top of page

02:08

12 APR 2024

  • X
  • Whatsapp
  • LinkedIn
  • Mordy Oberstein

Google Web Traffic to Anti-Israel Sites Soars. Do Antisemites Control the Web? [Data Study]


The internet’s most antisemitic websites are seeing huge traffic surges from Google, raising serious questions about the search engine. 


  • The internet’s most antisemitic websites have seen a 63% increase in traffic coming from Google post-October 7 


  • In contrast, websites delivering pro-Israel narratives have only seen an 8% increase in traffic since October 7


  •  Since October 7, antisemitic websites have seen a 71% increase in the number of keywords that rank in the top three positions on Google 


  •  Sites affiliated with Israel and Jewish causes have seen just a 9% uptick in the number of keywords ranking in the top three slots on Google 


  • The proliferation and growing dominance of antisemitic content on the web poses a serious threat to the ability of content not slanted in such a manner to rank on Google going forward


 

Are Antisemitic Websites Ranking Better On Google Since October 7th? 


Data shows that there has been a massive increase in antisemitic Google search queries following the massacre in Israel by Hamas on October 7th. While the data is alarming there are perhaps more fundamental questions to consider:


What websites is Google showing to users or queries related to the wider Hamas-Israel conflict? 


How has the Google algorithm “reacted” to the events of October 7th


Are the most vehemently antisemitic websites seeing an increase in their Google rankings and the traffic they earn from the widely used search engine? 


How are Israeli-affiliated websites performing in comparison? 


To better understand the effect of the Middle East conflict on antisemitic website rankings on Google we first had to isolate a list of websites to analyze. So that this process wouldn’t be entirely arbitrary, we relied on existing lists of known antisemitic websites. 


Specifically, three lists were used: 


  1. Websites representing the Anti-Defamation League’s 2013 list of most anti-Israel groups in the US (which is the last time such a list was published by the ADL to my knowledge)

  2. A list of websites with ties to terrorism as defined by NGO Monitor


Altogether, 26 different websites labeled as “antisemitic” were studied. For comparison, a separate list of the most prominent Israel-focused news outlets and information sites (such as the Times of Israel and Virtual Jewish Library) was added, along with a list containing institutional members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. In total, 31 Israel-associated websites were analyzed. 


(A full list of the websites analyzed as part of this study can be found under Appendix I) 


The websites were then run through the digital marketing tool and platform Semrush to determine increases in: 


  • Organic traffic coming from Google

  • The number of keywords ranking in positions 1-3 on Google

  • The number of keywords ranking in the top 10 on Google   


The data looked at Google search performance from September 2023 (i.e., prior to October 7) in comparison to December 2023. 


Here are the results of our research. 



Antisemitic Websites Have Seen Disproportionate Traffic Increases From Google Since October 7 


The combination of how often a search is conducted for a specific keyword  (search volume) and the ranking position of the URL among the Google results is used by the Semrush data set to estimate the organic traffic the site receives from Google. 


Based on the data retrieved from the dataset, the antisemitic websites studied were rewarded with a 63% boost in US traffic they received from Google since the events of October 7. 


This is in stark contrast to the Israel-affiliated sites which only saw an 8% increase during the same period.





The same pattern was seen when considering global traffic numbers. In this unique dataset, the traffic to antisemitic websites skyrocketed–jumping 622% from Google globally. 





In comparison, the Jewish-affiliated sites saw a smaller, 142% increase. 


*(Note, the data set used to analyze global traffic from Google was not the same data set used to analyze US-specific traffic patterns).  


Clearly, there’s a massive disparity between increases in Google traffic the world’s most rabidly antisemitic websites have seen post-October 7 and the lift the Jewish-affiliated sites have seen. 


While somewhat equal increases across the board might be expected as the popularity of the search terms each site historically ranked for have grown with the war, for obvious reasons the grim contrast is alarming.


To better visualize this, here’s the actual data trend for one of the sites, uscpr.org (United States Campaign for Palestinian Rights), listed on the ADL’s most anti-Israel list (uscpr.org):



semrush organic traffic graph


To be clear, what we’re seeing above is visual corroboration of massive increases in organic traffic from Google in this as well as other cases. 


