As a follow up to yesterday’s post on the AVN and the Internet, I was alerted to a change in Google rankings today.


Hat tips to Dallas Warren and Chris Higgins for this. The AVN’s Google.com.au ranking has fallen from #2 – where it sat for years – to #9. Below is a screen shot taken around the 15th November, 2011.

Image 4-01-13 at 3.25 PM

Here is a screen shot of Google.com.au today.

Screen Shot 2013-01-04 at 2.49.14 PM
Image 4-01-13 at 3.26 PM

I have no idea when this happened, but it was spotted by Chris Higgins today. He has been interested in following the progress of the Big Pharma hack on the AVN site as he has previously tried to remove it from another WordPress site, but instead had to resort to deleting the entire affected site. There is some discussion about how difficult it is to get off a site here.

Chris also pointed out that when you search within the AVN site, nearly all the pages are now infected.

And Dallas Warren noted that when you use the new preview option in Google you see a whole bunch of hacked text.

738231_4714212787068_263529311_o

Image courtesy of Dallas Warren

Two things have likely contributed to their fall in ranking, one is no doubt the hack (which has been there since April 2012) but also their poor WOT rating that means their site is blocked when linking through Facebook.

Why does this matter? Well it matters a lot because evidence suggests that online health information seekers examine the first 10 search results 97.2% of the time. Even more insteresting are studies showing that Wikipedia ranked among the first ten results in 71–85% of search engines and keywords tested. And based on its search engine ranking and page view statistics, the English Wikipedia is a prominent source of online health information compared to the other online health information providers studied. And we know what the AVN (well at least Prof Martin) thinks of the AVN Wiki entry.

We know that even spending as little as 5 mins on an anti-vax website can influence parents’ decisions months down the track, and that parents who exempt children from vaccination are more likely to have obtained information from the Internet than parents who have their children vaccinated.

So taken together, if the AVN were to fall off page one of Google completely and health information seekers instead saw the Wiki page (which we know the AVN don’t like) there would be a lot less misinformation getting out to parents. This is good news indeed :)

PS: It hasn’t escaped my attention that SAVN is ranked even lower than the AVN on Google.com.au! We have some work to do.

——

UPDATE: 01/02/13. The AVN’s website, located at avn.org.au, finally came back online this afternoon (at approximately 1 pm) after approximately 6 days being offline – it was pinging a 403 error. I decided to do a Google.com.au search for “vaccination” to check if this outage had effected their ranking. Well, it has. Big time.

The site has gone from page 1 where it was a month ago. So my friend Carol searched and searched and searched and the first mention she could get of avn.org.au was page 32 of Google. And this is not even a direct hit for the site. See the screen shot below.

Image 1-02-13 at 5.51 PM

Image courtesy of Carol Calderwood

Carol then Googled “Australian Vaccination Network” and not even that brings up their site on page 1 (it does get their Facebook page).

Screen Shot 2013-02-01 AVN Google search at 5.55.25 PM

Wow. And would you look at the top hit – the Wiki page which they despise.

Why is this so important? Because over 80% of people use Google as their preferred search engine and 97% of people do not look past page 1. How the hell the first reference to the AVN fell to page 32, I’ll never know. And I don’t even know on what page the site eventually turns up on because we gave up after page 35. But it seems that the AVN have broken the Googles machine. And this means less people will be exposed to their misinformation and scaremongering. And this can’t be a bad thing.

Further update: Chris Higgins did the search below for me (click to embiggen), showing search terms and where the AVN comes up across 3 search engines. It’s a bit of a worry when you Google your own name and it comes up 20th (according to this search – we were unable to reproduce such a high result as detailed above). Somebody broke the Google machine!


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  • ST

    I just checked it – unfortunately, they’re back to number 2 on the list, ahead of any reliable information (apart from Wikipedia).

  • Andy

    You did :)

  • DrRachie

    found at the bottom of page 4. Nobody looks there.

  • DrRachie

    Wow. So the site has just come back up after 6+ days of being offline. Consequences of being offline for 6+ days? Gone from page 1 of Google search for “vaccination” where 97% of people look. Ha! Very good news.

  • Andy

    I agree with Gib about letting SAVN ride alongside AVN. What would be more useful is to choose a quality layperson’s guide to vaccination and get the pro-vax community to link to it en-masse using the term “vaccination”. Since you already have one article above the line, perhaps Ian Musgrave’s “VACCINE TOXINS” article on The Conversation would be a goer.
    .
    Putting it in a blog sidebar list is probably not a bad idea too.

  • http://www.danbuzzard.net Dan Buzzard

    It’s impressive what $14k of internet services will buy you.

  • http://rbutr.com Shane Greenup

    Great stuff. I wonder if the decline in their placement is related to….no wait, I’m not going to post it here because I don’t want them to read it and fix it :D I can see quite a few bad moves with their SEO, and I am just a novice. Well, lets hope they keep up the terrible SEO work! :)

  • http://scepticsbook.com Maggie

    Thanks Chris, your blog was extremely revealing.

  • Christine Bayne

    The curl command in my previous comment should be:
    curl -L -A “Googlebot/2.1 (+http://www.google.com/bot.html)” URL
    – put the URL of the page you want to view at the end of it :)

  • Christine Bayne

    The pharma hack is at site level, not page level. You can see the results of the hack by viewing the AVN’s site as googlebot, which you can do here
    http://www.smart-it-consulting.com/internet/google/googlebot-spoofer/
    .

    If you have terminal access, you can fetch individual pages as googlebot, eg:
    curl -L -A “Googlebot/2.1 (+http://www.google.com/bot.html)”
    .

    And as it’s been noted elsewhere, the AVN’s site was also compromised with a hacker creating a user account back in April 2012, so god only knows what other nefarious scripts and what not are running on the server. Guaranteed there are now backdoors into the site, as well.
    .

    My webserver was also compromised with a similar hack late in 2011 and we employed the only sure fix: wiped the frikken’ lot (incl the web server) and started again. We also disabled some things on the server to avoid similar hacks in the future.

  • http://scepticsbook.com Maggie

    Gib, you make good points.

  • Gib

    I think the placement of SAVN and the AVN are really quite good. You want them to be next to each other, so that anyone thinking to click on the AVN sees the SAVN at the same time. If they were on different pages, then the person may have forgotten about the SAVN when they’re clicking on AVN.
    .

    And, you don’t want SAVN on the first page if the AVN is on the second page, because we don’t want to give attention to the AVN at all. If someone didn’t know about the AVN, and saw the SAVN page, then they’d actually be MORE likely to hear the message of the AVN.
    .

    I think that we want SAVN just one entry above the AVN, but one below is nearly as good…

  • http://www.nick-andrew.net/ Nick Andrew

    Thanks; I added a link to StopAVN from my site.