Google-Bombing Still Works

April 9th, 2007

A Google Bomb

Well – that’s a provocative title – but at least they do work sometimes.. let me explain more..

What is Google Bombing?

Some argue that the first widely known Googlebomb was created by a men’s magazine, which used the anchor text (anchor text is the words I use in a link) ‘dumb motherfu**er’ in a link to a site selling George W Bush merchandise.

In fact George seems to have been the target of quite a few Google-bombs.

My first experience of a Google Bomb was when I was sent an email suggesting I type the words ‘miserable failure’ in a google search back in about 2003 – the resultant page was, of course, George W. Bush’s Whitehouse page.

Definition: GoogleBomb

Strictly defined, a good Google Bomb should be constructed in such a way that a site returned for a given phrase does not even have that phrase in its content. The theory is that if enough sites link to a site using a particular word or phrase, Google will simply assume that the site must in fact be about that phrase – even if the phrase isn’t on the target page.

So, of course, George Bush’s site doesn’t in fact have the words ‘miserable failure’ on it at all, but it (once) ranked first place for that phrase in any Google search because of the viral campaign launched to get thousands of webmasters to link back to that site with those words.

The coining of the actual phrase ‘Google Bomb’ is credited to a fellow by the name of Adam Mathes, who linked the phrase ‘talentless hack’ to a friends website.. this was documented on the site, which unfortunately seems to be down now.

Google bombs the GoogleBomb

I used to love the Google Bomb so much that I registered and still own a site that I hoped would become a place where people could suggest and democratically vote upon potential political / humerous / educational googlebombs.

I was intoxicated by their potential power to educate and cause giggles, and perhaps even lead to real change – but, alas, on January 25th, 2007, things came to a premature halt.

On that day, Google announced in this post on their official blog that the glory days had come to an end – Google had created an algorithm that would curtail the impact of Google Bombs. Matt Cutts also spoke about the algorithm change in this article..

I was very sad and disappointed – but all good things must come to an end.

Some practical examples of good anchor text selection in action

These aren’t really examples of ‘Google Bombs’ per-se, but they do show the power of good anchor text selection.

For example, linking back to my lingerie site with the anchor text ‘brassiere’ brought my site from 5th page to 2nd position very quickly for that highly competitive word, even though I don’t have it on my site anywhere.

As another example, I once had an occassion where the inventor of a product which I was manufacturing and promoting (and had sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and man hours as seed funding) was becoming difficult / adversarial towards us, and had appointed a competitor without our knowledge.

The person was interviewed on national TV, and through sheer pig-headedness, chose to promote the product under a different name to what we had been promoting it as for several years. It was just a spiteful attempt to send search traffic to a competitor who had been appointed without our knowledge.

GoogleBombs / anchor text work very quickly

This taught me a little lesson about Google Bombs (or more specifically in this case, good use of anchor text) – because they are distributed in nature, they can work very, very rapidly to alter search results.

Luckily, in this case, we had a head start. I had noticed in my logs about three days before that we were receiving hits from the website of a media organisation.. this led me to the website, and I noted that it was a ‘draft’ page detailing the upcoming interview, in which this person referred to our product by another name.

Subsequently, I went to the person’s website and discovered that the ‘buy this product’ link pointed to a new site, with a url containing the ‘new name’, which was in fact 302 redirecting to our site in what I suspected at the time (correctly) was an amateurish attempt to nick our PR in preparation for an assault upon our business – on consulting my site logs I discovered we had been receiving hits with this site as HTTP_REFERER for at least 3 months..

Their cover was blown. I spent the next few days starting to optimize my site for ‘our new name’, and had 301 redirected their 302 redirect using some clever .htaccess tricks to a site I knew was likely to get their new site banned or at the least seriously retard their hijack attempt.

I also got some friends with regularly crawled sites to link to the ‘rogue site’ to give Google a clear shot at indexing the ‘new’ content – this might seem like a low act – but, remember, this was a defensive action rather than offensive.

Through the use of googlebombs (it helps having webmaster friends) and the fact I already had an established brand and high crawl rate, I was able to quickly (in less than 24 hours) rank first place for the products ‘newly invented’ name, and take advantage of the media exposure.

I noted on the night before the interview aired, that the 302 redirect was removed – but the damage had already been done. It actually took them about 3 months to get reincluded in Google, so my counter-attack seemed to have worked.

