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Old Friday, May 11, 2007
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Google bomb
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A Google bomb (also referred to as a 'link 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.[1] 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.[2] 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 to describe the use of media manipulation to change the perception of a term, or push out competition from search engine results pages (SERPs).[3]Contents [show]


The first Google bombs were probably accidental. Users would discover that a particular search term would bring up an interesting result, leading many to believe that Google's results could be manipulated intentionally. The first Google bomb known about by a significant number of people was the one that caused the search term "more evil than Satan himself" to bring up the Microsoft homepage as the top result. Numerous people have made claims to having been responsible for the Microsoft Google bomb, though none have been verified.[4]

In September of 2000 the first Google bomb with a verifiable creator was created by Hugedisk Men's Magazine, a now-defunct online humor magazine, when it linked the text "dumb motherfucker" to a site selling George W. Bush-related merchandise. A Google search for this term would return the pro-Bush online store as its top result.[5] Hugedisk had also unsuccessfully attempted to Google bomb an equally derogatory term to bring up an Al Gore-related site. After a fair amount of publicity the George W. Bush-related merchandise site retained lawyers who sent a cease and desist letter to Hugedisk, thereby ending the Google bomb.[6]

In April 6, 2001 in an article in the online zine Adam Mathes is credited with coining the term "Google Bombing." In the article Mathes details his connection of the search term "talentless hack" to the website of his friend Andy Pressman by recruiting fellow webloggers to link to his friend's page with the desired term.[7]

Life Cycle of a Bomb

As shown above, a Google bomb begins as a webmaster prank. A website manager convinces fellow website managers to put on their sites a hyperlink to the target site containing the desired search words. If enough of those links appear in the various sites on the web, Google's algorithms will recognize that site as being a potential search result for those keywords. Eventually, the site may work its way to the top of the search results.

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. Wikipedia, a notable example, has beaten many Google bombs to the top just by mentioning them in this and other articles.

Other Effects

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," a special button on Google's interface that sends the user straight to the top site in the search.

Other search engines use similar techniques to rank results, so Yahoo!, AltaVista, and HotBot are also affected by Google bombs. 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 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!. 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'. Only a few search engines, such as, Google, 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.

The BBC, reporting on Google bombs in 2002, actually used the headline "Google Hit By Link Bombers"[8], 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 its application beyond Google, and continues to use that term as it is considered more accurate.[9]

Google's response

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:[10]

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.

On January 25th, 2007 Google announced on its official Google Webmaster Central blog that they now have "an algorithm that minimizes the impact of many Googlebombs [sic]."[11] The algorithm change had an immediate effect, dropping the well-known "miserable failure" link to the White House off the front page. Instead, the page contained mainly pages which discuss the miserable failure bomb.[12]. A related Google bomb was the No.1 ranking held by Tony Blair's website for the term "liar". As of May 2, 2007, the bomb had disappeared both from Google and Yahoo, but not from the UK version of MSN.



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".

Political activism

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.[13]

In 2003, Steven Lerner, creator of Albino Blacksheep, created a parody webpage entitled "French Military Victories." When typed into Google, the first result leads to a page that resembles Google, which reads, "Your search - french military victories - did not match any documents. Did you mean french military defeats?" The page proved to be quite popular, as it received over 50,000 hits within 18 hours of its release. Links near the top of the page lead to a simplified list of French military history. The page is still first in results for "french military victories."[14]

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 was successful in displacing the site from the top result, although jewwatch still appears on the first page of search results.[15]

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.[17]

In the 2006 US midterm elections, many left-leaning bloggers, led by, banded together to propel neutral or negative articles about many Republican House candidates to the top of Google searches for their names.[1] Right-wing bloggers also responded similarly.[18]

In 2004, after the controversy that erupted in the Philippines over the allegations that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had cheated in the elections, the phrase "pekeng pangulo" ("fake president") was linked to her official website.

In November 2006, a local environmental group on Saipan, Beautify CNMI!, decried the high PageRank of, a site critical of Saipan's social and political life, and the fact that anyone who searched with the keyword "Saipan" could find the website in the top-ten search result positions. The group published a plan to counter the website's ranking through a campaign of linkspamming via Googlebombing and text anchoring.[19] [20][21] In January 2007, Google announced they altered their search engine algorithm to significantly minimize the effectiveness of the technique.[22] In March 2007, the Washington Post reported that Nikolas Schiller was able to google bomb "Redacted Name" to highlight his website's block on search engines.[23]

Commercial bombing

Some website operators have adapted Google bombing techniques to do spamdexing. 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 worked as of 15 February 2005. This is largely due to Google refactoring its valuation of PageRank.[24]

As of April 2007, Typing "greatest living American" brings up the website of Stephen Colbert.[25]

Quixtar's bomb

Quixtar, a multi-level marketing company, 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.[26]

One weblog has engaged in anti-Quixtar google bombing, and openly advocates the practice.[27]


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