Anti-Gay Millionaire Censored by Google?

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Google Censorship IssueBrian Souter, the anti-gay co-founder of Stagecoach Group, is claiming that his website is being singled out and censored by Google due to his former stance on social issues. In 2000, Souter donated £1 million to privately fund a campaign that supported Section 28; his website specifically mentions the donation.  Section 28, which prevented the promotion of homosexuality by local authorities, was repealed in Scotland and all of Great Britain in 2000 and 2003 respectively.

Following the loss in his site’s ranking, Souter’s PR and web media adviser said, “It’s not Google’s place to decide which sites we can see and those we can’t.” Although the majority of website owners have experienced the frustration of a ranking issue, very few have stated that a search engine should not have the ability to “decide” the ranking of sites.

While it is a bit puzzling that Souter’s website is not ranking in the first ten pages of Google results for the query “Brian Souter,” a quick review of his site found several potential causes. To improve his site’s future rankings, Souter should correct the following obvious SEO problems:

  1. Inbound Links – Open Site Explorer only found a total of 22 root domains linking to Souter’s site. To improve his chances of ranking well, Souter should concentrate on building high-quality content and improving his link.
  2. On-Site Changes – The H1 and H2 tags, which are currently “Welcome” and “Latest News” respectively, should be changed to include targeted keywords. In addition, the site appears to have a high code-to-text ratio and very little unique content, both of which Google discourages.
  3. Duplicate Content – An identical copy of Souter’s website can be found at
  4. Social Metrics – The social metrics, which include one Facebook share, seven Tweets, zero Facebook likes, and no Google +1 activity, need improvement.

While the idea that a website is being censored due to a social stance Souter took over a decade ago is likely to be viewed as an unreasonable and unfounded claim in the SEO community, Google could prevent such claims with a more transparent penalty and ranking reduction process.

[Sources Include: & Open Site Explorer]

David Angotti

David Angotti

After successfully founding and exiting an educational startup in 2009, I began helping companies with business development, search engine marketing (SEM), search engine optimization (SEO),... Read Full Bio
David Angotti
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  • you really think that it’s a case of bad seo … shake heads

    • David Angotti

      Hi Dave, it is not so much what I think it is, but what I think it is not. I do not think that Google is censoring a website due to a decade-old position someone took on a social issue. Instead, I think that the cause will fall within the “normal” reasons for a ranking reduction. Perhaps I could have communicated this better.

      The SEO recommendations were just a few pointers that I noticed while quickly visiting the site. The site needs a full site audit to determine the root cause of the ranking issue, if there is a penalty, and if so the best route of action from here.

      • Good points David. I do find it a bit unusual the domain exact match doesn’t place higher. My is on top of page 2, and the site hasn’t changed probably since 1990-something. There is no SEO, and practically no content. Though I did get some backlinks, without knowing what backlinks meant at the time, and for some reason got a PR of 2 (which as an SEO person, I don’t look at of course ;). I also have the added challenge that apparently there was a baseball player with the same name, which of course reasonably get’s a lot more exposure in the SERPs. (Although with almost no content, my site does load pretty quickly, so I got that going for me.)

        Just a few years ago, I launched a cpa’s website and it went to number 1 within 2 months of going live for their keyword “doral cpa”. Previous to going live, the domain had only been registered for a month or so, so the registrar information was all brand new, and the site had no backlinks. Additionally, our company provides templated websites for cpas and this client did not customize with their own content, and with over 5,000 clients, it’s safe to say the content on this site was duplicate content. It also remains #1 after the Panda update.

        So clearly Google has and does give a lot of weight to domain matches. I didn’t find through page 4 for a search on his name, but I did see the duplicate content url you mentioned on that page. And that link goes to an error page.

        So it is a little suspicious to me that he is not ranking better for his name. However I think it’s also a bit short sighted for anyone to claim manual manipulation of the SERPs by Google, when they haven’t even done some of the most basic SEO on their own site. I also have read a number of articles recently on this site about how one could hurt a competitor’s site, and it would seem to me that this gentleman could be a target of such an effort. I think that too is a stretch, but I agree with you, that the idea Google would manually manipulate their SERPs for this guys site based on this social issue, also makes me shake my head just as much.

