Can I get Google to ignore certain terms on my web site?
November 16, 2009 12:25 PM   Subscribe

Can I get Google to ignore certain terms on my web site?

I maintain a very small web site for a non-profit organisation (ABC). On the site is the name of another organisation (XYZ) they're associated with. When you Google the name of the second organisation, ABC's site is listed first, while XYZ's is further down the results.

While I have suggested XYZ needs to make their site friendlier to search engines, for now the main concern is that ABC is getting many phone calls from people who are lazy - when they Google XYZ but see ABC as the first answer and assume that's what they are looking for without really looking at it.

Can I add something to my site to make Google ignore the name of XYZ organisation? I realise it could take some time for the results to change.

(I'm almost certain that this is easy, but whatever terms I'm searching for this afternoon aren't showing me what I need to know...)
posted by valleys to Computers & Internet (15 answers total)
Search engines cannot be told to ignore specific items on a page. They can only be controlled on a per page of per directory basis. So if you have a single page that contains info for both ABC and XYZ orgs, you're not going to be able to control how Google indexes that.
posted by pmbuko at 12:51 PM on November 16, 2009

If you can segregate all the information about XYZ onto one page (or a manageably small number of pages), you can add that page to the robots.txt file and all well-behave search engines will ignore it.

Robots.txt operates at the file level; I don't believe there's anything more fine-grained.
posted by adamrice at 12:56 PM on November 16, 2009

If the reference to XYZ is also a link to their website you may find that stopping it being a link this will alter the google results.

Nothing is certain in google land but certainly outbound links are of interest to the search algorithm and it may be that by removing those outbound links you alter the way Google sees your site.
posted by southof40 at 1:29 PM on November 16, 2009

I was just coming in to suggest the opposite of southof40's suggestion. Linking any XYZ references to their website would probably send them some of your "google juice" / page rank, and improve their ranking. Unless you're linking to them heavily already...
posted by teg at 1:41 PM on November 16, 2009

Could you make reference to XYZ in an image on your site instead? (and not include XYZ in the file name?). Just a thought.
posted by AwkwardPause at 2:07 PM on November 16, 2009

Exactly what Awkward Pause said, turn it into an image. Of course, some people search with images turned off or use adaptive software that reads the page to them, so they wouldn't be able to read the text contained in the image.
posted by soelo at 2:08 PM on November 16, 2009

I just checked. XYZ is only mentioned 2 places on the site which has less than 10 pages. XYZ is not in any of the filenames.

- In a text newsletter (mentioned in a much wider context, XYZ is not the focus of the article), which would be hard to replace just the appropriate words with an image. This is NOT a link. This page is currently the first Google result when searching for XYZ.

- On the home page, WITH a link to their site, in a section of links to supporting organisations. This could potentially be replaced with an image. This page is currently the second Google result when searching for XYZ.

The newsletter is 6 years old. I can likely convince ABC that removing it (or at least editing it) is in their interest if they want the misplaced phone calls to stop.
posted by valleys at 2:22 PM on November 16, 2009

You could add some scripting to the pages in question to check the referrer, and if it appears to be from a search for XYZ do a redirect.

Also, is anyone linking to ABC when mentioning XYZ? It's worth checking for any association being established on other sites and perhaps asking them to change any links.
posted by malevolent at 2:35 PM on November 16, 2009

Evil, but you could assemble "XYZ" from something base64 encoded using javascript. Google's bots won't figure it out. You could also check to see if a Google Bot is accessing the page with a server-side script and display different content.
posted by floam at 3:43 PM on November 16, 2009

posted by caek at 4:42 PM on November 16, 2009

I have absolutely no idea if this would work, but could you replace the text with the &text; equivalent?

Google might probably translates these, but on the off-chance that they don't...
posted by 47triple2 at 6:43 PM on November 16, 2009

You can put the name of the other organization in a jpeg format rather than as text. That way Google can't find it. (Make sure to give the Jpeg a cryptic name or Googs will find the jpeg that way).
posted by twistofrhyme at 9:14 PM on November 16, 2009

I wonder if google indexes the text of nofollow links.
posted by jjwiseman at 9:15 PM on November 16, 2009

If XYZ is only mentioned twice on your entire site then I think you can ignore most of what's been said here, as google is probably inferring that your site is relevant to XYZ based on the fact that other third party sites tend to link to you in an XYZ context. You have no control over that.

However, as malevolent said you can most definitely tell based on the referrer when someone arrives at your site from a search engine when they looking for XYZ, and so you could have a server side script that adds an extra header or something that makes it clear you are not XYZ.
posted by Rhomboid at 2:05 AM on November 17, 2009

You could add some scripting to the pages in question to check the referrer, and if it appears to be from a search for XYZ do a redirect.

DO NOT DO THIS. It's called cloaking and can get you blacklisted from Google. Even if your intent is benign, the technique is used by SEOs and linkfarmers to make spam sites appear legitimate.

If people clicking on your site in search results is the problem, it might help (some) if you improve how your site appears in search results.

Personally, I'm thinking your best bet is to devote a page to XYZ that includes basic information about them ("XYZ is an org that ...") and that does a redirect to anyone who arrives at it. The goal is that the XYZ search string will pull up this page more than whatever other page you have, and be clicked on, thereby sending people over to XYZ instead of clicking around on your site and finding the ABC contact info.
posted by dhartung at 8:29 PM on November 17, 2009

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