Should Rick Santorum’s “Google Problem” Be Fixed?

Is Google (and Bing, by the way) not being “responsible” by failing to remove an anti-Rick Santorum web site? The Republican presidential candidate believes so, speaking out this week against an unfavorable listing for his name. But “fixing” Santorum’s “Google problem” isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Defining Santorum

For those who aren’t familiar with Santorum’s situation, back in 2003, the former US Senator angered gay columnist Dan Savage, not to mention some in the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender community, with several anti-homosexual comments during an interview with the Associated Press.

Savage’s response was to follow up on a reader’s suggestion that he hold a contest to define “santorum” to mean some type of sex act. The winning definition was picked in June 2003:

The frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the by-product of anal sex.

Rotten.com covers some of the history here. Mother Jones also did a good article last year on the topic.

Definition in hand, Savage launched a web site — Spreading Santorum — with letters and background information about the meme. An associated blog also operates, started in September 2010, after it was clear Santorum would be running for the US presidency.

Santorum: Google It & Bing It With Caution

Unsurprisingly, the site has long ranked in top results for a search on “santorum.” Currently, it even outranks Santorum’s official campaign web site on both Google and Bing.

Here’s Google:

The top arrow shows how Spreading Santorum currently ranks at the top of Google’s results. The lower arrow shows how Santorum’s own campaign site ranks fifth in the results or sixth, if you count the news box as a listing of its own.

Here’s Bing:

Bing manages to list the main site, the associated blog, then the main site again under a different domain name — all while failing to list Santorum’s own site. The last one was so far down (but still in the top results) that I had to piece the page together, as I couldn’t screenshot it all.

Santorum’s “Google Problem” isn’t just a Google problem, as you can see. It’s also a Bing problem, plus a Yahoo problem (since Yahoo uses Bing’s results). Even Chinese-based Baidu lists Spreading Santorum over Santorum’s own site:

Only tiny Blekko, of the search engines I surveyed, doesn’t list the Spreading Santorum site over Santorum’s own, in the top results. That’s because Blekko doesn’t list either.

Postscript: Blekko CEO Rich Skrenta emailed me that by default, a search on Santorum is automatically filtered using Blekko’s /politics slashtag, which eliminates the Spreading Santorum site but not Santorum’s own site. That appears on the second page of results (and thus is largely unnoticed by searchers. Searching for [santorum /web] overrides this and brings them both up, with Spreading Santorum above Santorum’s.

Blame Liberal, Irresponsible Google

Despite this being an industry-wide phenomenon, it’s Google — as is often the case — that takes all the blame for Santorum’s problem. Yesterday, he spoke more harshly about it than I’ve heard in the past. Politico reported:

“I suspect if something was up there like that about Joe Biden, they’d get rid of it,” Santorum said. “If you’re a responsible business, you don’t let things like that happen in your business that have an impact on the country.”

He continued: “To have a business allow that type of filth to be purveyed through their website or through their system is something that they say they can’t handle but I suspect that’s not true.”

Where to begin in dissecting this? I’ve already covered that this isn’t a Google-specific problem. Bing, Yahoo and Baidu are all as “irresponsible” as Google, despite getting none of the blame.

Perhaps A Positive Impact?

Next, is it really an apparently negative “impact on the country” that Santorum has a bad listing about him in search engines? Actually, some might argue that it’s a positive impact, a sign of a healthy, important debate as part of the presidential campaign.

Santorum is a presidential candidate, in a country with millions of LGBT citizens. If you’re searching about Santorum, and you’re part of that community, you’d probably find his views on homosexuals and private sex acts to be a really important issue.

If Google (or Bing) pulled that listing, because Santorum didn’t like it, you’d also likely be wondering what else Google (or Bing) might censor to ensure political candidates weren’t mad at them. That wouldn’t give you a lot of faith in the search engine you’re using.

Removing Filth Or Censoring?

But wait! We’re talking “filth” here, as Santorum says. This is just some disgusting web site that should be removed, right?

Actually, no. The web site’s home page is devoted to the alternative definition of “santorum,” but that’s only part of what the site is about. As I said, behind it are the letters and responses to Santorum’s comments in 2003, as well as the associated blog. The blog is actually filled with critiques of things Santorum has said on the campaign trail recently.

Google & Its Conservative Agenda

Still, Google wouldn’t allow this type of listing to appear if it were for a Democrat like Joe Biden, as Santorum said. Right? Google’s just anti-Republican!

