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Google Bombing

A Google bomb or Google wash is an attempt to influence the ranking of a given site in results returned by the Google search engine. Due to the way that Google's PageRank algorithm works, a website will be ranked higher if the sites that link to that page all use consistent anchor text. Googlebomb is used both as a verb and a noun.

For example, if a user registers many domains and all of them link to a main site with the text "... is a living legend" then searching for "living legend" on Google will return the main site higher in the ranking, even if the phrase "living legend" doesn't appear on the main site. A common means of exploiting this is through weblogs, where although the entry may disappear from the main page quickly, the short-term effects of a link can dramatically affect the ranking of a given site. Empirical results indicate that it does not take a large number of websites to achieve a Googlebomb. The effect has been achieved with only a handful of dedicated weblogs.

The technique was first discussed on April 6, 2001 in an article by Adam Mathes. In that article, he coined the term "Google bombing" and explained how he discovered that Google used the technique to calculate page rankings. He found that a search for "internet rockstar" returned the website of Ben Brown as the first result, even though "internet rockstar" did not appear anywhere on Brown's webpage. He reasoned that Google's algorithm returned it as the first result because many fan sites that linked to Brown's website used that phrase on their own pages.

Mathes began testing his theory by setting out to make the website of his friend Andy Pressman the number one result for a query of "talentless hack". He gave instructions for creating websites and links to Pressman's website with the text of the link reading "talentless hack". Sure enough, as other webloggers joined in his Googlebombing campaign, Pressman's website became the number one result in a Google search for "talentless hack". (Ironically, by 2004, Mathes's own site was the number one Google result of this search term.)

However, the first Google bomb mentioned in the popular press may have occurred accidentally in 1999, when users discovered that the query "more evil than Satan (" returned Microsoft's home page. Now, it returns links to several news articles on the discovery.

Ironically, Google bombs often end their life by being too popular or well known, thereby attaining a mention in well regarded web journals and knocking the bomb off the top spot. It is sometimes commented that Google bombing need not be countered because of this self-disassembly.


Accomplished Googlebombs

Recent (as of 2004) and popular examples are:

  • Ladrones ( (Spanish for "thieves") points to the homepage of SGAE, (Sociedad General de Autores y Editores), the Spanish equivalent of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The SGAE is an extremely unpopular association in Spain since they not only try to prosecute users of P2P applications, but also impose surcharges on the price of physical media such as recordable CDs in order to account for the theoretical losses due to P2P exchanges.

  • Weapons of mass destruction ( - Internet Explorer Error look-alike joke page saying "weapons of mass destruction cannot be found". (Note: as of 1 December 2004, the joke page, although still available at [1] (, had fallen to 20th place in the Google search result.)

  • Similarly, Armas de destrucción masiva (, Spanish for "Weapons of mass destruction", gives a Spanish version of the page above.

  • French military victories ( - hoax, Google look-a-like page saying "no results found for French military victories, did you mean French military defeats?"

  • miserable failure (, worst president ( and great president ( - biography of George W. Bush. Due to the search query of "miserable failure," the search terms miserable ( and failure ( also point to the biography of George W. Bush. Recently, they've added unelectable ( to point to the biography on the White House's homepage. Interestingly enough, also points to the same page (despite Bush's win for his second campaign bid), and is second in Google's Search for "unelectable." See also miserable failure. With the addition of Google Local ( and Maps, searching for the phrase in Washington DC provides George W. Bush as the first result.

  • litigious bastards ( - homepage of the SCO Group, which initiated the SCO v. IBM lawsuit alleging copyright violation in the Linux kernel. bastards ( also works.

  • Jew ( - JewWatch, an anti-Semitic group, was for a long time the number one hit when searching on Google for "Jew", perhaps because of its linking pattern. The Wikipedia entry replaced it following a Googlebombing campaign organized by Daniel Sieradski, editor of the blog Jew School ( [2] ( [3] ( [4] ( Google added an explanation page entitled Offensive Search Results ( and placed it in the sponsored link section.

  • Buffone ( - Silvio Berlusconi (Italian Prime Minister) biography. "buffone" is the Italian for "clown".

  • Santorum ( - "Spreading Santorum," a campaign to ridicule Senator Santorum by naming a mixture of bodily substances after him (see Santorum controversy).

  • Out of Touch Executives ( - Used to lead to Google's own corporate information page. Out of Touch Management ( used to work as well.

  • Waffles ( - Leads to John Kerry's 2004 election site, originated here (

  • Food Nazis ( - Points to "Center for Science in Public Interest" (which advocates strict regulatory oversight of genetically engineered foods).

  • Raar Kapsel ( ("Weird Haircut" in Dutch) - Returns the biography of the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Jan Peter Balkenende, who is known for his distinctive hairstyle.

  • Gladjakker ( ("smoothie") returns website of Camiel Eurlings, the leader of the Dutch Christian-Democrat faction in the European Parliament.

  • Searching UK domains only ( for poodle ( gives you a link to a Tony Blair biography (

  • Velký bratr ( (Czech for "Big Brother") - returns a biography of Stanislav Gross, the Prime Minister of Czech Republic.