  • Curious, as one would think that Souter’s website should be returned for personal name queries. The SEO issues raised by this article, valid though they are, normally wouldn’t account for this poor of rankings. Curious – but hardly an unknown situation to SEOs, where you’d really have to do a thorough audit to assess the cause of his site’s poor visibility.

    And cause there almost certainly is, as it’s simply not Google’s MO to indulge in anything resembling this sort of censorship (as evidenced by the fact that a “Brian Souter” query at time of writing produces multiple page one news results citing Souter’s criticism of Google). Google’s lame piece of advice regarding domain canonicalization isn’t remarkable for its lameness, but the fact that Google has provided any advice at all: such advice is almost never provided to webmasters, who are usually sent in the direction of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines page.

    Souter, in his complaints, hasn’t actually referenced a single piece of evidence that Google is deliberately disfavoring him. As, indeed, it would be difficult to do for any site on any topic where the owner presumes the site has been deliberately dampened by Google: the only way one could do so is to have an exact Google algorithm running in parallel which displayed different results.

    Perhaps Souter should talk to Fred Phelps’ SEO: Phelps has no difficulty ranking for “Westboro Baptist Church” or the Westoro/Phelps catchphrase/domain name (which I won’t cite here, because maybe Askimet has a “hate spam” folder:).

  • Hi David,

    As I was intrigued and amused by the statement issued by Souter’s PR guy, claiming he was going to look at forcing Google to stop changing their algorithms in a bid to apparently ‘aid’ freedom of speech in the UK (even through Google is not a public service, it’s a business!), I had a look at this as well. appears to be a proxy service, SEJ is available through it as well, presumably any site is 🙂

    This does beg the question, though, of why this is appearing as a search result for some of the only actual unique content on Souter’s website? It would suggest that it is suffering from something particular.

    As you raised above, the only other issues I could see were related to authority. And a sub par website.

    • David Angotti

      You are definitely correct about being a proxy service and not duplicate content. Thanks for pointing that out.

  • I highly doubt #2, #3 and #4 is playing a significant enough role in lack of his rankings for his own exact match name/phrase .

    There are dozens of many anti-gay and other hate websites with lower auth rank pretty well in Google so I don’t see any reason why his website will be singled out.

    Any how, more likely than anything else, the reason his site is not really ranking that well is that he got couple of site wide links with exact keyword phrases. E.g. There are 136 links with anchor text ‘Sir Brian Souter’.
    With his websites low authority, it could have got some sort of a filter.

  • David Angotti

    I agree with both of the above comments that state the obvious SEO issues I listed in the article are most likely not the only reasons this site is not ranking in Google. I quickly noticed these issues while visiting the site and merely pointed them out to indicate the site should have fixed all of the obvious issues prior to claiming that Google is to blame. A thorough site audit should be performed to determine if the site is penalized, the root cause of any penalties, and why the site is not ranking well for exact match terms.

  • Ioana

    Nice job of pointing the flaws of the website. Brian Souter and his PR person obviously think, like so many people, that Google really shows the best/most relevant results. And that it must do so. Therefore the site should be first or among the first for his name and if it’s not then perhaps Google is going politically correct like everyone else. I understand the reasoning, but they should have done some research… and Mr. Souter needs to get a PR who will also obtain links.
    Syed, “other hate websites”? Being anti-gay does not equal being hateful. It’s perfectly normal to be against homosexuality and more specifically against its promotion and growing presence in the public sphere. Hate is a strong word, I don’t understand why people use it so lightly, it’s irrational. The correct term would be “opposing”.

    • I agree. I’d be willing to bet that SEO wasn’t even a consideration here. I’m sure someone immediately jumped to the conclusion that Google was censoring him just because he wasn’t ranking like he had in the past. I’d also bet that if you asked his team what SEO was before all of this came about, they’d say something like sales executive officer or something.

  • I would actually argue against his comment that Google should not decide where sites rank – That is the reason their business became popular.

    I can only assume that his PR and web media adviser is infact an idiot.