If that were the case, then why did Google help Republican President George W. Bush with his own “Google Problem,” where a search for “miserable failure” brought up the official George W. Bush biography?

After Bush endured this for three years, Google brought out a “Google Bomb” fix. Why not leave that going until Bush was gone, if Google was all about playing politics with its search listings?

Actually, Google is loath to touch its results in any way, shape or form. That’s because if it does intervene in any way, there’s some interest group that will immediately claim a bias.

Way back in 2004, an anti-Jewish web site started ranking in Google’s top results for “jew.” Despite Google cofounder Sergey Brin being Jewish and himself disgusted with the result, it stood. Intervention, when Google’s ranking algorithms had spoken, was seen as harmful to user trust.

Steven Levy covered this in his book, In The Plex (it’s a great book; buy it):

Critics urged Google to exclude it in its search results. Brin publicly grappled with the dilemma. His view on what Google should do—maintain the sanctity of search—was rational, but a tremor in his voice betrayed how much he was troubled that his search engine was sending people to a cesspool of bigotry. “My reaction was to be really upset about it,” he admitted at the time. ”It was certainly not something I want to see.”

“I feel like I shouldn’t impose my beliefs on the world,” he said. “It’s a bad technology practice.” What seemed to shake him most was the fear that people would believe that Google was somehow endorsing Jew Watch. “I don’t want people to be under the impression that these are decisions we somehow make,” he said.

But What About Fixing Google Bombs?

Of course, Google does make changes to its ranking system all the time, ones that it feels improves relevancy overall. That “Google Bomb” fix I mentioned earlier was part of this.

The fix wasn’t intended as some type of special intervention for President Bush. Rather, it was designed to reign in a weakness in Google, where if you could get a lot of links pointing at a site saying certain words in those links (in the anchor text), the site might rank for those words, even if it had nothing to do with them.

The articles below provide more background about all this, including how the fix works and how it is run periodically over time:

Michelle Obama & Image Search

A different situation happened in 2009 with the First Lady, Michelle Obama. A search for her by name, in Google Images, brought up a pretty offensive image, where a monkey’s face had been superimposed over her own.

Google initially removed it, gave an explanation that didn’t quite hold up, then the image returned and remained. Recently, we noted it has gone again. Google said its algorithms had changed over time in general to cause this.

The stories below have more; the image doesn’t show at Bing, though I’m not sure if it ever did.

Santorum Isn’t A Google Bomb

If you believe Google, the Michelle Obama change was part of a general relevancy improvement. Fixing Google Bombing was also designed to improve relevancy. But Santorum’s case isn’t, despite what sometimes gets reported (we’ve done it, too), a “Google Bomb.”

Indeed, back when the Google Bomb fix was released, Matt Cutts — a Google software engineer who was involved with the change — explained:

“santorum” isn’t a Googlebomb, it’s straight SEO. Here’s the difference. With a Googlebomb, you’re causing someone else’s site to rank. With SEO, you’re promoting your own site. So spreadingsantorum.com is promoting themselves for “santorum,” which is SEO….

A Googlebomb is when you’re trying to cause *someone else’s* site to rank for phrases like “враг народа” or “talentless hack” or “mouton insignifiant” or whatever.

Speading Santorum isn’t ranking just because there are links pointing at it that say “santorum” in it. It’s ranking because in addition to this, it is indeed relevant to Santorum in terms of its content.

It’s not positive about him, but it’s still relevant in the same way that if you search for Coke, you get the “Killer Coke” anti-Coca Cola web site:

To “fix” Santorum’s concern, Google would have to remove the site from its index. That’s a type of censorship that I think many people would disagree with, especially when they understand that the site isn’t solely just some joke definition designed to embarrass Santorum.

Google SafeSearch & Filtering For Children

There is a case where this result, for this search, is potentially is irresponsible. That’s when children are searching for “santorum,” something that came up when I talked with Talking Points Memo for its story on the Santorum situation yesterday.

It’s fair to say, as the election campaign heats up, some kids might be doing school research about the candidates. Getting that definition is probably what most adults — even gay adults who dislike Rick Santorum — wouldn’t want children to see.

The good news is that if Google’s SafeSearch filter is set to “strict” in Preferences (by default, it’s set to “moderate” and only filters images), Spreading Santorum gets filtered out:

You can see that the site is no longer at the top of the results. It doesn’t appear on the first page at all. Santorum’s own site continues to be listed, as the bottom arrow points at.

