An SEO Expert on Fixing Rick Santorum's Google Problem

A Frothy Mix of Analysis and Practical Advice

By Published on .

A politically curious web searcher, seeking information about Republican candidate Rick Santorum, may be shocked at the first result Google turns up when searching using only his last name. It's old news in political, activist and comedy circles, but with the candidate's strong showing in Iowa, thousands of civic-minded Americans may be stumbling upon this right at the top of the Google pile:
Santorum 1. The frothy mix of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the by -product of anal sex. 2. Senator Rick Santorum.
That definition is not from the Oxford English Dictionary. Rather, it's generated by (and links to) the site Spreading Santorum, which was created in 2003 by columnist Dan Savage. Savage, angered by Santorum's strong anti-gay stance, started a contest to come up with a definition of the word and then created a site tracking not only the spread of a filthy new internet meme but also some of Santorum's political positions.

So that 's the explanation for the definition. But it's highly unlikely that the average voter -- meaning a person who isn't a political junkie -- knows that . And many, after seeing the definition, may not bother to click through to the site. Indeed, Buzzfeed has a post called "25 People Who Just Googled 'Santorum' for the First Time ."

Last year, Santorum complained publicly about this, blaming Google in part for the definition showing up so high in the search results. But as Danny Sullivan explained in September on Search Engine Land, this problem isn't limited to Google. It happens on Bing, Yahoo -- and even Chinese search site Baidu.

While Sullivan is no fan of Santorum, he manages to overcome his own political biases to provide a detailed analysis of the problem, including some history on the art of "Google Bombing" efforts that snared George W. Bush and Michelle Obama. But Sullivan points out that Spreading Santorum isn't a Google Bomb -- it's not simply popping up in search results because of a gimmicky links posted in a concerted effort.

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 website.

In other words, Spreading Santorum has a lot of information about Rick Santorum. It's also been around for quite a while. And it updates rather frequently.

Unlike Rick Santorum's official site.

In a post published yesterday, Sullivan looks at "How Rick Santorum is Making His 'Google Problem' Worse."

One of the problems Santorum has had in ranking tops for a search on just his last name is that until relatively recently, he didn't maintain a dedicated website about himself, a place independent of his elected office where those who wanted to know about Rick Santorum could discover more.

His campaign website has helped, but by dropping the web site and pointing everything over to the donation form, it's as if the Santorum campaign has taken all the "votes" its earned over the past few months and tossed them all away.

There's also the matter of duplicate websites, Sullivan points out. The "support.ricksantorum.com site that was created continues to run with all the same content as with www.ricksantorum.com." As Sullivan explains, "duplicate content can cause Google or Bing not to know which page it should list in response to a search" -- which, of course, hurts search results.

Santorum obviously did a stellar marketing job in Iowa -- partly by being the anti-Romney, partly because his message rings true with hard-core social conservatives, and partly because he spent a great deal of time in the state, making personal appearances crucial to winning the caucus circus. That strategy will likely not be as viable as the primary moves forward. Whether or not Spreading Santorum is bad for the country or a blight on Google's reputation is irrelevant. It is bad for Rick Santorum, and someone in that campaign is going to have to stop whining about it and start paying attention to SEO best practices. Reading Danny Sullivan's posts would be a good start.

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