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Google vs Bing vs Yahoo! in the Search for Santorum

Jim Burroway

September 25th, 2011

That’s the claim that GOP presidential candidate Sen. Rick Santorum made last week, and Concerned Women for America’s Peggy Young Nance is working to spread the smear with the help of Fox News. Yesterday, she published this op-ed on Fox News claiming:

Former Senator Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) is the father of seven children, a devout Catholic, and current GOP presidential candidate.  But when someone types his name into the Google search box, the very first result that appears is a website detailing a sex act “by-product” named after the senator.  In fact, the Senator’s own website is the fourth result. By contrast, Rick Santorum’s website is the first result that both Yahoo and Bing give the user.

…Sen. Santorum said that he suspects “if something was up there like that about Joe Biden, they’d get rid of it. … 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.”

I tend to agree with the senator.  Why does Bing know that Rick Santorum’s own website is a better match than an explicitly sex-related site?

Nance might want to re-Bing and re-Yahoo! “Santorum”again. First up, Microsoft’s Bing, where you have to go all the way down to #8 before you find Sen. Santorum’s campaign web site:

Bing's search results as of 8:30 a.m. PDT on September 25 (Click to enlarge)

On Yahoo!, Santorum’s campaign web site made #7, including the obligatory news summary at the top. That news summary takes up a considerable amount of real estate, which pushes Santorum’s official web site nearly below the fold:

Yahoo!'s search results as of 8:30 a.m. PDT on September 25 (Click to enlarge)

Meanwhile, Google places Santorum’s campaign web site at #9, just below the fold. Which means that all three search engines place Santorum’s official campaign link within one position of each other:

Googles search results as of 8:30 a.m. PDT on September 25 (Click to enlarge)

Which means that in the world of Search Engine Optimization where it’s understood that the first couple of slots are where 70% of searchers click, Santorum’s Yahoo! problem and Bing problem are hardly better than his Google problem.



September 25th, 2011 | LINK

The only way Santorum gets any decent search results is in Bing when you search for Rick Santorum rather than just Santorum. I just compared Bing and Google search results – the full name doesn’t do him much good in Google.

September 25th, 2011 | LINK

I’m confused, the Republicans want to regulate the free market? Republicans just don’t get irony.

September 25th, 2011 | LINK

He has SEVEN children? Eww.

Richard W. Fitch
September 25th, 2011 | LINK

Seven children, eh? So by his own standards he would not be allowed to serve in the military (even if he CHOSE to). What married man with that many kids could serve a whole tour of duty without at least a passing mention??

September 25th, 2011 | LINK

Is frothy fecal matter in danger of becoming the Rodney Dangerfield of the political world?

Nick Thiwerspoon
September 25th, 2011 | LINK

She says “devout Catholic” as if that was a good thing. In my book, neither “devout” nor “catholic” is prima facie a favourable epithet. I prefer “kind”, “honest”, “loving”, “generous”, “humorous”, “forgiving”, “warm”, “genuine” and so on.

And this horrid little man is none of these things.

Timothy Kincaid
September 26th, 2011 | LINK

Oddly enough, I’ve found that googling (or binging or yahooing) anyone’s name doesn’t tend to place much emphasis on how many children they have, their denominational affiliation, or the level of their religious devotion.

Those items may be the first hits on the Yance Search Engine, but that one is fictional at the moment and (if the free market prevails) rather likely to remain that way.

Jim Hlavac
September 28th, 2011 | LINK

If only Santorum would apologize to the gay community with great sincerity for him having demanded we be made felons from the moment we wake up, and be rounded up and incarcerated with all those men, for being with, um, all those men, then he might double his polling and in rake 2% or 3%. He’s just a sad sack waiting to find a job. As most he’ll be made “gay czar” in the next admin, oh well.

September 30th, 2011 | LINK

I believe that what results you get when you use these search engines depends on a great many factors. One person who has a certain internet history will likely get different results than another person. It’s based on an algorithm. I don’t know much more than that or how different the results will be. I’m pretty sure they are not universal, though.

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