A Google bomb or Google washer is a certain attempt to influence the ranking of a given page in results returned by the Google search engine, often with humorous intentions. Due to the way that Google’s PageRank algorithm works, a page will be ranked higher if the sites that link to that page all 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.
An example of Google bombing is if a user registers many domains and all of them link to a main site with the text “… is a living legend”. Searching for “living legend” on Google will return the main site higher in the ranking, even if the phrase “living legend” doesn’t appear on the main site. A common means of exploiting this is through weblogs, where although the entry may disappear from the main page quickly, the short-term effects of a link can dramatically affect the ranking of a given site. Empirical results indicate that it does not take a large number of websites to achieve a Googlebomb. The effect has been achieved with only a handful of dedicated weblogs.
The above has to be qualified, however. A handful of blog links will not Google bomb someone like Amazon.com out of the top results for “books,” for example. In fact, Googlebombs have generally had an impact on relatively “non-competitive” terms, where there’s no particular page that seems to be necessarily the right answer.
The technique was first discussed on April 6, 2001 in an article by Adam Mathes . 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 Googlebombing 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.)
However, the first Google bomb mentioned in the popular press may have occurred accidentally in 1999, when users discovered that the query “more evil than Satan” returned Microsoft’s home page. Now, it returns links to several news articles on the discovery.
Google bombs often end their life by being too popular or well known, thereby attaining a mention in well-regarded web journals and knocking the bomb off the top spot. It is sometimes commented that Google bombing need not be countered because of this self-disassembly.
In addition, the entire notion of “Google bombs” might be better described as “link bombing,” given that these campaigns can certainly have an effect on other search engines, as well. All major search engines make use of link analysis and thus can be impacted. So, a search for “miserable failure” on June 1, 2005 brought up the official George W. Bush biography number one on Google, Yahoo and MSN and number two on Ask Jeeves. On June 2, 2005, Yooter reported that George Bush is now ranked first for the keyword ‘failure’ as well as ‘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.” Other large political figures have been targeted for Google bombs such as, Yooter reported on January 6, 2006, Tony Blair is now indexed in the US version of Google for the keyword ‘liar’.
The BBC in reporting on Google bombs in 2002 actually used the headline of “Google Hit By Link Bombers,” acknowledging to some degree the idea of “link bombing.” In 2004, the Search Engine Watch site said that the term should be “link bombing” because of the impact beyond Google and continues to use that term as more accurate.
Nevertheless, “Google bombing” was added to the New Oxford American Dictionary in May 2005.
Search engine bombing before Google
Before Google existed, eccentric USENET poster Archimedes Plutonium, upset with the attention he received from users who found him amusing, posted an angry message to two science newsgroups. He accused these people of “SearchEnginebombing,” an offshoot of Emailbombing, that was 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.
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