The top arrow points out an oddity. The Mother Jones article I mentioned earlier gets through, despite “anal sex” being in the title. Maybe “lube” and “fecal matter” are seen as more sensitive and thus causing Spreading Santorum to be filtered. I don’t know for certain; I have a question out to Google on this.

Let me stress again, this only happens when SafeSearch is taken up to the “Strict” level. By default, there is no such filtering.

Bing: Not So Safe

Over at Bing, SafeSearch (Bing has copied the same name as Google’s own filtering product), set to “Strict” using Preferences, doesn’t seem to change anything:

All the sites I mentioned before remain. The Urban Dictionary site with its explicit description also remains; Google filtered that out.

Can Santorum Fix It Himself?

Santorum, of course, wasn’t talking about Google being irresponsible in terms of children. He just doesn’t like this listing in general, for obvious reasons. But, is there anything else that can be done?

Chances are, no. The definition has been out there for years. It’s well known in certain quarters, and it keeps getting more widely know, such as through shows like The Daily Show, as we covered previously: Presidential Hopeful Santorum’s “Google Problem” Makes Daily Show.

Santorum was probably wiser a few months ago with his “just live with it attitude.” He told Roll Call in February:

“It’s one guy. You know who it is. The Internet allows for this type of vulgarity to circulate. It’s unfortunate that we have someone who obviously has some issues. But he has an opportunity to speak,” Santorum told Roll Call….

Roll Call asked Santorum why he didn’t reach out to Google to try to remedy the problem. He said he never contacted the search giant directly, and his longtime consultant John Brabender dismissed the problem as a matter of free speech.

“There’s still the First Amendment,” Brabender said.

In the Politico story out yesterday, the headline says Santorum has now contacted Google over the listing, but there aren’t any specific details of exactly how. This could have been as simple as submitting feedback that any searcher can file if they feel a search result isn’t relevant.

Google’s statement (which it clarified to me was given to Politico, and not to Santorum, as Politico says) has the usual advice of working with other site owners.

For more about that, see our detailed guide below to the incredibly limited situations where Google itself will remove content:

Time For Some SEO

While Spreading Santorum isn’t going away, potentially, there’s more Santorum can do to raise his own profile.

It is poor relevance from both Google and Bing that his campaign site is ranking behind Spreading Santorum. From a relevancy standpoint, for most people, I’d say it should be first. It’s what most people doing that search are likely trying to find — except for the search voyeurs who heard about the odd ranking.

His challenge is that the campaign web site is so new, comparatively speaking. Building links over to it would likely help. That’s something supporters should be encouraged to do.

There’s also likely some SEO work that can be done. I’m not going to do an SEO review of his site to check, however. I’m pretty tired writing all this up already. But Rick, if you’re reading, see my previous advice for Bill Gates (he took it), as well as our “What Is SEO” page for further guides and information:

Santorum also has Twitter, Facebook and YouTube accounts, each with their own pages. These are all excellent pages that potentially could rise in the rankings, if Santorum supporters were encouraged to start linking to them.

That’s not going to oust the SpreadingSantorum site, however. For any real success there, Santorum would need to be like McDonald’s, where years of launching site after site (mcdonalds.com, playatmcd.com, mcstate.com, aboutmcdonalds.com, happymeal.com, ronald.com) has managed to push anti-McDonald’s sites like mccruelty.com or mcspotlight.org to the second page. Santorum’s not as big as McDonald’s, nor does he have that much time.

There’s Always Saying Sorry

There is one thing that possibly might work to make Spreading Santorum disappear for his name. That would be a real rapprochement with the LBGT community. If Santorum were to have a real change of heart, then perhaps that community and those who support it might not feel they should link over to Spreading Santorum. Perhaps Savage would decide not to run the site at all. Perhaps Santorum might even be redefined once again, this time as something pleasant.

As someone with several close gay friends, who believes strongly in gay marriage (Rick, it’s about loving parents of any type, not just straight parents), who has two sons with a gay godfather (Hey, Greg, how’s gay Hollywood today?), I’d sure love to see that happen.

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 | Search & Society: General | Search & Society: Santorum Google Problem | Search Marketing: Public Relations | Top News

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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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  • http://www.heatherphysioc.com Heather Physioc

    An impact on the country? A little stretchy there. The only impact I see on the country is a positive one. It shows that voters even in a minority segment (LBGT) can have a voice and can’t be censored just because boohoo some politician doesn’t like what’s being said about him. (Good for him for finally coming around and accepting it in the end.) Censoring this particular act of political speech would be an abomination. Google is an American company and this is an American politician, for the sake of brevity I’ll reference the U.S. Constitution where the First Amendment guarantees the right to free speech. And of all the kinds of speech there can be, political is the most important and highly protected form of free speech – as it should be. And this is a clear form of political speech – including the redefinition of the name and especially the internal parts of the site – even it is uncouth and makes people uncomfortable.

