Rick Santorum may be licking his wounds after a pair of primary losses to Mitt Romney in Arizona and Michigan on Tuesday, but on Wednesday he received some good news about his nagging “Google problem.” After years at the top, “Spreading Santorum” — the Web page created by columnist Dan Savage to protest the former Pennsylvania senator’s views on homosexuality — has dropped in Google search results for “Santorum.”
As SearchEngineLand.com editor Danny Sullivan points out, the page — which mocks the candidate by defining “santorum” as a “frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes a byproduct of anal sex” — no longer appears on the first Google search results page; it’s behind Wikipedia pages for Santorum and his campaign’s official website. However, the blog it links to –blog.spreadingsantorum.com — is sixth. And the Urban Dictionary definition of “santorum,” which mimics Savage’s definition, along with the anti-Santorum site SantorumExposed.com, remain in the top five.
Savage’s site has also been dropped from the first page of searches for “Rick Santorum.”
The reason for the change is unclear.
“We make more than 500 changes to our algorithms in a typical year,” a spokesman for Google told Yahoo News. “With each of those changes, sites will shuffle to different positions in our search results. We have not manually taken action to change the ranking of the site.”
As Search Engine Land notes, the shift may be related to Google’s announcement Tuesday that it has refined its algorithm to highlight “official pages.”
“We’ve made an adjustment to how we detect official pages to make more accurate identifications,” Amit Singhal, Google search SVP, wrote in a blog post. “The result is that many pages that were previously misidentified as official will no longer be.”
But given that Savage’s site “originated the sex-related definition of ‘santorum'” — and that Urban Dictionary offers an expanded one — it’s “pretty odd for Google to decide that a different site offering an even more explicit definition should get top billing,” Sullivan wrote.
He added: “I’d say Google’s come under greater pressure about the ‘santorum’ definition page as Rick Santorum has advanced as a candidate.”
It’s worth noting that “Spreading Santorum” tops the searches for “Santorum” on Bing and Yahoo.