Laura Packard Content, SEO January 28, 2016

How to Defuse a Political Googlebomb (Or, Advice for a Future Santorum)


Regular contributor Laura Packard spotted something noteworthy at the last Republican undercard debate: Rick Santorum invited viewers to Google his name. What? His Permanent Record had been permanently tagged years ago by a well orchestrated Googlebomb, which linked the word “Santorum” to an, um “alternative” definition and dominated his search results. But no more, as Laura discussed in a Campaigns & Elections piece yesterday, in which she looks at different reasons why Santorum’s name had been cleared (the offending links have now been pushed down to the second page of search results).

In the follow-up article below, Laura offers advice to future candidates who might find themselves on the receiving end of a barrage of ill-intentioned internet “love”. So lower your faceplates, close the blast doors and let’s learn how to defuse a political Googlebomb…boom!

How to Defuse a Political Googlebomb

It looks as though one of the Internet’s most notorious Googlebombs has lost some of its explosiveness…..

I’m not sure if Rick Santorum did some paid SEO work, or if the bomb’s effectiveness wore off over time, but what should you do if your campaign finds itself in a similar pickle — or if you’re just facing down some unfortunate Google results?

  1. Don’t antagonize the internet. In other words, don’t pick a fight with people who buy pixels by the barrel. Unless you’re Donald Trump: then you have a truly massive Internet army to counter with.
  2. Make sure your own campaign site is search engine optimized. You’ll want it to do well in search on its own (See: SEO tips for campaigns and nonprofit advocacy groups)
  3. Use paid Google ads. This won’t fix bad results, but it will at least get your message out at the top of the results (in the paid area).
  4. If you’re looking at an unfortunate article from a major news source, that’s going to be hard to dislodge in search (a major news source is going to have a lot of backlinks). But if you can get a new article from the same news source, you may have some luck in having IT take the place in the first page or so of results.
  5. Don’t link to the content and don’t ask others to link to it (even if just to counter the arguments) — you don’t want to encourage Google to rank it any more highly.
  6. Get more positive content out there. Do more interviews, campaign videos, make sure everything is spread on social media and that others start writing about it. Flood the zone with your positive message, and do your best to get the new material to rank above the old in search.
  7. Don’t forget to take advantage of things that will naturally rank very high in Google search: make sure you have a Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn, YouTube account for the campaign, wikipedia page… that right there may be most of the page one search results right, eventually.
  8. You could try to call in the lawyers, but be prepared for blowback. You don’t want to accidentally make the story even bigger. (See point #1: don’t antagonize people who buy pixels by the barrel!)

Thanks Laura! One last point — sometimes a little sweet-talking might be worth a try. If someone’s orchestrating an attack, see if you can connect with him or her directly. Your time may be wasted, but it might also take the edge off…assuming you don’t shoot your mouth off and make things worse.

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