    It does beg the question – how is this Santorum situation any different than the President Bush Google Bomb? A Google Bomb exposes a distinct flaw in the Google algorithm that is subject to manipulation. Obviously Google wants to patch holes that make the search algorithm susceptible to attack and harm the relevance of their search results. They’re going for the utilitarian “greater good” thing. This isn’t a “Google Bomb” though. This kind of creative political speech was legitimately driven to the top of the search results because people optimize and consume the content, and if people want the content and are given the content they want, that is for the “greater good.” Even if this was “solely just some joke definition designed to embarrass Santorum” he’s still a politician in the public eye who is subject to that kind of speech. Deal with it.

    How to remedy and/or mitigate it? Good ole’ reputation management SEO. Create good, valuable, broad-reaching real estate in the SERPs with content that is equally or more valuable than the site (good luck) to hopefully drive it down. I especially liked the “Say sorry” approach. I would think that Wil Reynolds (MozCon presenter) would support that as it kind of echoes his “white hat linkbuilding” approach he discussed at MozCon 2011.
    I think the SafeSearch filters need a little work to help protect kids from this kind of content if parents so choose, but that’s a separate issue entirely that would make a great blog topic on here.

    I loved Sergei Brin’s quote, “I shouldn’t impose my beliefs on the world.” I think we could all stand to think like that. Rick Santorum included.

  • http://searchengineland.com Jonathan Hochman

    The general problem is that Google provides an excellent platform for libel. When a search focuses on the name of a person, Google should be more careful how things are listed, putting more emphasis on reliability, and less emphasis on popularity. Hate sites ought not be given so much visibility as they are now. A person should not need to run an SEO campaign for their own name.

    Example: a friend came to me because searches for his daughter’s rather unique name had a neo-Nazi hate site coming up first. She’s gay and the comments about her weren’t very nice. A private individual was being libeled by way of Google, and the only help Google could give was to suggest that the victim create some social media profile pages that might rank higher.

    Another client had a problem with an IRS page that detailed their tax evasion. No issue. If you break the law, you live with the consequences. (Once the client paid their debt to society we asked IRS to update the page, which they did.) I think Google is smart enough to recognize that the IRS is a reliable source, and Stormfront isn’t.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ericmatthewdavis Eric M. Davis

    @Johnathan – saying it is libel by the means of Google is saying that Gossip from Tabloids is Libel by the means of Paper companies.

  • http://searchengineland.com Jonathan Hochman

    Gossip from tabloids is libel by tabloids. Google is smart enough to know that Stormfront probably isn’t good search result for somebody’s name. All they need is the will to improve and they can. Unfortunately they aren’t being pushed hard enough by competition, so they can rest on their past accomplishments and meanwhile innocent people have their reputations damaged, and may even find it is hard to get a job because of the particular information that Google carelessly selects to present about them.

  • Lily

    In my opinion, this is amazing. (Maybe because I have a bachelors in Politics but I work in SEO.) This is the ultimate example of the types of free speech issues that can come up with Google and other search engines. In my opinion this is really not Google’s fault at all it implements the same search algorithm regardless of the content it is ranking. Santorum should do a better job of hiring a good SEO company and should stop complaining.

  • http://www.architechsw.com david pavlicko

    I also tried a search for ‘rick santorum’ on google, bing, yahoo, ask, blekko, dogpile and duckduckgo, Google was the only one to return the spreadingsantorum website first.

    Besides aren’t doorway pages a violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines? Isn’t that what I get when I click the result?

    Personally, I could care less about Santorum, but I think that Google wields an awful lot of power when it comes to politics. If these results aren’t unbiased (i.e. Official political site SHOULD be first, but never the only site), and what’s being presented as a top result is just a smear site, that’s a real problem. If that site was #2, I wouldn’t be complaining at all.

    So basically, this just tells us that all the crap Google says about returning the best result is just that…BS. Obviously, keyword stuffing and mass link building still works like a charm.

  • http://www.sitesell.com KenEvoy

    This is an interesting case. We at SiteSell can speak to it from a different perspective, “thanks” to our Googlebomb problem…

    http://blog.sitesell.com/sitesell/2011/08/proof-that-google-has-no-true-googlebomb-algorithm.html

    Based on all that we’ve learned, Santorum is not going to get this changed, not even if…

    1) the originators admit it’s a Googlebomb

    and…

    2) Santorum digs up a ton of documentation proving it’s a Googlebomb.

