POLITICS
01/04/2012 05:11 pm ET | Updated Jan 04, 2012

Santorum Google Problem Haunts Him After Iowa

Rick Santorum's recent Iowa success has him surging with buzz. He's topping Google searches and has been thrust to the forefront of the American political conscience.

But it's also bringing a less savory form of attention to another search term, and not for reasons he'd like.

If you search the term "Santorum" on Google, you're sure to get some interesting results, notably a site called spreadingsantorum.com. The item's description sends a pretty clear message:

Santorum 1. The frothy mix of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex. 2. Senator Rick Santorum.

The somewhat graphic result at least appears first in Incognito mode using Google Chrome, which doesn't track previous search history. Searching "rick santorum" also yields the result on the first page, as the third result.

And, it's not just a Google problem. The search result comes up on Bing, Yahoo and other search engines.

It's been a problem for Santorum since 2003, but the candidate's rising search popularity is sure to renew interest in the term. It all began when syndicated sex columnist and LGBT activist Dan Savage began a campaign to turn the last name into a sexual neologism, following anti-gay remarks by the then-Pennsylvania Senator. The website came shortly after.

According to Google's own politics blog, searches for Santorum have been exploding. Just before the caucuses, searches for "rick santorum iowa" were up an astounding 300 percent.

Searches for his name alone were also up 120 percent.

Following the caucus results, "rick santorum" also became the second top trending term on Google, just behind "iowa caucus results." What Google users are seeing after performing that search may very well not be a positive thing for the campaign, despite his second place Iowa finish.

As interest increases, it's likely that searches will as well.

In September, Politico reported that the former senator took steps toward addressing the problem, reaching out to Google in an attempt to have the site removed from the search. While Santorum insists that the search giant could change its functionality if it wanted to, Google responded publicly saying it doesn't change search results except in cases of illegal content and violations of their webmaster guidelines.

While some have contended that this was a "Google bomb," something that has been addressed by Google in the past, SearchEngineLand's Danny Sullivan explained to Talking Points Memo that this search result was organic, as Savage's site had simply gained more online traction than Santorum's own site at the time. Furthermore, as more people search for Santorum, more people are likely to visit the site and click the link in Google results, perhaps further increasing its staying power.

UPDATE: For some users the spreadingsantorum.com, link is no longer appearing closely related to searches for his name. The exact reason behind the change is unknown at this time.

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