Has Google Lost The Plot, Returning The C-Word When Searching 'English Person'?

Google seems to think that the archetype English person is an extremely unpleasant one. Have they lost the plot or has their algorithm encountered another ghost in the machine? Just type in 'English person' into the Google Search Engine and you will see what we mean.

The top result for 'English person' is a link to a Wikipedia page defining the word c*** (definition as taken from the Oxford English dictionary), is a disparaging definition Englishness and by any standard a very unpleasant, offensive word to behold.

Not surprisingly, #Englishperson has been trending on Twitter today with thousands of users expressing their astonishment and amusement at Google’s search result.

We thought we would have a look into the case of the English patient... err... sorry 'English person'. There is no real evidence of intentional link building to promote the association of the Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/c*nt). There seems to be no backlinks or deliberate targeting of the Wikipedia page; which in trade terms is known as a Google Bomb.

George W. Bush was a previous Google Bomb target hitting the headlines; the search query ‘miserable failure’ used to return US President George W. Bush at the top of Google’s results. This was due to a substantial amount of inbound links linking to George W. Bush's website with the link text ‘miserable failure’; this is not the case for ‘English person’.

Another more recent Google Bomb example was the official site of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, being the top result if you searched “trou du cul du web” – which in English means “The a**hole of the Internet”.

So what are the possible reasons for this search result?

Google’s algorithm must believe that there is some relevancy between the words ‘c***’ and ‘person’. Further more ‘c***’ is an English word, possibly used in a lot of English copy and not just uttered as a harsh gesture on the street; hence a further association. The Wikipedia page has ‘c***’ as part of the URL and a high frequency the word ‘English’ in the actual copy further amplifies its relevancy. It is well known that Google places high relevancy and authority on Wikipedia pages (Google trusts Wikipedia) which gives the page even more weight. As such it is possible that the combination of relevant copy, Wikipedia authority and the above mentioned associations produces the bizarre, high ranking search result for 'English person'


Algorithmic Abnormalities Are Common in Google Searches

We believe this is an algorithmic abnormality, of which there are many in Google. Rankings are determined by a complex algorithm, well known to return the wrong results. Algorithms are not perfect and can be manipulated/influenced (hence SEO), however, in this particularly strange case there seems to be no foul play. There have been a lot of poor search results since the latest ‘Penguin’ and ‘Panda’ algorithm update, but this not one of them.

As for all the English folk out there, don't feel too hard done by, Google does not always get it right. In fact they often get it wrong. Like many things in business, it is the 80/20 rule: they get it right 80% of the time and  with the other 20% one just has to suffer the consequences. Unfortunately in this case it looks like it is the English who suffers as the temporary butt of an algorithmic joke.

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