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Thursday, June 10, 2004

Google Bomb: The Secret Life of Shoes

I was searching Google today, reading the information about key words in an effort to get more traffic to my site. I discovered Google Bombs. Had not ever heard the word before today but it sure was some very intersting stuff. More about it here! I know it 's old news but not to me. It is brand spanking new!

What is a Google Bomb?

A Google bomb or Google wash is an attempt to influence the ranking of a given site in results returned by Google. Due to the way that Google's algorithm works, a website will be ranked higher if the sites that link to that page all use consistent text. Googlebomb is used both as a verb and a noun.
For example, if a user registers many domains and all of them link to a main site with the text "... is a living legend" then 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 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 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".
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.
Ironically, 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.

Why Do People Google Bomb?

According to Microcontent News headquarters their are four top reasons why people bomb Google:(full article here)


1. Humor Bombs

Admit it... it's pretty funny to see your friend come up in Google as the #1 Talentless Hack in the whole world. Granted you have to find search keywords that don't get a lot of traffic, but that shouldn't be too hard.

2. Ego Bombs

It's become fashionable to be the top search result for your first name (or barring that, your full name). David Gallagher - freelance writer for the New York Times - provided one such example on his personal blog:

I've decided that I want to be the most famous David Gallagher on the Internet, and if you have a Web site, you can help. How? Link to this site like so: David Gallagher.

As of March 1st, he's ranked number 3 in Google... not too shabby, David.

3. Money Bombs

Of course, it's only a matter of time before someone starts making Google Bombs for profit.

As far as we know, this has yet to come to pass... but once Money Bombs become a possibility, they pose a real threat to Google. Brig over at Eatonweb floated the idea just a few days ago:


reading why google loves weblogs got me thinking about google bombing. specifically, in regard to keyword searches. take, for example, my dad. he would be in heaven if his site came up #1 on a search for santa cruz real estate. he would be willing to pay for that.

Brig, Microcontent News will Google Bomb your dad's site for free: santa cruz real estate. I'm not sure how much it will help though, as your dad is up against some tough competition: some 103K separate websites come up in Google when you search for "Santa Cruz Real Estate!"

Buying a Google Bomb is probably cheaper than buying a Google Adwords microad. But even if that price disparity disappears, it's much better to be in Google's main search results than somewhere in a side module. Given this reality, it's inevitable that Money Bombs start appearing in the weblog community soon.

4. Justice Bombs

As we saw in last week's article, Justice Bombs can be tossed at evil corporations. The target then was Critical IP, a corporation accused with telemarketing to domain name owners by stealing phone numbers out of an Internet database.

In fact, several bloggers have built Justice Bombs after last week's article... including Megan McArdle. She was nauseated the other day to hear about the R Kelly videotape:

The other day, a radio station in New York that one of my co-workers listens to read a play-by-play of the R Kelly videotape. It is the first time I've ever been made actually nauseous by something I heard or watched. For those who aren't aware of it, R Kelly is a musician who purchased the services of a 14-year old girl from her family and . . . no, I can't go on. It makes me want to get sick just thinking about it.

Ordinarily, most people would feel helpless in this sort of situation. But armed with knowledge gleaned from last week's Microcontent News, Megan proposed a Justice Bomb:

I have the following proposal. Let those of us in the Blogosphere post the following two links on our pages:

Daniel Pearl Videotape
R Kelly Videotape

Several bloggers have already followed suit, and just a few days after the Justice Bomb was lit, five of the top ten results for R Kelly videotape are already weblogs with her Google Bomb. Go Megan!

Why Google Bombs are So Effective:

We went over the mechanics of Google Bombs last week. But why do so many weblogs participate in Google Bombing?

First and foremost, it's fun. Google is an institution, and seeing your personal website pop up in a search result is exhilarating. We've watched Microcontent News become the second search result for Google Bomb (behind Adam's essay inventing the concept), giving us some personal insight into the excitement of climbing the Google ranks.

Google Bombs also tap the natural human instinct for reciprocity: "you help me with my bomb, and I'll help you with yours." [1] Most of the Google Bombing to date has been Ego Bombing anyway, which lends itself especially well to reciprocation.

Google Bombing also fulfills a fundamental need: a need for justice, and for a feeling of control over the uncontrollable. When Megan McArdle got upset over the R Kelly videotape, she was able to strike back with a Google Bomb. Now, there's a good chance that someone searching for the videotape will read the message she's written just for them.

Check out that link!

Google Bombing! I learn something new everyday!

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