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Good-bye, Google Bomb

By Garance Franke-Ruta
Bloggers, take note: the old-school Google bomb is no more.

That's right, the online behemoth best known for its search engine says that it has rejiggered its legendary and proprietary technology so that online efforts by bloggers to manipulate its top-secret search algorithm to create cheeky, offensive and decidedly off-message answers to searches will no longer work.

"It was fun" while it lasted, said Rick Klau, a member of the Google strategic partner development content acquisition team, at a search engine optimization training session for political bloggers in Washington, D.C., this afternoon. But, he said, "Google bombs don't work anymore."

Indeed, the changes to eliminate Google bombs were instituted more than a year-and-a-half ago. But that hasn't stopped political bloggers of the left and right, who have announced (or worried over) fresh efforts to manipulate search engine rankings as recently as this May (see here) and June (see here, and here).

Here's how the old Google bombs worked: Say a group of people wanted to associate a certain Washington politician -- let's call him Mr. Smith -- with a particular insult -- like sleazeball -- and have articles about Mr. Smith come up high in Google search results when people search for the keyword, sleazeball. They would all link to Mr. Smith's Web page, wrapping the link's HTML code around the word sleazeball.

Presto-chango: Via the links, the algorithm made a connection between the name and the subject matter, and adjusted accordingly.

That doesn't work anymore, said Klau, because the company today can spot these swarms and neutralize their effect. "We are far more perceptive when it comes to these link swarms that show up in a matter of hours or days," said Klau.

So why haven't bloggers stopped trying to game the system? Work-arounds may be one reason. So might the increasingly sophisticated nature of today's Google bombs -- what Open Left's Chris Bowers calls a "2.0 version of the Googlebomb" -- where the goal is to influence the search rank of a slew of negative news articles about a politician rather than tie his name to a keyword.

Klau said that he's "not aware of any [successful] Google bombs or equivalents over the past year" -- but the new efforts aren't Google bombs, per se.

As Bowers explained it, "What I'm doing isn't a Google bomb." It's a much harder to detect effort "to alternately optimize John McCain" in the Google search engine rankings, by linking his name to nine mainstream new organizations's stories that raise questions about the GOP presidential contender.

So good-bye Google bomb; hello, Google bomb 2.0.

By Web Politics Editor  |  July 23, 2008; 7:19 PM ET
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So much for Google's sense of humor.

Posted by: NoVA Dem | July 25, 2008 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Regarding Premier's off-topic comment and Jess's stupid (or was it just disingenuous?) question: obviously, meeting with the Iranian president is one of the options which Obama is not taking off the table -- no inconsistency there. Only war-mongering morons assume that keeping one's options open actually means closing off diplomatic options in favor of military ones.

Posted by: Alex Harman | July 24, 2008 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Calling George Bush a "miserable failure" isn't offensive - it's fair comment. Your bias is showing.

Posted by: Muriel | July 24, 2008 11:54 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: jimbob | July 24, 2008 11:33 AM | Report abuse

At least the "Santorum" - I feel lucky search still proves entertaining!

Posted by: chris | July 24, 2008 11:02 AM | Report abuse

"Indeed, the changes to eliminate Google bombs were instituted more than a year-and-a-half ago."

And yet, somehow this story qualifies as news!

Posted by: Thad | July 24, 2008 3:22 AM | Report abuse

Jess and 'premier'-

We get it. You are one and the same. Go back to the RNC and collect your cookie.

Posted by: GoodbyeRepublicans08 | July 24, 2008 2:48 AM | Report abuse

premier, Obama's stance on Iran is confusing. Which stance is for real?

Posted by: Jess | July 24, 2008 2:14 AM | Report abuse

MSNBC reports:

"U.S. presidential hopeful Barack Obama said on Wednesday a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a 'grave threat' to the world. Obama told reporters during a visit to Israel that if elected, he would take 'no options off the table' in dealing with the Iran issue and said tougher sanctions could be imposed."

Obama has shifted from face-to-face meetings with Iranian President to tougher sanctions. He is the one who argued that US should engage with Iran and Cuba without any preconditions.

Posted by: premier | July 24, 2008 2:02 AM | Report abuse

Google Bombs do work until they are made public. Google relies to heavily on anchor text in its overall algorithm for them not too.

Posted by: Jaan Kanellis | July 24, 2008 12:26 AM | Report abuse

Stop! You're confusing McLame. First he learns that there is something called the internet, which he thinks is a series of tubes. But he never saw it because he still doesn't know how to use a computer (Maybe he thinks the tubes start from the computer). Then he uses 'The Google' to search for his VP. Now there's a Google Bomb? He probably think Al Qaida created the google bomb to kill him. That's how stupid McCain is. A real retard.

Posted by: playa | July 23, 2008 10:16 PM | Report abuse

I commend the fact that you are linking out to sites, but it would be helpful to actually /read/ them. The Wikipedia site that you list on "Google Bombs" shows that in fact, contrary to what Google's rep has stated there was one for "Dangerous Cult" going to the Scientology website!

Yes, one can say that pure Google Bombing does not work, but we are still seeing semi-pure Google Bombs work.

Posted by: Demerzel | July 23, 2008 10:10 PM | Report abuse

Sen. McCain had been quoted as saying, "Decommissioning the Google bomb is another example of how Senator Obama's plan for victory in Iraq weakens our troop strength along the bordering nations of Farsi and Constantinople."

Posted by: Heywood Floyd | July 23, 2008 9:39 PM | Report abuse

dang... that is old school, like hyper link old school.

Posted by: angriestdogintheworld | July 23, 2008 8:26 PM | Report abuse

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