This week, Greggs — the largest bakery in the UK — fell into trouble with the Google algorithm. Instead of the company’s normal logo, an alternative one popped up for anyone who was googling. The company’s normal logo reads, “Always fresh. Always tasty.” The alternative that some eagle-eyed Google users saw, though, read “Providing shit to scum for over 70 years.”
What happened? As it turns out, it was a bit of an SEO problem for the company, though perhaps it got them involved in a lot more discussion on social media. The fake logo has existed since around 2010, and was first posted to Uncyclopedia, which is a satirical version of Wikipedia.
It highlighted a perhaps strange issue with Google’s algorithm. Since Uncyclopedia is hosted by Wikia — a hosting site that additionally hosts more legitimate content — it’s difficult for Google to register certain parts of the site as satirical. Google is constantly going through over 60 trillion pages in order to determine the most applicable content.
Because Wikia hosts a lot of reliable content, Google’s algorithm registered the image as coming from a quality source — subsequently, it showed up in results for everyone to see.
Is Greggs aware of the issue? They certainly are. In response to a tweet about the image, they said, “praying to the google gods it gets fixed soon!” They also offered up a tray of donuts to GoogleUK if they fix the issue. While some might be quick to call this a PR nightmare, in reality, it seems to have generated positive conversation around the company. Most people seem aware that the parody logo isn’t coming from Greggs, and many were amused by the company’s handling of the situation — they seemed to take the incident in good humor, tweeting replies like “@Google, please be our friend!”
As of Aug. 19, the logo has finally been removed from Google listings for Greggs. This isn’t the first time fake logos have shown up for otherwise ordinary listings — the same thing recently happened to PC World in April, which had their motto briefly reading as “Like hell but with worse customer service.”