Allen Kraus & Search Engine Obfuscation

It seems that Allen Kraus of New York City is a victim of search engine obfuscation. A Google search on his name, at least up until today, according to the public editor of the Times, brings up an article in the New York Times website (PageRank 8/10) which casts Mr. Kraus in some poor light, the result the end of his employment with the city in 1991 and how it related to a scandal which it didn’t relate to.

Jack Shafer of Slate (PageRank 6/10) tells Mr. Kraus to get a web page. But the man has a web page (which I linked to as my random act of charity for the day). It’s just that nobody else linked to it [Ed. note: the backlinks feature of Google and Yahoo is well-known to be highly inexact, er, wrong, with Yahoo being slightly better, so the links are there for dramatic effect]. And as such, his page, and his company (ImplexHealth) have a PageRank of 0/10. There. I am the first outside person to even mention ImplexHealth, outside of ZoomInfo and Whois.ws. (Sheesh. They’re not even in the Yellow Pages. I hope they exist).

Hmm. Do you know me? You probably don’t. That’s why I’ve worked hard to get my website a PageRank of 5/10.

Back to that Kraus search. Link #7 for “Allen Kraus” comes from a post by David Weinberger on his JOHO blog (PageRank 7/10) written yesterday. Not bad. David’s written a number of books on the Internet and all that, yet he didn’t even think to target the link words (I think that’s the expression). Remember the effort to target the link miserable failure? It’s also called a GoogleBomb. That particular one stopped working last October; though its target, the current United States President did not reflect that change. (WhiteHouse.gov: PageRank 10/10.) Last May, I wrote about how it couldn’t possibly work to free an Egyptian dissident, let alone boost his case (I bought ads instead and had better luck publicizing the case through Google).

David made the statement that “the #1 hit is a Times topic page about him that lists first the corrective article and then the faulty one.” Nope, not exactly. The top hit has the headline “A Welfare Official Denies He Resigned Because of Inquiry” which, while fully in his defense, is still stuck in the semiotic doghouse (consider the headline: “Attorney General Denies He Resigned Because of Inquiry”).

For what it’s worth, not even my colleague Seth Finkelstein (PageRank 6/10), has ceded his old sympathy for the search-engine obfuscated, authoring lamentations instead, and offers no link at all to Kraus. Seth does point to the Nick Carr (PageRank 7/10), who adroitly points out: “But if the Times is using search-engine-optimization techniques to push articles toward the top of search engine results…”

Aha! When we return to that search term, it appears that might Google has stuck in its gears a specific query for KRAUS, ALLEN (this is a different link to it). Is this a topic page or a search page? If we consider it as the latter, that reminds me of something I read earlier from Michael Arrington of TechCrunch (PageRank 8/10)… I forgot where it was, so I Googled technorati search result SEO, and the post I was looking for came up #4 (“Technorati: When Will the Traffic Party End?”)

Ah, he was quoting Google engineer Matt Cutts (PageRank 7/10) in a blog post “Search Results In Search Results.” To wit: “In general, we’ve seen that users usually don’t want to see search results (or copies of websites via proxies) in their search results… so Google does take action to reduce the impact of those pages in our index.”

So, don’t blame poor Mr. Kraus, or the Times. Google is just not following their own guidelines.

Somehow Ask.com and Yahoo Search (both of PageRank 9/10) do follow that guideline. Not that you can find anything about Allen Kraus of New York City through those searches, either, but Ask and Yahoo still serve the purpose of imagining how the world looks without el Goog.

So Seth, Nick, David, Jack– give a little link love to Mr. Kraus!

Update, Overnight, this article has become #3 for “Allen Kraus.” Kraus’s page is still #18 (where I think it was last night.) #8, improbably, is JD Lasica’s atom syndication feed, and not the blog post he wrote on the story. Talk about S-E-Obfuscation! (and the irony here being that Lasica is a professional in social media, that is, he does it full time).