Parenthetically, the site also saw a massive increase in the number of top keywords it ranks for (more on this below): 



semrush keyword ranking graph


The point: the escalation we’re talking about is drastic and therefore a matter of serious concern.



Breaking Down the Increases In Traffic From Google That Antisemitic Websites Have Received 


From here we divided the data to reflect the results from each of the three groupings of antisemitic websites we used (the ADL’s list of groups supporting the anti-Israel rallies, the ADL’s 2013 list of the most antisemitic groups in the US, and the list of sites with ties to terror we accumulated via NGO Monitor). 


Which group of antisemitic websites were rewarded with the greatest traffic increases post-October 7? 


The unsettling answer: websites associated with the ADL’s most anti-Israel groups in the US saw the greatest increase in traffic from Google following October 7. The data for these sites reflected a 47K% leap in traffic. 





The raw numbers, in this instance, shouldn’t be ignored either. 


For example, the anti-Zionist Jewish Voices for Peace which generally garnered 2.5K visitors from Google each month prior to October 7, rose to 8.5K per month while Code Pink, the left-wing anti-war organization that calls for a complete boycott of Israel, went from 4.5K visitors to 6.5K. 


That said, the percentage here is skewed somewhat higher by the gains of smaller, lower visibility websites. (It should be noted that the sites affiliated with the pro-Israel and Jewish narratives had just as many low-visibility websites within the dataset and did not see the same increases). 


Concurrently, sites with clear ties to terror groups saw a 97% increase in Google traffic. In this case, the data is not skewed by disproportionate gains of low-visibility sites receiving small, raw increases but rather, relatively large percentage increases.


Finally, the group containing those sites associated with organizers of the anti-Israel rallies saw no relative gain. As well, the Party for Socialism and Liberation’s website, pslweb.org, saw a massive drop in organic traffic.


This site in particular has experienced extreme levels of traffic volatility over an extended period of time, as can be seen in the graph below: 



Semrush ranking trends graph


If we remove the plsweb.org site from the dataset, the other sites within the group saw an 875% increase in their traffic from Google post-October 7.






Massive Increase In the Number of Keywords Antisemitic Websites Rank For Since October 7 


As mentioned above, it’s somewhat expected to see increases in traffic from Google to any of these sites–what’s unexpected and highly alarming is the disparity in the before and after numbers along with the massive size of the escalation. 


Obviously, the ongoing conflict in Gaza has generated renewed interest in the topics these sites rank for, thereby increasing the amount of traffic they likely receive from the keywords they’d already ranked for prior to October 7. (But the before and after contrast is startling and not fully explained by search volume increases.)


For example, according to Semrush, 3.5K Google searches were initiated for the keyword israel war during September 2023 (US).  Since then, as of the time of this writing, the data set shows the same term has been searched for 300K times each month in the US. 


Of course, if a website ranked well on Google for this keyword since September 2023, it stands to reason they would see more traffic from Google relative to the past simply because more people are searching for the term for which they rank. 


For our purposes, this means we need to look beyond traffic from Google and consider the actual increases in the number of keywords the sites we analyzed rank for both before and after October 7.  


So let’s first look at what matters most, the top 3 positions on Google. 


The antisemitic websites analyzed saw a 71% increase in the number of top-ranking keywords, meaning their domains ranked among the first three results on Google. 


The Israel-affiliated sites studied saw just a 9% increase. 





The same holds true when considering the top 10 Google results, often referred to as page one of the Google results. 


The antisemitic websites saw an 86% increase in the number of keywords for which they ranked in the top 10 on Google post-October 7. 


This, compared to a 20% keyword increase for pro-Jewish websites seen during the same period.  


 

 


Again, the trend and the contrast are strikingly vivid. 


In addition, while you might argue that the traffic increases seen by the antisemitic websites could merely be the result of the fact that the keywords they rank for are simply in higher demand, the strong disparity at the keyword level signals that something else is actually at play here. 


We’ll discuss what that may be shortly.  



