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Fun with Google Search: “Tara Reid-Fathom Nude Pics Fail” Edition

By | June 22, 2012

Yes, dear readers, it’s time for another edition of “Fun with Google Search.” For the first time, the focus will not be a video, though today’s highlighted search involves a visual.

First, let’s be clear: Despite the headline, I was not the person searching for nude pictures of Tara Reid (though she is a fine actress). What I was searching for were keyword phrases that our analytics showed bringing recent organic traffic to this site. Among some of the more expected variations of searches on our company name and things we do were the following:

The 4 terms pictured above are all variations of the “danni sullivan” traffic that jumped out at me while doing a routine search of this website’s organic traffic from the past 2 months up to today. Needless to say, I was surprised to find people visiting our site on quests for naked images of some celebrity. I was 99% sure that no place on our site contained nude pictures of any note, no less those of an apparently attractive celebrity.

How were these visits possible?

A simple explanation, as it turns out: The title of a post on this blog—”Danny Sullivan Gets ‘Naked’”—written 5 years ago by one of our former VPs. The actual subject matter? Search Engine Land‘s Danny Sullivan, who got some attention for a bit he performed before a Q&A session with Google’s Matt Cutts at one of Sullivan’s SMX conferences (speaking of which, see Kurt Krejny’s just-published take on the most recent SMX Advanced in Seattle).

What does this mean?

1. There’s at least 30 people that our site disappointed … big-time. (“What, some guy writing about a marketing conference?!” Dude, where’s that hot chick?”)

2. While Google’s algorithm is smart enough to recognize synonyms and other related expressions, it dropped the ball by drawing a semantic connection between “Danni Sullivan,” a character on the TV show ”Scrubs” (played by Tara Reid), and “Danny Sullivan,” the widely acclaimed search-engine guru and leader of Search Engine Land. Even though Danni/Dani with an i tends to be a short form of Danielle, a feminine name, while Danny is usually an affectionate form of Dan, a masculine name, Google’s algorithm linked the two. If it can’t differentiate between two differently spelled names with clear-cut gender distinctions, imagine the chaos that can happen with identically spelled unisex names like Pat and Jamie.

3. Already well known and true for years, page titles are still big in SEO. If this old Fathom post doesn’t have Danny Sullivan or naked in the title, it might not be ranking for these searches (and dashing the hopes of all those people desperate enough for nude Tara Reid pics to click thru to this less titillating site), especially when you consider that the actual post itself is pretty short.

Until the next edition of “Fun with Google Search,” happy searching!

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About Paul Richlovsky

Paul brings a writing and teaching background to his marketing career, where he's been happily active since 2006. After spending many years serving clients as a Web copywriter, he currently leads Fathom's internal content strategy in collaboration with the sales & marketing staff and many others. He also serves as editorial director of Fathom's website and blog and has written/edited multiple guides on digital marketing, including on the topics of healthcare, higher education and marketing automation. He previously was lead blogger and managing editor for YouShouldGoToSchool, a resource for individuals interested in career-focused education. With a BA in English from the College of Wooster, he is also the author of a collection of poetry, "Under the Lunar Neon." He is particularly interested in usability, readability, ballroom dancing (crazy about bachata), racquet sports, and romping with his niece/nephews.

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