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Google bombing is the practice of enhancing any website’s SEO profile by repeatedly inputting the keyword associated with the destination. With enough mass participation, Google bombing can bump the desired content to a higher page ranking in search results. This somewhat subversive practice can be employed for a variety of purposes: to drive traffic to a business, share political ideology, or even just for the lulz.
The first known Google Bomb was in 1999. When a user searched for the terms “more evil than Satan himself,” Microsoft came up as the top result. This was an immensely popular trick at the time, though the originator of this particular Google Bomb is not known.
September 2000 marked the first Google Bomb with a clear creator. The long-gone Hugedisk Men’s Magazine linked the text “dumb motherfucker” to a site selling George W. Bush merchandise. After a fair amount of publicity the George W. Bush-related merchandise site retained lawyers and sent a cease and desist letter to Hugedisk, thereby ending the phenomenon. The event was covered on Wired in January 2001.
The term “Google Bombing”
Adam Mathes is credited with coining Google Bombing when he used it in an April 2001 article with the online magazine uber.nu. In the article, Mathes details his connection of the search term “talentless hack” to his friend Andy Pressman’s website. He also recruited fellow webloggers to link to his friend’s page with the term. Despite that, Archimedes Plutonium is known to have used the phrase “search engine bombing” (and variants, including “searchengine bombing” and “searchenginebombed”) on Usenet as early as 1997.
The phrase Google Bombing was introduced to the New Oxford American Dictionary in May 2005.
Other successful examples of Google Bombing
The Google Bomb has also been used as a way of performing a ‘hit-and-run’ media attack on popular topics. Such attacks include Anthony Cox’s attack in 2003. He created a parody of the “404 – page not found” browser error message in response to the war in Iraq. The page was set up identical to a standard Internet Explorer 404 page but was titled “These Weapons of Mass Destruction cannot be displayed.” This website could be found as one of the top hits on Google after the start of the war in Iraq.
Another successful Google Bomb would appear when a users would search for the term “worst band in the world.” From 2006-2008, Google would suggest the user to “See results for: Creed.” The creator of this Bomb is unknown. It was added to Digg in 2006 and covered on the LA Times blog in 2008.
4Chan targeted pop star Justin Bieber with a Google bomb in June 2010. On 4Chan’s /b/ message board, a 4Chan user said:
“Go to Google and search ‘Justin Bieber Syphilis’. Let’s get this to be No. 1 searched phrase on Google Trends. Use an autoclicker or macro if possible and get others involved. Unlike a death rumor, this will be hard for him to disprove.”
Justin Bieber did not have syphilis, but when “Justin Bieber Syphilis” made it to #1, the blogosphere began to buzz. It was covered by Gawker, Celebrity Smack, Trending Daily, and even the San Francisco Gate.
Other search engines
Other search engines use similar techniques to rank results, so Yahoo!, AltaVista, and HotBot are also affected by Google Bombs. According to the Wikipedia page on Google Bombing, a search for “miserable failure” or “failure” on 29 September 2006 brought up the official George W. Bush biography as the number one hit on Google, Yahoo! and MSN and number two hit on Ask.com. On 2 June 2005, Yooter reported that George Bush was ranked first for the keyword ‘miserable’, ‘failure’ and ‘miserable failure’ on both Google and Yahoo!, Google has since addressed this and disarmed the George Bush Google Bomb.