The Sinister Ministers: How Netanyahu Beats Google

Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Homepage

The fact Prime Minister Netanyahu currently holds five cabinet level posts and is charged with the day-to-day function of some very public and functionally vital Ministries is known, and at times has been ridiculed by opposing politicians and pundits. The discourse on how much additional money he gets per Ministry has been minimal, even though the debate over his “pathetically low” 45,000 NIS monthly salary raged just a few months before he took on some of these new responsibilities. Estimates have Netanyahu’s worth at around 50 million shekels (NIS). This fact alone would lead some to question why the most powerful man in Israel would need the headaches of running the Defense, Immigration, Foreign and Health Ministries too if it was not financially motivated. Practically, he is the one ultimately responsible for the performance of the departments. Although, a crucial leadership trait is choosing trusted department heads and delegating with confidence. An astute observation could lead one to believe Bibi neither trusts nor has the confidence in anyone around him.

In the news and commentary scanned on the first several pages of a Google US search (i.e. How many portfolios does Netanyahu have?), it seems most pundits had chalked up the portfolio grab to political maneuvering. The search, however led to a more curious finding and digging a little bit deeper what was found would lead one to think that perhaps Netanyahu’s power grab had another motive. A more personal one he and his wife have been accused of for years, vanity.

Israel has been great in many ways during Netanyahu’s tenure, and it has been equally controversial as a direct result of it. Israel’s Prime Minister is an embattled man. Criminal indictments looming for him after the election are the biggest threat to his career and legacy. A failed peace process; a divided electorate; global criticism over controversial policies; an alarming shift in support for Israel within America’s Democratic party are all facts that occurred under his watch. To be fair, the country has felt safe. The chaos and fear of the early 2000’s was tamed, the economic growth, the innovation and medical advancements have been undeniably astonishing. These too are Netanyahu’s legacy. It is the latter group which team Netanyahu is interested in flaunting and making central to his global legacy. From the accomplishments of the corporations and educational institutions to the entrepreneurs and Mr. and Ms. Nine-to-Five, the reputation Netanyahu wants to leave behind is that of success and uncontroversial greatness.

The most common way much of the world gets information is by running a Google search. Depending on where you are, how popular the topic is and the sources of the information are, depending on your history, interests and patterns you will get results best suited to you. The all mighty algorithm. Digital marketing and reputation management professionals have been cursing them for years, specifically Google’s and their dreaded updates which basically change the rules of the game once you finally learned how to play it. To ‘beat’ the algorithm and get the search results to display favorable sources to a specific query topic and push down the negative sources is a difficult task, but it is not impossible. Whether an intended or unintended consequence, Netanyahu has benefitted drastically from his multi-titled position, and the proof is just a click away.

Israel’s current Ministry of Foreign Affairs website was created in February of 2013 when Netanyahu first held the post as Prime Minister. The website is the frontline for propping him up, at least in the land of online search. To simplify it, the algorithms function using a hierarchal point system assigned to many variables such as; education sites with a Dot E.D.U. (.edu) in the address are more relevant to the search results than a standard dot com. There are many variables and formulas and they evolve regularly. The higher the amount of points, the more relevant a result is and the higher it will be displayed in the search results. Getting your article or name on a .edu site used to be a thing for search engine marketers, dot G.O.V. (.gov) sites were the holy grail and it ensured a higher ranking in the shortest time for an associated search term.

When a query is made in the US on ‘Benjamin Netanyahu’, you get the news feed at the top, an image fan, then his Wikipedia page, then the Ministry of Foreign Affairs homepage (MFA), his social media pages, some media outlet biographical pages, and then more MFA pages. The irony, or the joke of this is the man has been Prime Minister for over a decade and that Office’s homepage is actually the last one referenced.

Scroll to page two and you get bio-pages from news sources, a result from the PM’s Office site and more Foreign Affairs web pages. By the time you get to page three and a half of the results, and few people ever do, you finally start seeing the controversial information about his scandals and allegations in the results. Scattered throughout all of it are puff pieces meant to prop up the Prime Minister and collectively, it is working to sanitize his reputation on Google. What leads me to believe this is an intentional strategy is the amount of times Netanyahu is mentioned on the Foreign Ministry’s Home Page alone, 15 to be exact.

Not mentioning the non-visible, code-embedded Netanyahu’s that exist on some of the pages within the site.

A file nomenclature marker for an image on the MFA homepage.

Yes, it could be just scrap code and perhaps it is, yet most good coders are anal about such things. What is a certain is that thousands of times overall on the website itself his name, his image with his name in the caption and his name on some file nomenclatures exist, and all are on Google’s own how-to for SEO. Thousands of points on top of the huge advantage the .gov brings to the table to keep the man looking squeaky clean in the world of online search.

A question one might ask is does this really help? And the short answer is without a doubt, absolutely. The MFA website gets over 250,000 people a month on average to spend more than a minute and a half looking at multiple pages.

Quarterly traffic estimates for the MFA website.

The websites for the Ministry of Defense, the Prime Minister’s Office and all the other ministries he has had during this long reign, collectively have had millions of people coming for information in English, and 65% of them came from search pages. So, did any of this violate some obscure Israeli law? Probably not. There is no allegation here, he is the Prime Minister and all the rest of the Ministers he is at the moment, it is allowed under Israeli law and as such his name should certainly be listed on those Ministry websites. Yet, from the content of the English articles on some of them, the MFA specifically, there is an organized approach to making the Prime Minister look good. Whether his team were smart enough to realize it would affect his online reputation positively is unknown. What is known is that is exactly what has happened.

My money is on another investigation.

About the Author
Jay Engelmayer is a 47 year old husband and father of four. Professionally his focus has been digital marketing and business development for commercial products. A proud and unapologetic American-Israeli Zionist, he enjoys cooking and yelling at television screens. Some consider him argumentative in nature, although he prefers "purposeful cynic" when describing his disposition. Living in Israel, he hails from New York City and is glad he left before it became the 1970's redux it is today.
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