Despite Inauguration, Google & Others Still Think It’s President Bush, Not President Obama

President Barack Obama took office officially today plus launched a new White House web site as part of his transition. But the major search engines have yet to catch up with the power change. Google still lists President George W. Bush as being in power, sort of:

Google, President Of The United States search

The screenshot above shows what you get in a search for president of the united states at Google. A similar situation happens for a search on president:

Google, President Search

Ah, but it’s only been a few hours — surely Google will catch up with the changed page soon. Look closer. Google already knows the page has been updated. While the title may say “President George W. Bush,” the description says “ is the official web site for the White House and President Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States.”

What’s going on? In this case, Google is using the title for the White House web site that is provided from the Open Directory Project here. Because the searches above use the word “president” in them, Google in its mistaken wisdom has decided that a third party title for the web site is more accurate than the site’s own title.

There’s a solution — the NOODP meta tag. Using that prevents Open Directory descriptions from being used and though Google’s help document isn’t clear, it should also suppress the ODP title as well. Hopefully, the Obama team will install the NOODP tag on the site soon.

Things are better on the Google front when it comes to a search for white house:

Google, White House

There, you can see Google is using both a current title and description for the page.

Over at Yahoo, it has yet to catch up with the times either for a search on president of the united states or white house, as shown below:

Yahoo - White House

The same is true at Microsoft for white house and president of the united states.

By the way, curious about what will happen with the “miserable failure” search that was ranking the US president’s home page number one for those words when Bush was in power? My Bush: Fix Your “Miserable Failure” Googlebomb Legacy Before Obama Takes Office article has background on the situation.

Today, I noted that the old location for Bush’s biography is not being redirected to a new location. I suspect that should finally kill the bomb for good, at least for “failure,” where it is still going off at Google right now:

Google, Failure Search

That should also stop it for “miserable failure” on Yahoo and Microsoft, where it still ranks Bush tops.

Of course, the change also breaks anyone over the years who has linked to Bush’s bio for educational or other non-political purposes. It’s also a change I don’t think was deliberately done. All US presidential biographies were moved to new pages (George Washington was here but is now here, with no redirection from the old location to the new one). That means lots of broken links out there (nearly 5,000 of them, according to Yahoo).

Postscript: Jason Kottke and Dave Naylor note how little the Obama administration is currently blocking from search engines compared to the old White House web site.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Features: Analysis | Search & Society: General | SEO: Titles & Descriptions | 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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  • javaun

    Nice catches, Danny. Looking at the Google listing for “white house”, they’ve updated the title and snippet, but all of the site links (save “President” and “First Lady” ) redirect to the “Page Not Found” message. But it’s a pseudo 404. According to the HTTP header, they’re 302′ing it. So maybe there is still hope for all of George Washington’s lost link love?

    HTTP Header snippet.

    GET /interactive/ HTTP/1.1

    HTTP/1.x 302 Moved Temporarily
    Server: Microsoft-IIS/6.0

  • chiropractic

    I’m glad you hold them to a different level of standards than you do your members. I still have 2008 copyright tags to update.

    Out of curiosity, “miserable failure” was the first search I made this morning. Your SEL article on the subject came up as the number one result.

  • yowazzup

    I think it’s not entirely Google or Yahoo’s mistakes. White House has not updated its web site as quickly as you have caught them. By right, President George W. Bush is still a president of the United States, just whether it’s “past” or “current”.

    Anyway, President Bush is still a failure after the update at number 4, while your site is at number 3.

  • nbuggia

    Danny, why did you not include Live Search in the article? We actually got it right!


  • Danny Sullivan

    But Nate, dude, it’s not right. I mean it wasn’t right! I mean it isn’t right! I mean…

    OK, so in terms of what you list number one right now, yep, the Encarta listing is showing Obama as president. But when I wrote this, that wasn’t the case:

    But then the story was really about how everyone’s listing the White House web site. And when I wrote this, you were still showing a description saying Bush was the president. And that’s still the case for both “white house” and “president of the united states.” In both cases, Bush is shown as president right now. In the latter case, he’s even showing that way in the title.

    I’m sure it will all be fixed soon when you recrawl.

  • paisley

    when u wrote your last article i did some digging and found out Obama’s web team was going to use a CMS system and change all the directory names to start it over fresh. I didn’ty think i was supposed to leak that.. so i didnt.. =)

  • VBP

    That is a great piece of info. It will not be long before the days of instant updates.

  • Asterix

    Yahoo image search seems to be significantly better than the rest for all the examples you quote.

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