  • Ignorant Asshole ( returns the website of Cal Thomas. The reason was his column (,2933,140612,00.html).

  • Déspota Cachaceiro ( return to website of Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, about the polemic New York Times article (

  • Old Rice And Monkey Nuts ( returns the website of Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt. The phrase is an obscure reference to Tirath Khemlani, a Pakistani commodities trader who was involved in brokering an improbable US$4 billion loan deal to the Australian Government under Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1974. Khemlani was known derisively by his usual line of trade - rice and monkey nuts. As he was involved in commodities and not financial transactions as a rule, it was believed that Khemlani did not have access to the funds as he claimed but would attempt to obligate the Australian Government of the day to pay a huge commission for arranging the proposed loan. The bomb was perpetrated at the suggestion of Ausculture ( for reasons unknown.

  • lying sack of shit ( returns the Parliamentary web page of Australian Federal Attorney General Phillip Ruddock. This bomb was suggested by weezil ( and executed by a number of Australian bloggers in protest of Ruddock's protracted political smear of the now exonerated Mamdouh Habib

  • fuckwit ( returns John Prescott who is the Deputy leader of the Labour party government in the UK. He is the only member of the cabinet to come from humble begininings (he was a shop steward so rose to the top through the trade union movement) so is famed for being a bear of very little brain, hence the link.

  • swivel eyed loons ( returns the homepage of the UK Independence Party after the phrase - initially used to describe the party by blogger Anthony Wells - was adopted by several British bloggers.

Googlebombing competitions

In May 2004, Dark Blue ( and ( teamed up to create what they termed the "SEO Challenge". They offered an Apple iPod to the person whose page was the first result for the search phrase "nigritude ultramarine" one month after the competition's start, 9 a.m. on June 7. This winner was known as the "Player". A Sony flat-screen monitor was the prize for being the first result at 9 a.m. July 7. This winner was known as the "Stayer".

The Player's Prize was won by Merkey (, a forum that used a combination of googlebombing and keyword spamming. The Stayer's Prize was won by anildash (, a weblog that won through blog-based googlebombing.

The contest sparked controversy around the Internet, as some groups worried that search engine optimization (SEO) companies would abuse the techniques used in the competition to alter queries more relevant to the average user. This fear was offset by the belief of others that Google would alter their algorithm based on the methods used by the googlebombers.

Google's response

Google has defended its algorithms as simply a reflection of the opinion on the Web, saying that it is not damaging the overall quality of its services. Google has said it expects Googlebombing to return to obscurity and has dismissed it as "cybergraffiti" and just another internet fad.

On 18 January 2005 the Google blog ( entry "Preventing comment spam" declared that Google will henceforth respect a rel="nofollow" attribute on hyperlinks. Their page ranking algorithm now avoids links with this attribute when ranking the destination page. The intended result is that site administrators can modify user-posted links such that the attribute is present, and thus an attempt to googlebomb by posting a link on such a site would yield no increase from that link.

Googlebombing in general

In some cases, the phenomenon has produced competing attempts to use the same search term as a Googlebomb. As a result, the first result at any given time varies, but the targeted sites will occupy all the top slots using a normal search instead of "I'm feeling lucky". Notable instances of this include failure ( and miserable failure ( The primary targets have been the Bush biography above (as well as another biography of Jimmy Carter on the same site), Michael Moore's website at, and the Senate website of Hillary Clinton.

Searching for miserabile fallimento ( (Italian for "miserable failure") was returning Berlusconi biography (, until the webmaster inserted the HTML tag that prevents the page from being indexed by Google (<meta name="googlebot" content="noindex, nofollow" />).

It is interesting to note that because of the popularity of Google, other search engines such as Yahoo! (, AltaVista (, and HotBot ( are also affected by Google Bombs. A search of "miserable failure" on the forementioned search engines produce the biography of George W. Bush listed at the White House site as the first link on the list. Only a few search engines, such as Ask Jeeves! (, MetaCrawler ( and ProFusion (, do not produce the same first links as the rest of the search engines. MetaCrawler and ProFusion are metasearch engines which use multiple search engines... this might explain why they do not produce the biography of George W. Bush listed at the White House site as the first link on the list when searching for "miserable failure."


Commercial googlebombing

Some unscrupulous website operators have adapted googlebombing techniques to spamdexing.

One such technique is the posting of links to a site in an Internet forum along with phrases the promoter hopes to associate with the site. Unlike conventional message board spam, the object is not to attract readers to the site directly, but to increase the site's ranking under those search terms. Promoters using this technique frequently target forums with low reader traffic, in hopes that it will fly under the moderators' radar. Wikis in particular are often the target of this kind of page rank vandalism, as all of the pages are freely editable.

Another technique is for the owner of an Internet domain name to set up the domain's DNS entry so that all subdomains are directed to the same server. The operator then sets up the server so that page requests generate a page full of desired Google search terms, each linking to a subdomain of the same site, with the same title as the subdomain in the requested URL. Frequently the subdomain matches the linked phrase, with spaces replaced by underscores or hyphens. Since Google treats subdomains as distinct sites, the effect of a large number of subdomains linking to each other is a boost to the PageRank of those subdomains and of any other site they link to.