This page is also #1 for “Search Engine Obfuscation” naturally. After I posted it, I thought I should have named it “Search Engine Orientation.” See, while Kraus could shell out bundles of cash to the S-E-Optimization/Marketing folks, he may just need S-E-Orientation, to get him on the map. Since no one else is actively trying to optimize on his own name, it may be a simple matter of recruiting some charitable folk to link to him. Google does have a page Webmaster Guidelines. It should spell out certain tips like “put your name in the TITLE” (which Kraus neglected to do). But that helpful page isn’t easy to get to. Clicking on Search Tips at the bottom leads to a page with 27 links, one of them being Webmasters FAQ, and the first link there is the aforementioned guidelines.

That said, what we could call “Search Engine Oppression” (see a pattern here?) is a serious matter. That’s when your name gets dragged through the figurative mud on search engine results. Often the victims of this are women, often the charge is sexual slander, and it’s often from sites with less prestige than a major newspaper. That is why I spent so much time crafting the PONAR proposal.

Note that link #4 is the page for Allen Kraus from ZoomInfo, which states that it “was created by Allen Kraus” (since the site encourages people to claim their own pages). That said, ZoomInfo is something of a grain-of-salt factory. There are 21 listings given for me and my namesake in Seattle, some accurate, and others veritable stretches: that Rob Hyndman excerpted a blog post by Dan Gillmor where he quotes me somehow leads to the determination that Jonathan Garfunkel is a comedian.

UPDATE Wednesday, August 29th, 1:25 pm:  And we’re solved. Mr. Kraus didn’t even have to fix the title. Allen Kraus’s page at ImplexHealth is now the #1 result for a search on his name at Google.  Here’s how it probably went down: Megan McArdle, Economist writer, and blogger now at the Atlantic, contributed her two cents. It doesn’t matter what she wrote; it’s forgettable, the important thing is that she linked to Kraus– but the wrong link. So in the comments, I told her to give the proper link. Seth knew what needed to be done, gave Mr. Kraus his link in a post last night. This morning Kraus’s page was 30th, but over the last few hours these minor changes took effect, and Kraus is given his due. Q.E.D.

Just to think I took off from work this week to see what good could be accomplished without coming to the office. The hard part is trying to explain to my Mom that this is a “mitzvah” of sorts.

This whole exercise has some important ramifications. Stay tuned.

UPDATE, later Wednesday afternoon: I read the two stories mentioning Mr. Kraus again. The July 12th story mentions 6 women were arrested in connection with the scandal. I searched Google for a couple of names. The Times article didn’t show up, because Google doesn’t index the content of the Times archives. It only, apparently, index the “Topics” pages. Barbara Sabol, the city’s Commissioner of Human Resources was also connected to the story, and a search on her name brings up the Times Topics articles first.  Web pages mentioning her current position at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation come up 3rd and 4th.

UPDATE, Thursday, August 30th, 11:30 am: See Search Engine Orientation for further explanation of some of the root causes of the problem.

UPDATE, Thursday, August 30th, 1:25 pm: Just as I was about to declare victory, Google sent Kraus’s page back down to #28. It hasn’t read his page since July 18th (shouldn’t it have with all these big-shot bloggers linking to it?), and maybe when it does it will see that his name is now in the TITLE.

Explanation from Seth: “Different datacenters and index update statuses. There is no One True Google.” As it happens, the current Google I am looking at from here has lost Seth’s blog post. Thus, without this crucial third link, Kraus’s page is back in the cellar.

UPDATE, Thursday, August 30th, 10:30 pm: Apparently there’s a lag between when the “FreshBot” crawls a site for the BlogSearch and “fresh” content and when DeepBot does for canonization into Google (see explanation in the ABC’s of SEO).

UPDATE, the following Wednesday: Seth’s piece was re-read by the DeepBot, and the “GoogleDance” this past weekend brought Kraus’s web page back up to #3 on Google. QED.

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