Sir Brian claims his personal site has disappeared from Google search results.Yesterday BBC published an new article on about Brian Souter’s website stating that the tycoon accuses Google of search engine censorship. Gordon Beattie, Sir Brian’s PR and media advisor “wrote to Google on August 22 asking why Sir Brian’s site was no longer listed on the search engine and the mumbled response was algorithm changes. They suggested one tweak to the website which we immediately made but to this day his site remains out of bounds on Google searches.”

Gordon Beattie goes on further stating, “We find it unacceptable that Google can simply remove an information site like Sir Brian’s from its listings and give no helpful information as to why it has disappeared. We are now asking the question – is it time legislation was enacted to curb Google’s power over free speech on the internet?”

In reaction to this, Sir Brian says his “first move will be to ask the Culture, Media and Sport Committee to investigate the way in which Google is controlling the right to free speech in the UK.”

I find it rather strange that Google has referred to “algorithm changes” when it comes to this particular scenario. We all know that the latest Panda update affects site that are of low quality and mainly targets content farms. Sir Brian’s website does not have anything in common with a content farm or a MFA (Made for Adsense) website. I spent a few minutes investigating the site from an SEO perspective trying to find out if there were any technical reasons behind this but so far I can not find anything that would hint such a thing.

“Brian Souter” is a branded query with many links & references from reputable websites i.e. Wikipedia, furthermore the coding and the structure of the website are in good order. I don’t see why Google has removed this website. Strangely enough, there are a total of 44 pages indexed on Google and Sir Brian’s website has been cached almost a week ago on 7 Sep 2011 21:31:42 GMT.

As far as Google’s guidelines are concerned, “if your site is perceived to contain hidden text and links that are deceptive in intent, your site may be removed from the Google index, and will not appear in search results pages.” Taking this into consideration there is a minor issue with Sir Brian’s website.

Issue 1

Also, it could be in part to do with what little original content is on the site. Apart from the Gallery and parts of the Profile section most or all content appears to be taken from Souter’s other sites such as Stagecoach and Souter Investments.

In one post the name Brian Souter is linked out to Souter investments (for instance on, http://www.briansouter.com/brian-souter-news/souter-investments-portfolio-rises-n10147-s11.aspx ), which does not help the cause, especially if you want to come up for your own name.

Issue 2

Take a look here, as you can see the entire homepage has been duplicated on http://www.briansouter.com. 14feb-youth.com. Now I am not saying that such a duplicate issue will mean a heavy penalty but in some cases this could have severe negative impact on websites.

14feb-youth.com is rather a dangerous website, you can literally add any website to it as a subdomain and it will replicate the site. For example, add mattcutts.com as a sub path – http://mattcutts.com.14feb-youth.com and it will replicate Matt Cutt’s blog. If you click on any links it will retrieve all the links through 14 Feb Youth, take this as an example http://mattcutts.com.14feb-youth.com/blog/.

There are further canonicalization issues with the site that cause content duplication i.e. something weird is happening on briansouter’s subdomains. On top of that non-www URLs are not being 301 redirected to www version or vice versa.

 Issue 3

Malcolm Coles found another interesting issue with Sir Brian’s website. You can basically rewrite any of the URLs, for example:

This is the actual URL

http://www.briansouter.com/brian-souter-news/business-leader-accuses-google-n10150-s11.aspx

This is a URL that I have “created”

http://www.briansouter.com/brian-souter-news/google-accuses-brian-souters-web-developer-n10150-s11.aspx

Update

Matt Cutts has just tweeted the following:

This confirms that there were canonicalization issues with Sir Brian’s website as I have pointed out above. I think it would be fair to say that before you launch an attack on Google or any other search engine for that matter, please hire get your developers to investigate possible technical reasons.

Sir Brian’s website suffered from some really basic technical issues that any good developer would have avoided. With that said, Sir’s Brian’s PR team have a fantastic job getting his name out there by adding a twist to their public statement. So yes, from a public relations perspective, well done but from a technical aspect, I recommend Sir Brian to fire his development team.