We also ranked first place for the person’s name for about the next 6 months, which, of course, made us the villains, not the person attempting to steal our rankings 😉

So – how does the new anti-GoogleBomb algo work?

I thought possibly Google may have changed their algorithm in such a way that a googlebomb for a word or phrase that either seemed contextually irrelevant, or didn’t exist on the target page would no longer rank. This made me a little worried that what had been a previously powerful seo tool for some of my commercial sites would no longer work.

As alot of you know, I have a pretty successful WordPress theme called Blix Krieg.

When people install my theme, there is a link in the footer back to this site, and also one of my commercial sites ( The anchor text for the link back to my other site is ‘by theDuck’.

Just recently, I was checking Google Webmaster tools and I found that a fair percentage of traffic coming to my other site now comes from people searching for the phrase ‘theDuck’. Who the hell searches for “theDuck” – I dunno – but it seems quite a few do.

Sure – it’s not a highly competitive phrase, but it does prove to me that Google hasn’t deprecated the value of inbound link anchor text outright – and whatever their new anti-googlebomb algorithm is, it probably has very little to do with contextual relevance.

Certainly, my Jaisaben site does not have the phrase ‘theDuck’ on it anywhere, it has nothing about ducks on it and yet it now ranks in second place for a search for the phrase ‘theduck’ – purely and simply because of anchor text.

Lessons I have Learnt

This has taught me a few lessons:-

  • Next time I release a wordpress theme, I’ll use non-nonsense words in my footer anchor-text, preferably valuable ones (mesothelioma anyone? – see this link ).
  • Anchor text should still be in anyone’s SEO arsenal.
  • It would appear (at least for uncompetitive phrases) that having heaps of sites linking back to you with the exact same anchor text doesn’t cause any penalty, contrary to what other seo’s have said.
  • However the new Google-bombing algorithm works, it is not simple, and it still leaves enough latitude to use anchor text in clever and powerful ways.
  • Never form a business partnership with a mad person, no matter how good their ideas seem to be, unless you have the patience of a Saint and the bank account of Bill Gates. The same probably also applies to personal relationships 🙂

All the best!



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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. JohnMu  |  April 9th, 2007 at 7:44 pm

    … but … there’s a difference between ranking someone else’s site for a keyword that doesn’t exist on their site (GoogleBombing) and just using anchor text to achieve better rankings for yourself (especially when you do have that keyword on your site somewhere).

    Look at “failure” – as soon as they (accidentally, I assume) added the word to their pages, it has started to rank in the top 3 again.

    It’s easier to rank your own site, with the keyword on it somewhere or with an obscure enough keyword. That’s not really GoogleBombing, it’s just a natural part of white-hat SEO :-).

  • 2. DuckMan  |  April 9th, 2007 at 8:02 pm

    Wow! That was quick John!

    Try hitting refresh – I was premature in publishing the article and it’s been changed since you first read it – have you got me on feed? I’ll often publish, read, and then adjust my new posts a couple times during the first hour or so when I’m writing an opus like this one.

    w.r.t. miserable failure and bush being back in the top three – that would possibly give a few more clues about how the alg works – but a search for miserable failure still doesn’t show bush on the front page, at least for me – and it does seem that Australian searchers get different results in Google than the US. Damn – I was getting a bit excited for a mo there!


  • 3. JohnMu  |  April 10th, 2007 at 5:41 am

    Ok, you caught me – I read an older version :). They’ve since removed “failure” from the page’s content, so it’s possible that they’ll drop out of the #1 spot again. I think the Googlebombing-algorithm is very fine targeted; it’s not something that discounts anchor text automatically, it requires a few factors to be in place before it triggers.

  • 4. James Galway  |  April 21st, 2007 at 9:22 am

    Its funny you mentioned an experiment on your own site.. I ve tried this for various keywords and with low competition its very easy to get high serps for keywords unrelated to the site…

    Funny that! 🙂

    Great Blog , keep up the good work!

  • 5. DuckMan  |  April 23rd, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    Thanks James!

    Appreciate your visit and comments – stick around!


  • 6. BK  |  May 15th, 2007 at 7:45 pm

    Great Blog.. I have learned quote a bit in a few moments… Very Funny too.. Thanks.. K

  • 7. DuckMan  |  May 16th, 2007 at 10:35 am

    Thanks BK!

    I appreciate your comments 🙂



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