How to Get Rid of Bad Google Search Results
Seriously: "Fraud Guarantee?" Plus 4 photos I'd like you to look at, and 7 other things worth reading today.
Here’s a stupid name for a company: “Fraud Guarantee.”
It’s what two Ukrainian-born associates of Rudy Giuliani, named Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, called the company they formed together back in 2013.
Both men have recently pleaded not guilty to charges of funneling foreign money into a U.S. political campaign. That’s about as far into politics and scandal as I plan to go here.
Because truly, the too-strange-for-fiction detail is simply the company name. There are 170,000 commonly used words in English, and this was the best they could come up with? “Fraud Guarantee?”
I’d assumed since the story first broke that there must have been some kind of inside joke I just wasn’t savvy enough to get. But now The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Palazzolo and Rebecca Davis O’Brien report there was something else.
(I’m Bill Murphy Jr. Welcome to Understandably. This article first appeared as part of one of my daily email newsletters. If you’re not signed up yet, here’s how.)
It seems that Parnas (a) previously owned a company called Edgetech that ran out of money and was accused of being a “sham,” and (b) had also been involved in a lawsuit about a $500,000 bridge loan that turned into a theft allegation.
The result was that his Google results were a mess — including “a trail of online allegations of fraud” according to the Journal.
Solution? He chose the company name “Fraud Guarantee” in part because it would “clean up his Google search results, ensuring that the word ‘fraud’ and his own name would be paired in a positive light,” according to the Journal.
They two men also hired a marketing consultant to plant positive news stories online, and post photos of them with celebrities, like actor Steve Buscemi.
(“A representative for Mr. Buscemi said that he doesn’t know Mr. Parnas and that the businessman was one of many strangers who would have approached the actor for a photo at an awards show,” the Journal said.)
Oh, man. Diabolical genius, right?
I asked around, and apparently this is how things are done if you want to bury bad search results:
“They key is to “work on utilizing different website entities to monopolize page one [of Google] with your brand,” said Sean Clancy, director of Australian search engine optimization agency Edge. “Create a Wikipedia page, register with [Google My Business], Yahoo Business, Bing, Glassdoor.”
“I’d classify this as one of those ‘it’s so crazy it might actually work’ ideas,” Corey Eulas, chief strategy officer for Power Digital Marketing told me. “The tactics and approach — creation of positive press, co-citations, etc. — are all quite routine. However the naming strategy was the true smart play … It most definitely improved Google Autocomplete.”
“Actor Rob Lowe serves as another great example,” said Alex Membrillo, CEO of Cardinal Digital Marketing, since Lowe had a sex tape scandal back in the 1980s. “In 2014, he appeared in a romantic comedy titled Sex Tape,” that at one point apparently pushed the movie — not the real scandal — to the top of his search results.
For Fraud Guarantee, it worked: “Negative search results about the bridge loan and Edgetech soon dropped in Google’s ranking,” the Journal reported. Well, it worked at least until the current scandal.
Parnas and Fruman are innocent until proven guilty, so we’ll leave them alone for the rest of this article.
Because frankly, every company — heck, every public person in America—has the same problem to some degree. We live in an age now where you can either brand yourself or be branded.
We’re in a time when a single moment that goes viral—a single mistake—can wind up being the first thing people know about you.
It’s part of why I went through absurd mental contortions even to come up with the name for this site/newsletter thing.
If there’s a lesson here, I think it’s about authenticity—and comfort.
Because you might be able to hide behind a name that never really sits well, but eventually you want to be known as something that feels right in your gut.
And you might be able to game the system for a while, hiding an embarrassing reality by telling a more flattering story louder and more often.
But eventually, the truth usually wins out. And you can either deal with it, or be dealt with.
Today’s links are below. But first I thought it would be fun to run something by you.
The logo on this site right now is something I got for about $10 on Fiverr as a placeholder. So, I asked a designer to mock up a few other options. (If you can’t see the photo below it’s probably because you haven’t allowed images to load.)
What do you think: 1, 2, 3, 4, or “none of the above?” You can reply to this email or hit me up at email@example.com if you’d like to weigh in. Thanks.
Here are 7 other things worth reading today:
Google made a subtle change to its definition of ‘Googleyness’ in 2017 (a key hiring attribute), but people didn’t even notice. (Me, on Inc.)
So Zuckerberg responded (on Facebook), by quoting another Aaron Sorkin movie. (Facebook)
Waitress gets a lottery ticket as a tip; it turns out to be worth $50,000. (Missouri Lottery)
Former WeWork CEO Adam Neumann’s ex-chief of staff accused him of pregnancy discrimination in a complaint to the EEOC. (Reuters)
Foie gras will be banned in New York City starting in 2022. (CNN)
Extremely deep sleep appears to protect in some way against Alzheimer’s Disease. (NPR)