It’s no secret that Rick Santorum has a Google problem. Search his last name in Google or Bing and the first organic result is a very R-rated definition that has little to do with the candidate himself. Even internet savvy folks find themselves wondering how the anti-Santorum crowd has managed to not only monopolize, but legitimize the new Santorum definition in search results so successfully.
The most recent search for “santorum” has the Rick Santorum campaign page at #2 in organic listings, which shows a considerable jump since a search performed a month ago. Good for him? The candidate’s page is sandwiched between the R-rated definition page sites, with the worst of them ranking #1.
Santorum’s search problem originated nearly 10 years ago, not long after the term Web 2.0 was born. There are many issues that Rick Santorum’s online team faces, not the least of which is the vulgar definition page’s long history as a top result for the term “santorum”. His team has taken some major missteps in trying to change this. One of the worst tactics Santorum could have used to combat the definition page would be to direct traffic to two different sites.
Unfortunately for the candidate, that is exactly what his online team did. Organic traffic was being directed to both the Santorum campaign site and a separate campaign donation site (as well as of course the number one result, the definition page). The donation site appears to have been removed, but was appearing in search results until at least early January, when research for this article began. By directing potential voters to two different pages with different URL’s, the Santorum campaign was essentially splitting its audience in half. This practice led to it taking twice as long for the candidate Rick Santorum to get into the top organic search results.
Some people will falsely identify the R-rated definition page’s high position as the result of “Google bombing,” but this would be incorrect. Google bombing was used several years ago to link searches for George W. Bush to the term “miserable failure.” The difference here is that George’s name is not George W. Miserable Failure. The Google bombers did not redefine “miserable failure,” which is why Google eventually took action. Many users that are searching for “santorum” are actually looking for the uncouth definition page. Therefore, the definition page has become a relevant result and poor Rick Santorum has very little right to fight.
One can only hope this online blunder will serve as a lesson set in html code for influential figures to bite their tongues offline before it ends up taking a huge chunk out of their reputation online.