Keyword Increases To Antisemitic Websites: The Details  


As with the traffic data addressed earlier, we’ll parse the keyword increase data according to:


  • Websites representing the Anti-Defamation League's (ADL) list of groups behind the anti-Israel rallies

  • Websites representing the Anti-Defamation League’s 2013 list of most Anti-Israel groups in the US (which is the last time the list was published to my knowledge)

  • Websites with ties to terrorism as defined by the list compiled by NGO Monitor



The largest increase in the number of keywords where these sites rank top 3 on Google, occurred within the ADL’s list of the most anti-Israel groups in the US. This group of sites saw a nearly 250% increase in the number of keywords that ranked top 3 post-October 7. 



 


The sites behind the anti-Israel rallies across the US saw a 115% increase in their top-ranking keywords while sites with terrorism ties saw a 14% increase. 


Moving the top 10 results overall, the same pattern occurs: the ADL’s top anti-Israel groups saw an almost 13,000% increase while the anti-Israel protest sites and terror-associated sites saw a 165% increase and a 48% increase respectively: 



keyword ranking data showing antisemitic websites rank for more keywords on Google  - top 10 results by group


For a more complete visual representation, below are the various subsets of antisemitic sites along with their keyword increases as compared to the Israel-affiliated sites:



keyword ranking data showing antisemitic websites rank for more keywords on Google  - all data


Ironically, the subset of sites that had the closest keyword performance to the Israel-affiliated sites were those sites with ties to terror. Make of that what you will. 



Is This Narrative Regarding Antisemitic Websites an Indictment of Google’s Ability to Rank Trustworthy Content on this Topic? 


The aggregated data and the nature of the topics these antisemitic websites rank for call into question Google’s ability to rank content for topics related to the Israeli conflict. 


This situation is reminiscent of the often discussed “controversy” and “allegations” of Google showing political bias within its search results. 


I don’t believe there is any sort of conscious or nefarious manipulation by Google, neither in support of right nor left-wing politics, both in the larger sense as well as in the case we’re examining here. Rather–and I’ll examine this at length later in this article–much of what you will see has to do with a lack of content created by sources other than antisemitic groups. Put simply, there is a dearth of pro-Israel/pro-Jewish content out there with which to counter the antisemitic material, thus Google is basically ranking what it has to play with. 


This can have severe algorithmic consequences, both currently and in the future. It also sets up a very real danger that I’ll also discuss below. 

 

That said, I do think there are some serious algorithmic gaps that Google should perhaps address.


Below is a small sampling of some of the ranking terms that qualified (if ever so slightly) the search queries owned by these vehemently antisemitic websites:


Domain

Keyword

Rank

Jewish Voice for Peace

zionism

6


anti-zionist jews

3


mizrahi jews

7


nakba meaning

5


what is zionist

9


anti zionism 

4


mikveh

6


zionist ideology

6


blessings for rosh hashanah

1


jewish in the middle east

1

Addameer

israeli prisons

2


israel prison

9


administrative detention

6

BADIL

israeli massacres

5


israeli atrocities list

5

CAIR

ceasefire now resolution

2


idf rape cases

2

DCI Palestine

list of palestinian deaths

8


how many children have died in gaza

1


has israel killed palestinian babies

5


dead israeli child

8


hamas child soldiers

2

Euro-Med Monitor

nuclear bomb israel

8


israel nuclear bomb gaza

7


when did gaza blockade start

8


how many children have died in gaza

4


children killed gaza

2


infants killed in israel

1


have babies been killed in israel

5

If Americans Knew

old maps of palestine

7


historic palestine map

6


old map of palestine before israel

7


historic map of palestine

6


jews say ceasefire now

6


ceasefire now

2




War on Want

apartheid state

9


what is an apartheid

6


what does apartheid mean

8


apartheid state meaning

2


what is an apartheid state

3


apartheid state definition

3


For a variety of reasons, some of the terms these sites are ranking for are of serious concern. 


Jewish Voice for Peace, for instance, ranks for Jewish religious terms such as mikveh and blessings for rosh hashanah. Sounds innocent enough, but that’s deceptive. Take the case of the latter keyword, which ranks number 1 on the site. It links to a PDF about the Jewish New Year holiday that’s filled with all sorts of anti-Israel propaganda. 


