Now that Google has had time to perfect their anti-mugshot algorithm I’ve take some time to look over our leads list and see if it had any actual affect on search engine results pages (SERPs).
A little background
On October 3, 2013 Google released an anti-mugshot algorithm (http://www.seroundtable.com/google-mugshot-algorithm-17526.html). There was both praise (http://gigaom.com/2013/10/07/google-goes-after-mug-shot-sites) and disappointment (http://mugshots.com/Blog/googles-recent-algorithm-modification-regarding-mugshots-puts-every-person-in-america-who-performs-a-google-search-on-someone-at-potential-risk-in-order-to-shield-arrestees-from-embarrassment.68664218.html). The praise came from those who feel that mugshot sites are nothing more than extortion organizations preying on those who have made a bad decision and got caught. Mugshot sites have prevented possibly tens of thousands from getting jobs, as 53% of employers are known to search job candidates online.
Others responded that arrest records fall under public domain and Google was putting the public at risk by pushing sites showing those who have been arrested out of public view – making it easier to hide an arrest.
Here at Reputation Advocate we have data on every lead we receive. They may include a mugshot listing, and if so we can see what position each mugshot site was in and/or if an actual mugshot picture also appeared. After reviewing a few dozen of these it is clear that traditional mugshot sites have been severely penalized by the Google algorithm update. Most have no visibility within the first three pages and many appear to have disappeared from the SERPs entirely.
What was interesting to me is how many news sites now appear on the first page. In many cases, an entire first page is now filled up with news sites. It appears that local news sites and portals have filled the mugshot gap. Sites like patch.com (there are 321,000+ pages on patch.com about arrests) and topix.com (1,470,000+ pages about arrests) have responded, and instead of charging people to remove mugshots in order to generate revenue they are now focusing on more traditional advertisements to fund these posts.
I also noticed a number of mugshot sites attempting to fly under the radar. Regional sites like localblotter.com and mugshotsocala.com are still ranking rather well. This is likely a trend to watch in the future – small, regional ‘news’ sites that focus nearly entirely on mugshot traffic.
In summary, it is clear that this Google algorithm update made significant progress in taking out the huge established mugshot sites that many believe were, in effect, extorting money from people. But did it really make a difference, considering that other sites quickly jumped in to fill in the gap? From my evaluation it has made things worse, as there are now more sites than ever trying to capitalize on others’ misfortunes. Time will only tell.