From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A Google bomb is Internet slang for a certain kind of attempt to influence the ranking of a given page in results returned by the Google search engine, often with humorous or political intentions. Because of the way that Google's algorithm works, a page will be ranked higher if the sites that link to that page use consistent anchor text. A Google bomb is created if a large number of sites link to the page in this manner. Google bomb is used both as a verb and a noun. The phrase "Google bombing" was introduced to the New Oxford American Dictionary in May 2005. Google bombing is closely related to spamdexing, the practice of deliberately modifying HTML pages to increase the chance of their being placed close to the beginning of search engine results, or to influence the category to which the page is assigned in a misleading or dishonest manner.
The term Googlewashing was coined in 2003 for using similar a technique for media manipulation to change the perception of a term, or push out competition from SERPs. (See Second Superpower#"Googlewashing".)
Before Google existed, in 1997 Archimedes Plutonium, an eccentric poster to Usenet science newsgroups upset with the attention he received from people who found him amusing, angrily accused them of "SearchEnginebombing," an offshoot of e-mail bombing, i. e. cluttering the web/USENET with negative comments about him, so a search engine would find more of them than his own postings. Unlike "Google Bombing", the term "Search Engine Bombing" didn't immediately catch on, and initially its use has been primarily limited to Archimedes Plutonium and USENET posters who mocked him.
The technique was first discussed on April 6, 2001 in an article by Adam Mathes in the online zine uber.nu. In that article, he coined the term "Google bombing" and explained how he discovered that Google used the technique to calculate page rankings. He found that a search for "internet rockstar" returned the website of a Ben Brown as the first result, even though "internet rockstar" did not appear anywhere on Brown's webpage. He reasoned that Google's algorithm returned it as the first result because many fan sites that linked to Brown's website used that phrase on their own pages.
Mathes began testing his theory by setting out to make the website of his friend Andy Pressman the number one result for a query of "talentless hack". He gave instructions for creating websites and links to Pressman's website with the text of the link reading "talentless hack". Sure enough, as other webloggers joined in his Google bombing campaign, Pressman's website became the number one result in a Google search for "talentless hack." (By 2004, Mathes's own site was the number one Google result of this search term, and as of December 2006, the Wikipedia article Google bomb is the number three result for this search.)
Nevertheless, the first discovery of the possibility of a Google bomb was probably accidental. Users discovered that the search "more evil than satan himself" would bring Microsoft homepage to the top of the results page, leading many to believe that Google's results could be manipulated intentionally.
Life cycle of a bomb
Google bombs often end their life by becoming too popular or well known: they typically end up being mentioned in multiple well-regarded websites, which themselves then knock the bomb off the top spot.
In addition, all major search engines make use of link analysis and thus can be impacted: a search for "miserable failure" or "failure" on September 29, 2006 brought up the official George W. Bush biography number one on Google, Yahoo! and MSN and number two on Ask.com. On June 2, 2005, Yooter reported that George Bush is now ranked first for the keyword 'miserable', 'failure' and 'miserable failure' in both Google and Yahoo! (This page is currently the 4th when searching for 'miserable failure.') And on September 16, 2005, Marissa Mayer wrote on Google Blog about the practice of Google bombing and the word "failure." (See Google's response below). Other large political figures have been targeted for Google bombs: on January 6, 2006, Yooter reported that Tony Blair is now indexed in the U.S. and UK versions of Google for the keyword 'liar'.
The BBC, reporting on Google bombs in 2002, actually used the headline "Google Hit By Link Bombers", acknowledging to some degree the idea of "link bombing." In 2004, the Search Engine Watch site suggested that the term should be "link bombing" because of the impact beyond Google, and continues to use that term as it is considered more accurate.
In some cases, the phenomenon has produced competing attempts to use the same search term as a Google bomb. As a result, the first result at any given time varies, but the targeted sites will occupy all the top slots using a normal search instead of "I'm feeling lucky". Notable instances of this include "failure" and "miserable failure". The primary targets have been the Bush biography mentioned above, and Michael Moore's website.
Other search engines use similar techniques to rank results, so Yahoo!, AltaVista, and HotBot are also affected by Google bombs. A search of "miserable failure" or "failure" on the aforementioned search engines produces the biography of George W. Bush listed at the White House site as the first link on the list. Only a few search engines, such as Ask.com, MetaCrawler and ProFusion, do not produce the same first links as the rest of the search engines. MetaCrawler and ProFusion are metasearch engines which use multiple search engines.
Google defends its search algorithm as generally effective and an accurate reflection of opinion on the Internet. They further state that, though some may be offended by the links which appear as the result of Google bombs, that Google has little or no control over the practice and will not individually edit search results due to the fact that a bomb may have occurred.
Marissa Mayer, Director of Consumer Web Products for Google, wrote on the official Google Blog in September 2005:
We don't condone the practice of Google bombing, or any other action that seeks to affect the integrity of our search results, but we're also reluctant to alter our results by hand in order to prevent such items from showing up. Pranks like this may be distracting to some, but they don't affect the overall quality of our search service, whose objectivity, as always, remains the core of our mission.
In May 2004, the websites Dark Blue and SearchGuild teamed up to create what they termed the "SEO Challenge" to Google bomb the phrase "nigritude ultramarine".
The contest sparked controversy around the Internet, as some groups worried that search engine optimization (SEO) companies would abuse the techniques used in the competition to alter queries more relevant to the average user. This fear was offset by the belief that Google would alter their algorithm based on the methods used by the Google bombers.
In September 2004, another SEO contest was created. This time, the objective was to get the top result for the phrase "seraphim proudleduck". A large sum of money was offered to the winner, but the competition turned out to be a hoax.