Indeed, the site owns a significant portion of the narrative around Zionism itself, ranking for terms like what is zionist, zionist ideology, and even the term zionism itself. 


The page that ranks for the keyword zionism states, “we have come to see that Zionism was a false and failed answer to the desperately real question many of our ancestors faced of how to protect Jewish lives from murderous antisemitism in Europe.” 


The bias and danger here are palpable. Having these blatantly antisemitic websites not just rank but own the Jewish narrative is both disturbing and frightening. 


Similarly, the site War on Want, which according to NGO Monitor has partnered with Ramallah-based Palestinian NGO Addameer on content creation, ranks strongly for a core topic related to the Mideast conflict. Addammeer, per NGO Monitor, is described as “an “affiliate” of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a terrorist organization designated as such by the US, EU, Canada, and Israel”. As seen above, War on Want is a dominant player in forming the narrative around apartheid. 


The site belonging to US-based NGO If America Knew owns many of the keywords related to the history of Israel. Yet a page on the site–which overall has an antiquated and user-unfriendly feel (thus offering a terrible user experience that Google generally does not reward) about the history of Israel in 1967 makes no mention whatsoever of the Six Day War beyond two sentences: “Following the 1967 war, Israel created what it calls “Greater Jerusalem.” and “Following the 1967 war, Israel began establishing numerous settlements.” There is literally zero mention of the war itself, the results for Israel and its geopolitical context, yet astonishingly, Google sees this page as fit for ranking. 


DCI Palestine is driving the narrative around Palestinian deaths in Gaza where it alleges “46 Palestinian children have [also] been killed in the occupied West Bank since October 7, according to documentation collected by DCIP.” Yet it never produces the document nor explains who is even responsible for the deaths. This is some form of mock journalism which Google seems to have no problem ranking.


There are endless other examples worth highlighting, but I’ll end with Geneva-based Euro-Med Monitor, whose founder, Ramy Abdu, and former chair, Mazen Kahel, have lengthy histories of ties to Hamas itself per NGO Monitor. Yet, Google sees fit to rank its content for keywords related to Israel's nuclear capabilities. Indeed, the ranking page has a headline that reads “Israel hits Gaza Strip with the equivalent of two nuclear bombs” yet there is not a single link serving as a citation for any of the claims made on the page. 


Perhaps worse, Google offers the site a Featured Snippet for the keyword infants killed in Israel where the search engine not only botches the entire intent of the query but provides misinformation right on the results page: 



Google featured snippet example


As well, just like the previous page mentioned, which makes false nuclear claims, not a single link is provided to verify the fatality claims made on this page. Not one. Even the anti-Israel leaning Human Rights Watch has the figure at 5,500 while the Qatar-sponsored outlet Al-Jazeera puts the number at 6,600


Yet Google has no problem featuring incorrect information from a website founded by someone with terror-ties (according to NGO Monitor), a site that has a practice of not directly linking to source material as verification on the results page itself. 


This creates a very real problem of integrity with the Google results for these queries. It also very much calls into question the priorities of the websites affiliated with Israel’s cause. The issue here is twofold: Google’s ability to rank accurate content for these topics and the shortage of available content it has to work with. While there is a clear gap in Google’s algorithm there is also a lack of informational content from Jewish-affiliated websites available to the search engine.    




Why Are Antisemitic Websites Performing so Well on Google?


There are a number of reasons why I believe Google is rewarding staunchly antisemitic websites with search traffic in far greater proportions than Israel-affiliated sites. 


I’ll briefly address these issues, but in truth, a far more lengthy discourse on the topic is warranted. 



Increase in Search Volume


The first and most obvious place to start is search volumes. Since the beginning of the war on October 7, the popularity of the keywords these sorts of sites rank for has increased significantly. For example, the keyword nuclear bomb israel, for which Euro-Med monitor ranks top 10 was searched for 100 times globally in July 2023 per Semrush. As of January 2024, the term garnered 4.9K searches a month. 





As such, the websites studied are receiving more traffic for the simple reason that the topics they rank for have become more popular. 


