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.
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:
- The Periodic Table Of SEO Ranking Factors
- What Is Search Engine Optimization? The Three Minute SEO Video!
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:
- Visits: People go to the site, or search for it and click to it from search results
- 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?
- It’s Not “He Said, She Said” Over Google Rankings & Facebook Shares
- When Everyone Gets The Vote: Social Shares As The New Link Building
- Google Kills Bush’s Miserable Failure Search & Other Google Bombs
- Should Rick Santorum’s “Google Problem” Be Fixed?
- How Rick Santorum Is Making His “Google Problem” Worse
- After Santorum’s Win, The Daily Show & Colbert Report Laugh Again At His Google Problem
- Why Does Microsoft’s Bing Search Engine Hate Rick Santorum?
- Now, Mitt Romney Has A Santorum-Like Bing & Google Problem
Postscript: There have been many updates to this story. See our Santorum’s Google Problem category for the latest articles.