While not an actual weapon per se, a Google bomb can certainly do some damage– but they have only been “set off” infrequently, and don’t target “civilians.”
In short, a Google bomb results from the group effort of many individuals who link to a site using a key phrase– this creates an artificial “importance” for that particular site when that particular search phrase is used.
A famous bomb
The most well known example of Google bombing occurred during the presidency of George W. Bush. Through the collective efforts of individuals, the search phrase “miserable failure” was “bombed”– resulting in the then president’s biography listed as the top result when an user typed the search phrase “miserable failure.” Enough anonymous individuals had linked to the biography using the words “miserable failure” that they fooled the Google search engine.
Google bombs like the one aimed at our 43d president are fueled in a large part by PageRank. PageRank is one of Google’s biggest tools in learning how important a web page is. It relies, among other things, on the words people use to link sources on the web. When people create a link on their site or blog to another site or blog, Google assumes that the label they give the hyperlink is in direct reference to the site they’re linking to.
For instance, if you create a link to a New York Times article using a certain word or phrase, Google will take that into account and note the other words or phrases that other people use when they link to the same article. If that word or phrase is “Best. Hair. Ever.” and enough people used it in their hyperlinks, that New York Times article will be one of the top hits on Google for the search phrase “Best. Hair. Ever.”
This works well if it’s accurate. But of course, there are ways to jerry-rig the system– as George W and some other unfortunate celebrities have found.
Bombing for fun
A more friendly version of Google bombing also takes place as a kind of “sport” in which search engine aficionados (and people with a lot of time on their hands) have competed to see who can earn the highest search result ranking for a nonsense phrase.
The SEO lessons behind Google bombing
Clearly, Google bombing is not an activity we encourage at LocalFresh. But it does share valuable lessons for our clients– namely, the high value that the Google algorithm places on hyperlinks. When you link to another site, or you create your own back-link, never use the words “click here!” that gives Google no information about your content!
For the best SEO, create thoughtful hyperlinks that accurately, if briefly, describe the content of the linked article or page.