This is also why there’s been an increase in traffic from Google for the Jewish-affiliated websites–albeit disproportionately smaller than the boost seen by the antisemitic websites. 


Similarly, this explains why the data pulled also included an increase in the number of ranking keywords the sites saw since October 7. For this metric, the popularity of the search terms is irrelevant. Still, the increases the antisemitic sites saw for this measurement were more than substantial and quite disproportionate. 


Because of the massive increase overall in the number of ranking keywords, the traffic increases are clearly not entirely attributable to heightened search volumes but can also be credited to improved ranking performance. 


All of this still leaves us with the question, why did Google decide to reward notoriously antisemitic websites with additional rankings post-October 7.



The Role of Topical Authority 


Many of the topics related to the current war in Gaza are only now emerging. Meaning, there is no historical content for Google to use in order to rank the results. As such, Google is forced to rely on the creation of new content to meet the needs of users looking for answers to emerging questions and ongoing events that are unfolding in near real-time. 


Imagine a major Hollywood celebrity announcing they were getting married for the first time. Who would Google rank when there isn’t any historical content and context to look at? You would see the sites that Google leans on categorically be the first to rank as soon as they create content. I don’t think anyone would be surprised if in such a scenario celebrity-focused sites such as Us Weekly, People, and TMZ ranked at the top of the Google results. 


I believe this is very similar to what happened here. The majority of the antisemitic websites studied have been creating content related to and adjacent to the wider conflict in the Middle East for years. Which sites then is Google going to lean on when new topics related to that conflict emerge? 


Attesting to this, sites like the Times of Israel that have been focused on such content for years did see a substantial increase in their traffic post-October 7. (In the case of the Times of Israel a 50% increase, which falls 13 points short of the overall increase the antisemitic sites experienced). 


It is apparent from this analysis, therefore, that the sites associated with Israel’s cause have simply not created enough content around the conflict to be seen as topically relevant by Google. While some of these sites may have started covering more current issues related to the conflict beginning with the events of October 7, they are still facing an uphill battle due to their late start and inconsistent focus.  



The Real Danger Is Worse Than You Think 


The biggest danger when it comes to Google ranking antisemitic content is not just the influence it has over people using the search engine to acquire information but also the false imprimatur of "fact" that is signaled by its very high placement in Google search results.


There is perhaps too, a longer-term problem presented by the lack of an honest narrative ranking on Google and that’s related to the search engine’s machine learning algorithms. That’s because Google is trained by what is on the web. 


Here’s an example. 


If you Google the term wedding and move over to Google’s image results you’ll get something that looks like this:

 


Google image search results


You’ll see many happy people engaged in the act of getting married… as long as they are engaging in the traditional Western version of the ceremony. 


What you won’t see are religious Jewish or Muslim weddings, African weddings, Mexican weddings, or anything but the traditional version of a wedding associated with popular American Christian culture. 


Much of that has to do with the amount of content on the web, in English, that associates and discusses marriage in the context of a “traditional American, likely Christian, wedding.”


Google machine learning develops an algorithmic profile regarding how to relate to a topic and discuss it, by looking at the content on the subject that’s already been published on the web. 


The risk here is the topics related to the Israel-Hamas war, and even antisemitism itself, could become another example of a “traditional American Christian wedding” where Google’s understanding of the associated topics is built on a preponderance of content that is biased against Israel. 


The danger in all this? Google could end up creating a topical profile that is built on a proliferation of antisemitic content such as seemingly exists on the web currently. 


If such a circumstance was to occur, ranking content that is not shaded with antisemitism would be like hoping the image of your Chinese wedding ranks within Google’s image search results when googling the term wedding in English. 


The true peril here is in the potential inability of non-slanted content created by sites affiliated with Israel’s cause to rank on Google in the future.


 

Appendix - Websites Used 



 

mordy oberstein

Mordy Oberstein


Mordy is the Head of SEO Brand at Wix and the former CMO of Rank Ranger. Concurrently, he also serves as a communications advisor for Semrush. As a renowned expert, Mordy frequently speaks at search marketing conferences around the world, hosts multiple SEO podcasts, and writes for major digital marketing publications.

Comments


bottom of page