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Observed: A Bizarre Twist on Search Engine Optimization

Over the years, dozens of companies have approached me looking for advice on how to boost their Website’s ranking in search engines. I am always happy to oblige — for a fee, of course.
Recently, however, I’ve been getting requests to do the opposite. Seriously.

In the first instance, I was approached by a well-known figure in the investment community who wanted to ‘correct’ the results of anyone Googling him. Turns out he had a little legal run-in with the securities regulators a few years ago and was now tired of seeing Web pages about the whole sordid affair showing up at the top of search results when people typed in his name.
In the second instance, which is probably a far more common occurrence, I was contacted by a company that had discovered – to their horror – that the partially completed prototype of their new Website had been indexed by the search engines and was already getting considerable consumer traffic. (Note: this is one of many reasons you should always password protect any Website you have in development. Search engine spiders can be very aggressive!)
Both times I had to explain to the ‘unfairly’ spidered party that the nice folks at Google weren’t about to stop buying up every company in sight in order to remove their ‘incorrect’ page listings from their master index. Yes, there are effective solutions to their problem, but they would have to be patient. Just as improving a Website’s ranking in the search engines does not happen overnight, getting a site bumped down or removed altogether also takes time. And don’t even get me started on the topic of the Wayback Machine!
Now this is hardly a scientific study, but based on these two recent and unusual ‘leads’ I hereby and very publicly predict that we are about to see a boom in what I am going to call “Search Engine Deterioration” or SED for short. Who knows, maybe one day there’ll be entire conferences devoted to the topic of how to worsen your Website’s ranking! Remember, you read it here first, and I’m the guy to call!


  1. Stefan Eyram
    Stefan Eyram June 10, 2005

    Blatant self-promotion, I say…SED expert…we’ll see. But a very good point!
    I have had the same request when people have found their private “extranet” – connected to their primary domain – has been spidered and “internal” information, including detailed employee contact information, and even client lists, has ended up being accessible through search engines like Google.
    By the way, I actually recommend Bill Sweetman for Search Engine Marketing so if you need someone to get you off the higher rankings I am sure he can do that, as well.

  2. Barry Welford
    Barry Welford June 11, 2005

    If there are pages that you don’t want indexed by the search engines, then just make sure your robot.txt file bans them. All it takes is a couple of lines as follows:
    User-agent: *
    Disallow: /testpage.htm

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