Have you gotten an email recently asking you to go to Google and search for "who is a failure?" This is the latest case of a Google Bomb (aka Googlebomb), which happens when people use links to manipulate Google search results for fun or to make a statement. A similar Google Bomb happened in 2003, here is a BBC story about that Google Bomb. Here is a screen shot from a Google search for "who is a failure?" this morning, showing the latest Googlebomb, attacking George Bush.
How does a Google Bomb work?
If enough people link to a website using the anchor text "who is a failure?" (like I just did here), then Google (and other search engines too) will start to rank that website higher in the search results for the words in the anchor text (in this case "who is a failure?"). In this case, it seems like a number of bloggers and political activists have banned together to make a statement about George Bush by linking to his web page with this specific text.
Why does a Google Bomb work?
Google and other search engines use links as a very important factor in determining how to rank web pages. Search engines interpret links to a website as votes for that website, and the anchor text of those links as context for the vote. This is just like in the real world where if someone tells you "I know Mike Volpe" you would interpret that as a reference for me, and if someone tells you "I know Mike Volpe is a marketing expert" then you would interpret that as a reference for me with context that I know a thing or two about marketing. All of these links to the George Bush website are telling the search engines (especially Google) that this specific web page is relvant for the phrase "who is a failure?".
What are the analytical details behind why this Google Bomb worked?
Low Difficulty Search Phrase - Tricks like this are much easier for a "less competitive" search phrase like "who is a failure?" than for a shorter and more competitive phrase. While the HubSpot Internet Marketing keyword difficulty grade is based on a specific customer website and WhiteHouse.gov is not a customer yet (George, give me a ring, we can help! :) the difficulty for "who is a failure?" for the whitehouse.gov website was roughly a 55 before this Google Bomb whereas for "failure" it was roughly a 70 - much more competitive. (For non-HubSpotters you should know that our keyword difficulty grade scale runs from 1 to 100 and higher numbers are more competitive). What is neat about this is that because of this Google Bomb and previous ones, the George Bush page actually ranks #6 for a search on just the term "failure". Wow.
High Power Website- The Whitehouse.gov website is a Page Rank of 10, and that specific page is a Page Rank of 9. While Page Rank is not the only measure of a website or web page, it is a decent proxy for how important a page is on the Internet. Clearly the whitehouse.gov website is important to search engines, giving it more power to rank for any given term than your website. Another useful measure is overall Website Grade (from the Website Grader SEO and Marketing Tool), and this page gets a 95 / 100, again showing it is a powerful website, so it already had some power with Google making it easier to rank for a given keyword.
Have you seen other Google Bombs? Leave a comment below and share with the community.
Originally published Feb 27, 2008 2:02:00 PM, updated March 21 2013