Apparently Someone At Google Has A Twisted Sense of Humor

When trying to think of a creative way to write this post, the opportunity to have a little fun with everyone’s favorite search engine just seemed to make sense.

For the short term, it appears that Google has had the last laugh.

On January 21st (3 days after the post was published), the Cape Cod SEO home page was removed from Google search engine index. It would seem that this has only affected the home page (for now), as all other pages are still indexed that I can tell.

Check it out:

Site Indexing Results for CapeCodSEO.com
Here’s the Background:

  • I wrote the post, “Would Someone From Google PR Notice Me PLEASE!!!”, which include a great picture of my daughter (proudly sporting a Google onesie), as a personal announcement to friends, colleagues and people who read Cape Cod SEO on a regular basis.
  • I created a somewhat sarcastic URL for the post slug: “please-notice-me-great-google-gods
  • I BLOCKED ALL search engines from indexing the post and photos (call it old fashioned, but I still have some concerns about privacy on the Internet) via the robots.txt file.
  • 3 days later, the home page was killed from Google search results (it doesn’t even show up for my name!)

Apparently someone at Google DID notice. But if it was the PR department, they had their speed dial right to the Google indexing team.

Digging Deeper Into The Issue
Of course it would seem really strange for a web page to be removed for this type of circumstance, so I had to look a bit further into the issue. What was I doing that could possibly have triggered such an action? I highly doubted my quick post on browser toolbars had anything to do with this, so I focused my efforts on the robots file and the baby announcement.

What I did realize was that I gave a friend a nice shot out but in a reasonably discrete (yet alert-able) manner. While I have website reporting evidence that no human visitor ever clicked the link, I am most certain that a search engine would crawl and have find it.

It could make sense that a questionable linking process (not practice), regardless of intent, would flag an alert that could lead to the removal of a web page; would you agree? Should you distrust Google?

Cleaning Up After The Fact
So as of yesterday, I removed the link (sorry, no potential link juice for those who could have benefited) and removed the block via the robots.txt file. Only time will tell as it pertains to an update in the Google search index and the reinclusion of the Cape Cod SEO home page. I’ll bet they still let me use their Google Analytics tool though.

There’s certainly “things” that I could be doing from an on-page search engine optimization standpoint that I am not doing now, but given the pattern of events, the 2 issues identified seem to be the only things that really were different and/or of potential impact. I always welcome additional opinions or thoughts on this however.

As a parting shot, check out the irony (edited out opinion) of this search result, astutely noticed by an esteemed colleague:
The Irony of a Search Result
Notice the indented result as well – the post I was blocking!

Update – 1/25/2008
I was really appreciative of g1smd’s comments and analysis over at Sphinn. It sounds like the interaction between the Robots.txt file, timing of Google’s crawl and subsequent indexing updates may all have had more to do with this then initially realized.

Only time will tell with this issue (as it relates to an indexing update and adjustment), based on a few adjustments made, but the information was (and still is) well received and appreciated.


Comments

3 Responses to “Apparently Someone At Google Has A Twisted Sense of Humor”

  1. Jaan Kanellis on February 28th, 2008 12:40 am

    So was this ever fixed?

  2. Derek Edmond on February 29th, 2008 9:14 am

    Hello Jaan,

    Sorry for not updating this – I can confirm that this has been fixed and all things seem back to normal now. I noticed this update sometime over the past weekend.

    A few quick points:
    Indeed the robots.txt file seemed to be the issue. While I was aware (but did not consider) that a search engine may not fetch the robots file the exact same time that it fetches new content, I wasn’t aware of some of the hiccups that can occur with indexing, checking the robots file and index removal.

    I am curious to know if this was a blog technology-specific issue or not and intend to retest this. Replicating the same idea across a couple “static” websites, I did not incur the same issue.

    Above all else, the experience made me think a lot more about page indexing, internal/external linking and what you can’t get from just visual inspection or javascript-based web reports.

    A couple things that DID NOT happen:
    1.) I did not incur a Google Penalty for poking fun at Google. I saw someone make this comment on another SEO blog and it troubled me a bit.

    Although I wasn’t certain what had happened, getting penalized for making fun of Google was not one of the conclusions meant to be drawn. It was a joke, and I apologize if it was in bad taste or inferred such.

    2.) Apparently they also did not catch or just ignored the link I had created. It wasn’t really a big deal and never made sense in the first place, so having it there at all was relatively unimportant.

    Send me a message if you want to discuss – and thanks for putting me to the task of updating this!

  3. Jaan Kanellis on February 29th, 2008 9:21 am

    Thanks for the update!