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Dispelling Fears About The GoogleBomb Algorithm Update

By Bill Platt (c) 2007

Google algorithm updates always bring the fears of webmasters to a boiling point. In the aftermath of an algorithm update, some people come out swinging, making claims that Google is trying to put them out of business. Others look at their Google rankings and pat themselves on the back for having survived another “algo” update.

It has been known in search engine optimization (SEO) circles for quite some time that one could successfully implement what is referred to as a GoogleBomb. The best example was a search on the phrase “miserable failure”. A search on those words within Google would show George W. Bush’s biography at the White House website, in the top three or four results of the search results. This would occur, despite the fact that neither word in the search criteria resides on the White House website. At one time, Bush’s biography had been in the Number 1 spot, but counter-bombing campaigns moved Bush’s listing down the page a bit.

Many people have written about this phenomenon in time’s past. I have even written about it myself. When I wrote about it, my point was to show the importance of anchor text in a link to build the value of a web page in the Google search engine result pages (SERPS).

The “miserable failure” GoogleBomb came to exist within a loophole within the Google algorithms. Google puts a lot of value on the anchor text that points to a particular web page. It is part of their “one link – one vote” philosophy as to the value of a web page.

Bloggers joined forces to create thousands of links pointing to the White House website with the words “miserable failure” in the anchor text. The shenanigans of the George W. Bush bashers were eventually countered by their fellow bloggers on the other side of the political aisle. Eventually, the search phrase “miserable failure” would also bring up the Michael Moore and Jimmy Carter websites in the top few results for that search phrase.

The average person who did not understand the nature of the SEO game would occasionally stumble across these esoteric search phrases and get him or herself into a huff, because they thought that Google was stating their own political views. Of course, Google really does not have an opinion, at least not one that would ever appear in their search results.

The GB Update…

In this case, the GB Update is not so-named because “George Bush” disappeared from the “miserable failure” search results. Instead, it is so-named because it is the “GoogleBomb” update, which Google implemented in January of 2007.

Once the update was implemented, the “miserable failure” search began to only return pages that talked about GoogleBombs from a technical standpoint.

With the GB update officially rolled out, people began the standard Google-update panic process.

Hundreds of posts began appearing on forums concerning the GB updates and the fear that link-building efforts undertaken by search engine marketing (SEM) companies and webmasters would be hurt as well.

So, I did a bit of research. I have run several linking campaigns on my own behalf, and on the behalf of clients. Those campaigns were put together with a mix of keyword phrases nestled in the anchor text of links to our websites. I checked the status of all of the websites I represent, and without fail, our linking campaigns had not been hurt by the GB update.

Interesting Changes From The GoogleBomb Update

According to Matt Cutts of Google, the changes in the GB update were all completed within the Google algorithm. Cutts has always said that Google does not like to manually rearrange the search engine results, so an algorithmic solution to the GoogleBomb was in order. A few of the Google engineers worked together to find a solution to the GoogleBomb issue.

In an attempt to understand what had changed, I looked at a few of the more notorious GoogleBombs of past and discovered some interesting facts.

Broken Google Bombs:

“Miserable failure” no longer returns George W. Bush, Michael Moore, or Jimmy Carter websites.

“Worst president ever” now only returns pages that make the claim the GW Bush has earned that title.

“Waffles” no longer returns results that point to the John Kerry website.

Tony Blair’s homepage no longer comes up under the search term “liar”.

Unchanged Google Bombs:

A search for “Scientology” still has the “Operation Clambake” listing in the #2 spot (2007-01-31). Operation Clambake is a website that is critical of Scientology.

“Clíck here” still points to the Adobe website (although this was not actually a GoogleBomb).

“French military victories” still goes to the same page on Albino Black Sheep when you hit “I feel lucky” on Google’s search page. (I still get a kick out of this one.)

The “great president” GoogleBomb survived. It still points to Bush’s bio on the White House website.

The Question On Everyone’s Mind

Everyone seems to be asking the same question. How does Google defuse Google Bombs?

Well, Google isn’t saying, so we are left to figure it out on our own. Based on what I was able to uncover in my study of Google Bombs, I came up with a theory. What I have been able to take from the results shown above is that Google may have targeted only “negative links”. If you want to review what is shown above, all of the Google Bombs that are now gone had negative connotations to them. All of the Google Bombs that survived can be construed as having positive, or at least non-negative, connotations to them.

If my assertion is correct, then average, ordinary webmasters will have nothing to fear from the Google Bomb update. My sites and my clients’ websites also reflect that the Google Bomb update did not have any affect on us.

Maybe I am just grasping at straws, but I don’t think so. You be the judge… “Worst president” is gone, and “great president” survived. To me, that says a lot.

The Google Bombing Legacy Continues…

Following my logic, Google Bombing is still a possibility for those who Google Bomb with a positive set of anchor text keywords. So, some Google Bombs will continue to live well into the future.

In 2004, Search Engine Watch suggested that Google Bombs are better defined as Link Bombs, since they can affect all of the major search engines, including Yahoo and MSN.

Google has finally addressed link bombing in a positive way, but Yahoo and MSN are still prone to link bombing attacks. For example, as of this writing, MSN still has George in the top spot for “miserable failure” in the MSN Live results.

About The Author
Bill Platt has been involved in article marketing and link building since 1999. If you are in the market to have someone build keyworded anchor text links to your site, using unique and interesting content as the foundation, then Bill’s team can help you: – If you would prefer to talk to Bill by telephone, he can be reached at 405-780-7745 between 9am-6pm CST, Monday thru Friday. Platt Services, Inc.


Camilla Todd
Camilla Todd is Head of Digital Marketing at WNW Digital and manages Search Engine Optimisation, PPC, Social Media campaigns and Brand Awareness for WNW Digital SEO clients. You can follow her on Twitter @camilla_wnw, email her at or phone on 01392 349580