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Being Outranked by a Site That Doesn’t Even Exist

Posted by Melanie Phung on Thursday, October 9, 2008 at 4:05 pm

When I did a search on [DC SEO] this week, I was annoyed to find the site show up on the first page higher than my domain. Not because I have anything against the guy, but because I had written previously about this site in a post called Getting Ranked via Google Local… With No Content At All. Shortly after I posted that entry about the site being listed at the top of the page (despite the link only going to a directory folder), the local listing went away.

Apparently the site was now ranking for [Washington DC SEO] and [DC SEO] queries again… this time with no site at all.

When I clicked on the result, I got a 404 error.

Washington DC SEO Google Results

The Local Results Box was showing up alternating between the top of the page and below the #3 organic results, as in the above screenshot. I tried accessing the site all sorts of ways, but they all led to the same conclusion: the site doesn’t exist.

I guess it’s theoretically possible that the site is down temporarily, but a search using the site: command also brings up squat. In other words, Google says the site doesn’t exist in its index.

A search of the WayBack Machine shows that the only time any sort of site was ever on that domain was sometime between July 17, 2007 and August 14, 2007. The other WayBack entries show the same thing I screengrabbed in my previous post: a look at the directory folder w/ nothing in it. Now there’s not even that.


Clearly when Google is displaying Universal Search results, it’s pulling that info from other indexes; it just takes data from Local, Maps, Images, Shopping, etc and injects it into the regular organic results. Those indexes obviously have different rules and algos surrounding how your site (or product) gets listed. But can’t we agree that a universal rule for all of Google’s various search results should be that the URL being returned actually exists?

Finding a well-ranked “result” in the SERPs that 404s is bad enough, but having that result be a non-existent site, one that hasn’t existed in over a year, outranking me for Washington DC SEO … well, that’s just unacceptable. 😉

Comments (4)

Category: Local Search


Comment by paisley

Made Thursday, 16 of October , 2008 at 11:22 pm

you could just fix it..


Comment by Melanie Phung

Made Friday, 17 of October , 2008 at 11:07 am

What would be the fun in that? 😉

Comment by roselynmendoza

Made Saturday, 18 of October , 2008 at 12:52 am

Thanks for sharing your experience. I’ve been getting 404 error many times but had not given more thought on them until I read your blog. People have high respects (not to mention too much fear) on search engines’ wrath. I think, it’s about time that these engines should show respects to diligent website owners, too 😉

Comment by Jenny

Made Saturday, 13 of December , 2008 at 9:08 am

How you will could fix?

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