In .net magazine, Issue 134, March 2005, a contest was created among five professional web site developers to make their site the number one listed site for the made-up phrase "crystalline incandescence".
Some of the most famous Google bombs are also expressions of political opinion (e.g. "liar" leading to Tony Blair or "miserable failure", or even simply "failure" leading to the White House's biography of George W. Bush). In general, one of the keys to Google's popularity has been its ability to capture what ordinary web citizens believe to be important via the information provided in webpage links. However, Google is reluctant to stop organized or commercial exploitation of their algorithms.
One extremely successful, long-lasting and widespread link bomb has been the linking of the term "Scientology" to Operation Clambake. In this case, the index rating clearly emerges from both the individual decisions of pagewriters and reporters and an organized effort led by Operation Clambake itself. The Church of Scientology has also sometimes been accused of an attempt at Google bombing for making a large number of websites linking terms "Scientology" and "L. Ron Hubbard" to each other.
In 2004, Jewish writer and activist Daniel Sieradski urged visitors to his blog to link to the Wikipedia article for "Jew" in response to findings that a search for "Jew" returned the anti-Semitic website Jew Watch at the top of the results. The campaign met with mixed success, temporarily displacing the site from the top result but not removing it from the top rankings altogether.
Another campaign was organized by columnist Dan Savage after former US Senator Rick Santorum made several controversial statements regarding homosexuality. The Google bombing was part of Savage's campaign to start using the word "santorum" for a sexual term, and propelled the website created for that purpose to a high result for "santorum".
In France, groups opposing the DADVSI copyright bill, proposed by minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, mounted a Google bombing campaign linking ministre blanchisseur ("laundering minister") to an article recalling Donnedieu de Vabres' conviction for money laundering. The campaign was so efficient that, as of 2006, merely searching for ministre ("minister") or blanchisseur ("launderer") brings up a news report of his conviction as one of the first results.
In the 2006 US midterm elections, many left-leaning bloggers, led by MyDD.com, banded together to propel neutral or negative articles about many Republican House candidates to the top of Google searches for their names.
Some website operators have adapted Google bombing techniques to do spamdexing. This activity is commonly thought to be unscrupulous among internet users. This includes, among other techniques, posting of links to a site in an Internet forum along with phrases the promoter hopes to associate with the site (see Spam in blogs). Unlike conventional message board spam, the object is not to attract readers to the site directly, but to increase the site's ranking under those search terms. Promoters using this technique frequently target forums with low reader traffic, in hopes that it will fly under the moderators' radar. Wikis in particular are often the target of this kind of page rank vandalism, as all of the pages are freely editable.
Another technique is for the owner of an Internet domain name to set up the domain's DNS entry so that all subdomains are directed to the same server. The operator then sets up the server so that page requests generate a page full of desired Google search terms, each linking to a subdomain of the same site, with the same title as the subdomain in the requested URL. Frequently the subdomain matches the linked phrase, with spaces replaced by underscores or hyphens. Since Google treats subdomains as distinct sites, the effect of a large number of subdomains linking to each other is a boost to the PageRank of those subdomains and of any other site they link to.
On 2 February 2005, many have noticed changes in the Google algorithm that largely affects, among other things, Google bombs: only roughly 10% of the Google bombs listed below worked as of 15 February 2005. This is largely due to Google refactoring its valuation of PageRank.
The MLM company Quixtar has been accused by its critics of using its large network of websites to move sites critical of Quixtar lower in search engine rankings. A Quixtar IBO reports that a Quixtar leader advocated the practice in a meeting of Quixtar IBO's. Quixtar denies wrongdoing and states that its practices are in accordance with search engine rules.
One weblog has engaged in anti-Quixtar google bombing, and openly advocates the practice. 
- Google juice
- Link doping
- 302 Google Jacking
- Political Google bombs
- ^ Tom Zeller Jr. "A New Campaign Tactic: Manipulating Google Data," New York Times (Late Edition (East Coast)) 26 October, 2006. pg. A.20
- ^ Search Engine Watch article on addition of "Google Bomb" to dictionary.
- ^ Archimedes Plutonium: Emailbombing, now SearchEnginebombing, sci.logic, sci.bio.technology, 11 September 1997.
- ^ Adam Mathes: Filler Friday: Google Bombing. April 6, 2001
- ^ Search Engine Watch article on "more evil then satan himself" discovery.
- ^ Google Hit By Link Bombers, BBC 13 March 2002
- ^ Yooter SEO blog
- ^ Article from Marissa Mayer on Google's official blog regarding Google bombing
- ^ Report on Scientology's activities with Google.
- ^ CNet article discussing the jewwatch.org Google bomb.
- ^ http://la.indymedia.org/news/2003/12/97071_comment.php
- ^ French Web page describing "laundering minister" Google bomb.
- ^ Google Answers explanation of algorithm changes.
- ^ Glaser, Mark. "Companies subvert search results to squelch criticism." June 1, 2005. USC Annenberg Online Journalism Review. Accessed December 1, 2006.
- ^ The Amway/Quixtar Google Bomb project
- Deconstructing Google Bombs
- Google hit by link bombers - BBC News, March 13, 2002
- Top of the Heap - Business 2.0, July 2002 - Ego bombing
- Engineering Google Results to Make a Point - NY Times, January 22, 2004
- Student trying to 'bomb' Kerry - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 16, 2004
- Dropping 'Google-bombs' - San Diego Union-Tribune, June 14, 2004
- The war on the web: Anthony Cox describes how his spoof error page turned into a 'Google bomb' for weapons of mass destruction. - The Guardian, July 10, 2003