    I should have prefaced this by saying that I am about as apolitical as anyone can be. This comment is not about politics/gay issues.

    This is about how Google accepts the manipulation of a Google weakness to the detriment of users’ search experiences. They’ve done it with Googlebombs as our 3-part series on the 10-year history of the Googlebomb showed (in SiteSell Blog).

    And they are accepting it here.

    Why not fix their weakness?

    It’s not prioritized highly enough. When a manipulation of a weakness embarrasses Google in a “front-page way” (ex, Vitaly Borker, Michelle Obama’s ape-face), “fixes” happen fast. It’s “everyone else” who does not prioritize highly enough.

    A few points…

    1) Google should not be allowed to define “Googlebomb” as narrowly as Danny quotes. A Googlebomb is merely link-bombing as referenced to Google. WHO the destination site belongs to is irrelevant. A link bomb is not just for “other sites.”

    I believe that our definition is more accurate…

    http://blog.sitesell.com/sitesell/2011/06/the-history-of-the-googlebomb-and-googles-reponse-to-it-part-1-of-3.html#DEFINITION

    Wikipedia’s shorter definition is fine, too…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Googlebombing

    “The terms Google bomb and Googlewashing refer to practices, such as creating large numbers of links, that cause a web page to have a high ranking for searches on unrelated or off topic keyword phrases.”

    No mention of who benefits, just the process and result.

    2) Was it a Googlebomb?

    First, let’s use some common sense…

    Most people who search for “santorum” are not searching for the fictitious definition of “santorum” created by spreadingsantorum.com.

    So something’s wrong with Google’s algorithm, based on Google’s obsession with the quality of the “user experience” (i.e., what searchers are MOST likely searching for).

    But was it a Googlebomb?

    There are a high number of links to spreadingsantorum.com (for a relatively obscure site/term), but that is not, by itself, evidence of a bomb. The high number of links and the #1 ranking for “santorum” is not even an absolute cause-and-effect relationship (although it could be called “the likely relationship”).

    Rick Santorum has no proof this is a Googlebomb. For this to be labeled a Googlebomb, you’d need…

    i) spreadingsantorum.com to admit that it is a Googlebomb, or at least…

    ii) have a ton of documentation that major leaders instructed many others to create tons of links to the site, with precise instructions. Without that, this appears more like a semi-coordinated reply to statements that the gay community feel are repulsive.

    Santorum has no such proof, as far as we can see.

    Yes, this site was created to embarrass Santorum.

    Yes, it has moved to the top of the rankings, above more accurate results for a search for “santorum.”

    So yes, there’s a weakness in Google’s algorithm. After all, a made-up meaning for “santorum” ranks #1, ahead of a public figure’s name.

    But… that does not mean that Google Guidelines were violated. Even little-or-no SEO (Search Engine Optimization) needs to be involved here. The high ranking could be purely organic, driven simply by the rallying of a community under attack.

    As a result, while a Google weakness is revealed, this is not something that Google will “fix.”

    Heck, as explained in detail on our blog, Google won’t “fix” the Googlebomb that attacks us (SiteSell and SBI!), even though…

    i) the main beneficiary publicly admits the bomb

    ii) we have tons of documentation (including archived evidence before it could be pulled down by the perpetrators), all presented to Google, and

    iii) Google itself admitted it when they de-indexed the page from Google Canada (only!), but then refused to answer why they did not extend the same logic to “Google rest of the world.”

    3) There appears to be an extenuating circumstance in the Santorum case. According to Wikipedia, extortion seems to be involved. The founder offered to take the website down if Santorum donated US$5 million to “Freedom to Marry”…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campaign_for_%22santorum%22_neologism

    Santorum must consider this to be a devastating search result. I don’t know if the $5M offer still stands, or if this was in jest.

    But taken at face value and given that Google has no compelling reason to take this search result down (other than “good user experience”), it crosses the line into borderline extortion.

    4) And that brings up the most serious of all issues, significantly more important than “Santorum” itself…

    Say good-bye to what the U.S. most needs now, a vibrant leader with strong and smart positions on what the U.S. needs to do while on the brink of a major economic collapse, but that will most certainly rile one special interest/lobby group or another.

    Want to cripple that “future Jefferson”?…

    Just create a humorously/devastatingly insulting word for the potential savior of a financially doomed country. Then e-lobby/rally your constituency.

