Google confirmed a Penguin update just a couple days ago, which we’re still sifting through to find what all was impacted. They also announced that another update, this one completely unrelated to Penguin or any other cute animal. This update is directed toward sites which post police MugShots . Many of these sites gather information from Police and other government websites, and create web pages which, up until this update, ranked quite well.
If you’ve been arrested and search your name, your mug shot will likely come up near the top of the search results. These pages will then offer to remove your page, if you pay them to do it. Sites charge between $30 and $400 to remove the page. Since there are quite a few websites doing this type of thing, an individual would have to pay a large amount to have their mugshot removed from the top of the search engines. Naturally, people don’t want their mug shot coming up when someone (such as a potential employer or a new love interest) searches their name.
Many people who are arrested are eventually found innocent, or they have their charges dropped. The websites posting the mug shots do not, however, reveal this type of information. Those visiting the sites will assume the worst, which can cause some pretty significant problems in their life.
Google’s Matt Cutts acknowledged that these stories were a “major spark” which prompted this algorithm update. When initially contacted concerning these stories, Google said, “with very narrow exceptions, we take down as little as possible from search.” Clearly, however, when Google took a closer look, they decided these types of sites qualify for their narrow exception to be made.
The new algorithm won’t remove these mug shots from the SERPs completely, but will push them down in the results. Typically, mug shots will no longer appear on the first page of Google’s SERPs, which will be enough for most people to be able to avoid any trouble from these types of sites. Exactly how far down this update should push these types of sites, and what other impact it might have has yet to be seen.
You can see the comments from Matt Cutts twitter on this update HERE.