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Googlebombing


"Googlebombing" is a form of spam. It is sometimes known as "link bombing" since it also occurs with other search engines such as Yahoo! and MSN. For the sake of this discussion, we will stick with the term Googlebombing as it is the most recognizable.

Google's primary goal is to return the most relevant results for any query and those results are generated by Google's algorithms. One of the main factors that contribute to high rankings is the popularity of a Web site. Google measures popularity by the number of inbound links a Web site has.

Each inbound link counts as a vote for that particular Web site, so the more inbound links a site has the better the site will rank. And the better quality and relevant inbound links to a Web site the better results and the higher the ranking.

Googlebombing is the rapid influx of inbound links to a Web site from outside sources each using the same anchor text for the inbound link. In other words, the technique artificially inflates and manipulates a Web site's rankings and the search engine results for a certain query.

These inbound links are added in rapid succession versus being added in a natural and gradual manner. The end result is that the Web site receiving the inbound links appears unnaturally in the top results in Google.

Out of the many Googlebombs that have taken place over the years the "miserable failure" debacle was most famous. In 2003, the biography page for President George W. Bush on the White House Web site came up as number one for the keyword phrase "miserable failure" in Google. However, the words "miserable failure" never physically appeared on the Web page. It stayed this way until January 2007 when a group of Google programmers finally "tweaked" the algorithm. This meant that if someone really wanted to find helpful information about the term "miserable failure," they weren't going to find it on the official White House Web site.

At the time, Google stated that they did not "condone" the practice of Googlebombing, but they were not going to manually alter the results. They felt this prank was not harmful to users and they felt the results "reflected the opinion of the web." In reality the "miserable failure" Googlebomb was a result of only a few hundred links. Google emphasized that the results did not reflect the beliefs and opinions of Google. However, many people felt that Google was taking too passive of an approach by not taking action to prevent this from happening in the future. And many felt that users were indeed injured since the Web sites that deserved to be in the top of the rankings were not.

When the change was made, Google announced that they made a minor adjustment to the algorithm to prevent this from happening in the future. Matt Cutts said the following:

"Because these pranks are normally for phrases that are well off the beaten path, they haven't been a very high priority for us. But over time, we've seen more people assume that they are Google's opinion, or that Google has hand-coded the results for these Googlebombed queries. That's not true, and it seemed like it was worth trying to correct that misperception." (googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com)

Finally, after these changes were implemented, the biography page for George W. Bush on the official White House Web site was no longer the first listing for "miserable failure." Instead what appeared were stories about the "miserable failure" Googlebombing episode.

Due to all of the attention Googlebombing received, it officially became listed in the 2005 edition of the "classic" New Oxford American Dictionary along with the term "Google."