    Bingo! you have a ridiculed public figure. Every time you search for his name, you’ll find the equivalent of “santorum.”

    Let’s call it “santoruming” because there is no evidence of a Googlebomb here. (Even if there was, Google has no real algorithm to detect and eliminate link-bombing, in any event, as per our series of articles on Googlebomb in our blog).

    Googlebomb or not, this is a reproducible technique.

    And it’s all OK?

    Google is OK with this technique that enables extortion and stifling?

    4) Santorum has now contacted Google. All I can say is “Good luck!”

    “Santoruming” is a brilliant strategy, but it offers low value to the searcher.

    Common sense tells you that most people won’t find a fictitious word that has been “rallied to the top” to be the best answer for a search for a public figure. It’s a poor search result that does not serve most searchers correctly.

    THAT violates Google’s basic goal of “good user experience.”

    But, based on our experience, where we provided so much more evidence of blatant wrong-doing about Googlebombing…

    Don’t expect Google to do anything about “Santoruming” until a major and beloved figure is attacked with this, to Google’s “front page embarrassment.” Historically, that is what moves them.

    Consider our own case…

    1) We archived every instruction, every admission of collaboration between gurus, and gave it all to Google.

    2) The beneficiary of the bomb admitted its existence clearly, in writing, on her own blog.

    3) Google itself agreed with us, de-indexing the bombed result in Canada and then refusing to answer why “only Canada.”

    I don’t know what Santorum would need to get Google to fix “Santoruming.” Neither basic SEO nor advanced reputation management is going to push spreadingsantorum.com out of the #1 spot (without Google’s overt or covert support).

    Maybe Santorum should just cough up the $5M.

    Maybe Google should consider the larger ramifications on the future of the U.S. It needs a leader like it’s never needed one before. Honestly, though, would you leave a very successful position elsewhere, just to be covered in “santorum” for your ideas?

    All the best,
    Ken Evoy
    Founder, SiteSell.com

  • M.M.

    @Jonathan Hochman: So should Google also censor Santorum’s “libel” against gay and lesbian Americans?

  • http://www.silverspike.co.uk/ Alan Perkins

    Good article Danny. I agree with much, but not quite all, of it …

    > It is poor relevance from both Google and Bing that his campaign site is ranking behind Spreading Santorum. From a relevancy standpoint, for most people, I’d say it should be first.”

    What you’re saying here is “algo fail”. I agree. But you then also say …

    > “To “fix” Santorum’s concern, Google would have to remove the site from its index. ”

    Why? If its algo is failing, as we agree it is, why not fix the algo? As Google has before when it determines its results are less relevant than they could be. Not a specific tweak for Santorum, but a recognition that their algo is failing and a general fix for it.

    Google’s search results represent its opinions, not necessarily of what it finds relevant itself, but certainly of what it believes its searchers find relevant. As such, if the algo is failing to deliver that opinion properly, then the algo needs changing. If of course Google believes the current order of its results is better, then it should make no changes.

  • TimmyTime

    Danny you are wrong and I don’t like Santorum either. Free speech, right? So if someone calls Michele Obama a monkey –via a picture–isn’t that free speech? Sure it is, yet Google removed it. You cannot take a side in free speech, all or none.

    If Google sees a result that’s not so relevant, what do they do? ‘Fix it.’

    Matt’s comment is even funnier: ““santorum” isn’t a Googlebomb, it’s straight SEO. Here’s the difference. With a Googlebomb, you’re causing someone else’s site to rank. With SEO, you’re promoting your own site. So spreadingsantorum.com is promoting themselves for “santorum,” which is SEO….”

    I am going to try to do that with a Hotels site to see how far that argument flies :)

    Google is milking this for all its worth, but if it was another case they’d change it based on optimization and especially relevance. Without this storm in a teapot, how many average users would expect spreadinsantorum.com to be #1 when searching for Santorum? No they don’t have to remove them, they can put it at second or third place. We all know that Google does change results, manually or they make the algo do it, which is the same.

  • http://tinyurl.com/1000dailies D.R.

    let’s be honest here, santorum is a player in the game of national politics with access to the best and the brightest, not some backwater rube. instead of complaining all this time, if santorum had hired a SEO savvy pr person he wouldn’t be having this problem. However this “problem” gets him sympathy from his base.

    If google is milking this, so is santorum to promote his own agenda.

  • http://www.clickfire.com/ Emory Rowland

    Looks like the problem is fixed now.

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