The 11 Most Infamous Google Bombs In History
Google bombing is a practise whereby a specific web page is targeted to rank in 1st position in the SERPs for a particular search phrase, so that when that phrase is typed in Google it brings often humorous or controversial results. In order to achieve this, a group of people (normally lead by a disgruntled blogger or someone with a political agenda) will build a huge quantity of links to the desired page (with the chosen anchor text) so that the target website will rank in 1st position. Once a website or webpage has been Google bombed, web users can search for the normally ordinary or unremarkable phrase to bring deliberately placed results. Occasionally the results of a Google bomb are hilarious, others are thought provoking, and some are just plain unfortunate (see ‘completely wrong’ below).
Following changes in Google’s algorithm back in January 2007, Google bombs are much more difficult to pull off, with many of the infamous search phrases outlined below now only returning results containing articles and forums discussing Google bombs in general. So with your linking and social sharing help let’s see if we can get this very blog post ranking for ‘dangerous cult’! ;)
Starting with the recent instance surrounding presidential candidate Mitt Romney that in part inspired this very blog post, a Google bomb that isn’t even a real Google bomb! Type in ‘completely wrong’ as a Google Image search and your results will be populated by images of Republican Mitt Romney, who is obviously ‘completely wrong’ about a lot of things – and that’s Google’s opinion, not mine ;). As amusing as this is, a genuine Google bomb it is not. Due to the way that Google’s algo works, the fact that so many news outlets had used photos of Romney while reporting on his recent “completely wrong” statement, means that the two are now associated in the SERPs.
Why one might decide to Google the phrase ‘find chuck norris’ is beyond me, but if you’re that way inclined (Chuck Norris inclined, not THAT way inclined) then hit the ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ button which takes you to Arran Schlosberg’s site NoChuckNorris.com. Designed to look like a Google results page, you receive the wonderful ‘error’ message “Google won’t search for Chuck Norris because it knows you don’t find Chuck Norris, he finds you.” A simple and effective Google bomb.
Perhaps the most well-known Google bomb of all time was this bomb targeting then US President George W Bush, who’s biography page on the White House website was the top result when searching for ‘miserable failure’. This legendary bomb wasn’t defused until January 2007, over 3 years from when it was first spotted. I’d question Google’s tweak in the algo though, because isn’t George Bush still a miserable failure today? Perhaps that page was hit with an unnatural link warning? I can just see the GWT warning now – “Dear Webmaster of whitehouse.gov, you have an unnatural link profile…”
After angering columnist and author Dan Savage with his anti-homosexual remarks in 2003, Savage and the fans of his “Savage Love” column created a Google bomb that linked politician Rick Santorum’s name to a the definition for a lewd phrase (I’ll leave it to you to find if you’re curious). Santorum complained about his ‘Google problem’ in 2011, which predictably, only caused more people to discover the Google bomb. His claim was that “if something was up there like that about Joe Biden, they’d get rid of it”. Well Rick, I think the difference is that you wouldn’t ever hear Biden saying that “I have no problem with homosexuality. I have a problem with homosexual acts.” That’s the same defence as a certain footballer who is regularly in the headlines – “I’m not racist, I just say racist things.”
French Military Victories
Similar to the aforementioned Chuck Norris landing page, the ‘french military victories’ + ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ search brought this rather amusing result: “Did you mean: french military defeats”, and of course no other results to speak of. Even as a half-Frenchman myself, I can’t help but snigger.
Despite Google’s claim that they had put an end to Google bombing in January 2007, a full year later a search for ‘dangerous cult’ would return Scientology.org as the top result. Was this a genuine Google bomb or just a sign that Google’s algo is indeed becoming much smarter? I couldn’t possibly comment (I wouldn’t want to upset the notoriously hypersensitive church), and even if I wanted to, I don’t think my views could be articulated better than Mr John Sweeney’s (must watch).
In April 2006 if you were to type ‘buffone’ (clown, in Italian) into Google, the top result would have been Silvio Berlusconi’s website. Wait, this isn’t a Google bomb either, is it?!
As recently as February 2011 a Google search for the phrase ‘murder’ delivered the Wikipedia article for ‘Abortion’ as the 2nd most relevant result. Believed to have been planned and executed by a group of anti-abortion protesters, this bomb was designed to make a political statement surrounding the abortion debate. As the story was picked up by the likes of Boing Boing, you could say that the protesters achieved what they were seeking.
“Trou du cul du web” (or “The A**hole of the Internet” for the non-French speaking amongst you) was the generous phrase used to Google bomb the French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s website in 2009. Many would argue that Sarkozy is not *only* a ‘trou du cul’ of the internet.
Controversial American political commentator Bill O’Reilly’s website began ranking in 1st position for the phrase ‘terrorist sympathizer’ back in 2005. Bill managed to offend most of the American population (he always offends some of them, this time it was all of them) by welcoming Al Qaeda to ‘blow up the Coit Tower’ in San Francisco. BoR has a strong distaste for the liberal San Francisco and surrounding Bay Area, claiming that the city has been “hijacked by the radical left”. Really. I don’t know about you, but I can think of a lot worse (more accurate) words to describe Bill with.
Last but by certainly no means least; god bothering Christian rockers were victim of being christened (pun intended) the ‘worst band in the world’ in the Google SERPs. What’s perhaps even more embarrassing is that when searching for that specific term, Google offered users the chance to ‘See results for creed’- burn. I always knew that Matt Cutts was more of a Papa Roach kinda guy. Creed for those of you are unfamiliar, were a popular (in the States at least, their impact was minimal in the UK) rock band who were even able to rob a Grammy from the hands of the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2001 (Creed’s ‘Arms Wide Open’ was apparently a better rock song than ‘Californication’…). Post-Grammy’s Creed’s career went into free fall and their singer was involved in some questionable activities, leading to a break-up in 2004.
July 2018 Update!
Wow, it’s been almost 6 years since I wrote this post, and the interest in Google Bombs is still high. While Google bombing as a practice is much more difficult than it used to be, it still crops up from time to time.
Just recently the Guardian reported that a Google image search of the word ‘idiot’, brought images of Donald Trump. As illustrated by the above screenshot, over a week on and this is still the case – several of the images above the fold are of ‘the Don’ or of his lovely sons. This apparently started as a (happy) accident, with Trump protestors trying to get Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’ to the top of the charts in time for the President’s recent visit to the UK, but once the Reddit crowd got wind of it, it became ‘a thing’.
However, our Head of Content Mark Porter is skeptical that Reddit upvotes have any impact on ranking –
Fake news or not, it’s heartening to see that the Google Bomb lives on!