As of 2 February 2005, many have noticed changes in the Google algorithm that largely affects, among other things, Googlebombs. As evidence of this, ponder that only roughly 10% of the googlebombs listed above work as of 15 February 2005. This is largely due to Google refactoring its valuation of PageRank, mostly in an effort to keep up with the encroaching result relevancy of the Yahoo and MSN search engines, which many people claim are not nearly as easy to "hack" as Google.


The Amway Quixtar Google Bombing Example

One might think that Google Bombing is only a sport of pranksters, hackers, and small time site owners attempting to outsmart their competition. But there are cases of billion dollar companies shamelessly attempting this ill-guided strategy.

In 2005, in what multi-level marketing giant Amway Quixtar termed their "Quixtar Web Initiative" ( they orchestrated a clear and flagrant violation of Google's Quality Guidelines (

Leaders within Amway Quixtar boasted stage front to their faithful members that they had hired geekoids who were spending their time Google bombing positive info about Quixtar so that the negative sites would be buried way down at the bottom of the Google list when a prospect types in Quixtar ( Nobody will even be able to find the negative sites anymore. SOURCE: Quixtar Admits Google Bombing (

The goal in this case was to smother anti-Amway, anti-Quixtar sites, consumer protection groups (, eBooks about Amway and Quixtar (, Amway Quixtar story blogs (, and grassroots movements from ex-Amway or ex-Quixtar members ( that claim Amway or Quixtar is a Pyramid scheme, cult, or uses deceptive business practices.

Quixtar's attempt to drown those pesky negative information web sites in a sea of worthless and repetitive hits backfired and Google officially spanked Quixtar ( for its attempt to "Google bomb" the Internet's most popular search engine.

A search on Google for "Quixtar ( " will reveal that the site which formerly always held the number one search position dropped to the middle of the third page of search results.

The organized effort to manipulate search engine results was first brought to light by bloggers which detailed the offenses in an article "So Busted" (

Ironically the site that reported Quixtar's attempt to Google bomb now occupies the first search position under "Quixtar". In fact the first five hits for the term "Quixtar" are all information sites critical of the Quixtar business opportunity and their lines of sponsorship. The lesson of this failed coup is that unless you enjoy working your public relations department overtime and seek to reduce your bottom-line profits, don't Google bomb.

Quixtar's initiative to spam the internet included at least 54 Quixtar Blogs ( and numerous other bogus news sites or controlled news outlets (, character assassination blogs, adoration blogs, and various other pages in their multi pronged assault. Immediately after the exposure many of the blogs shut down or reduced their content.

Amway Quixtar also has independent lines of sponsorship which some happen to be the largest abusers of Google bombing. These "lines" are lead by Independent Business Owner often called IBOs, Quixtar Diamonds, Amway Crowns or kingpins such as Bill Britt ( of Britt Worldwide (, Dexter Yager (, Fred Harteis (, Orrin Woodward of Team (Team of Destiny ( and other Diamond IBOs.

These type business practices cost Google money and because they skew search engine results, they affect everyone. If you observe or suspect a company is involved in such bad business practices you can take action in many ways. Write the offending company or individual, get involved in groups that oppose deceptive business practices (, contact Your State Attorney General (, the better business bureau and/or blog your discoveries and observations.


!!! This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License, which means that you can copy and modify it as long as the entire work (including additions) remains under this license. See for details. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Google Bombing!!!


  • Google Bombing, The Word Spy:
    "Setting up a large number of Web pages with links that point to a specific Web site so that the site will appear near the top of a Google search when users enter the link text."

  • Google Bombing, Search Engine Dictionary

  • March 24, 2002: Google Bombing: Manipulation der Suchergebnisse, Heise:
    "Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung berichtet von einer Möglichkeit, die meistbenutzte Suchmaschine im Internet, Google, so zu manipulieren, dass sie bestimmte Inhalte aus dem Internet bevorzugt anzeigt."

  • March 13, 2002: Google hit by link bomber, BBC News:
    "Popular search site Google is being exploited by some net users to mount protests and play jokes on their friends."

  • March 3, 2002: Hiler, John, Google Time Bomb, Microcontent News:
    "Google and Weblogs seem inextricably tied together, as link-rich blogs are increasingly influencing the algorithms of Google's search engine."


John Kerry gets Google-Bombed!

John Kerry has been Google-Bombed with the word 'waffles'. His candidate's campaign website appears at the top of the result list when the word "waffles" is typed into Google.  This was achieved by Ken Jacobson, a Duquesne University Law School student, with the help of at least 44 other Web sites and blogs. Kerry's campaign is trying to capitalize on the prank by purchasing Google AdWords, sponsored links that come up beside results when people search for "waffles".

If you want to know more about how google bombs are being created, check out the overview over articles dealing with Googlebombing. I have also written an article about it in German. For more information on the Bush Google-Bomb "miserable failure" check out update 12. 

  • May 24, 2004: Ogles, Jacob, Kerry gets Google-Bombed, Wired:
    "With the Democratic presidential nomination clinched, John Kerry was bound to get Google-bombed."


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