe my eyes when it came up on my screen as available (I mean, geez, even is taken!).

    The first thing I did was to send Maddow a note asking what she thought we should do with this thing, but unsurprisingly, no reply (“write us – we read our mail!”). The obvious thing to do was what Shepler did – make up a somewhat vulgar definition based on topical, popular liberal sentiment (“the uncomfortable feeling you get after screwing someone new in your dying wife’s bed”); throw on some google ads and watch the clicks to roll in.

    But I’d rather do something fun while I’m slavishly me-too-ing (sorry Dan!). I wanted to see if we could get something really good if we threw it out to the net, something that might become more than merely a meme, something that might actually have a chance of making it into the popular lexicon (fun as they are, santorum and romney have pretty narrow application); I’m hoping for something that’ll resonate uniquely with the current populism. (That’s why I’m promoting the more lexically gratifying “grich” as a nice contraction.)

    So I hacked a few pages together (gawd I hate cludging css to satisfy IE – what a piece of romney that is!) and got a few hits here and there. Just wondering what would happen if we didn’t really push it.

    The “some attention” seems to have started last Saturday (11 Feb) on BNN with “Newt Gingrich Next In The Internet ‘Spreading’ Barrel”, a really nice feature (and a screenshot even) by Simon Barrett [ ].

    Next we show up yesterday (13 Feb), as you noted, riding romney’s coattails on and, which is where I first noticed the bump this morning, and where most of the bump has come from (thus far). (With some significant input coming indirectly from a related LA Times article via a commentary link on

    Interestingly, about 1/4 of the current bump is direct traffic, so folks are starting to text and email this around.

    That’s about as much as I, in my relative ignorance, can tell from the analytics. It kinda looks to me like this bump is already tapering off (17:00 14 Feb), but the after-work crowd could easily prove me wrong. I said I wanted to see what happened without pushing it, but I must admit to strong temptation to write Rachel again and trumpet our new cred….

    As you said, “stay tuned”…if this ‘goes’, then the early data may be useful to someone (you?) as a study of the chaotic leading edge of the viral ramp. It all depends on who writes what, and who sticks it all the way to the Republican convention. More likely, I suspect, is that Spreading Gingrich will remain a minor me-too site on the trailing edge of a phenom that will have run its course in the next few months.

    Any thoughts? Suggestions? Definitions? Should I write to Rachel again?!

    As long as the ride lasts, I’d like to make this as fun for everyone as possible.

    Thanks for your time,


    The Spreading Gingrich

    P.S. In the time it took me to romney the above load, you have driven a gaggle of 3 more searchenginelanders to spread some gingrich. Keep up the good work!

  • GalenaAlyson

    Oh my goodness! Sorry about that…

  • Wissa

    Really it is BS that Google and Bing allow for this. They punish and even de-index websites left and right. But then someone comes along and makes a smear website about the political party that is not popular with the left leaning Google and Bing decision makers and they do nothing. I wonder if the same kind of site came up about Obama would they allow it to sit at the top of the search engines for so long? I doubt it. I know that you are left leaning Danny and that is fine, It just isn’t right for the major search engines to allow this to happen when they punish others who manipulate SEO.

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