One of the many quirks that we run into with search engine optimization is a phenomenon that is called a Google Bomb or Google Bombing. Simply put, a Web page inherits a value from the keywords used in the hyperlinks that point to the Web page. These keywords do influence a pages ranking and can be a powerful factor in determining the search results ranking of the receiving page for those specific keywords, even if the keywords do not appear anywhere on the web page or the entire web site.
The term Google Bomb first became popular when it was used as a political tool to boost the search engine rankings for certain derogatory keyword phrases used to negatively describe a political figure. George W. Bush became the first major victim when members of the opposing political party Google Bombed George Bush’s biography on the White House Web site with the keywords “miserable failure”. The same keywords have been used to Google Bomb John Kerry, Jimmy Carter’s biography and Michael Moore’s web site. If you do a search in Google using the keywords “miserable failure”, you could see these web pages in the top search results, even though the search phrase does not appear anywhere on the web page in their sites.
How many links does it take to set up a Google Bomb?
That would depend upon how competitive a particular keyword phrase is in Google’s database. At a minimum, it would take thousands of links from thousands of different domain names to boost a Web page to the number one slot with most popular search phrases. You could not accomplish this with a link on every page of a 5,000 page site, because Google tends to count all the links from a domain name as a single link. You would ideally have to have a single link from each of thousands of web sites to set up an effective Google Bomb. Each link would have to be a text hyperlink using the targeted phrase.
There is another keyword phrase that probably better illustrates how well a Google Bomb can work, even though this example is completely unintentional in nature. If you search for the phrase click here in any search engine the same web page always appears in the number one position, even though the words “click here” do not appear on the page. What’s the page? It’s the Adobe Acrobat Reader download page with 1,750,000,000 (yes, that is 1.7 billion links) links leading to the page, the bulk of which originate on pages with a links similar to “Click Here to Download Adobe Acrobat Reader”.
Getting Users to Link to Your Site
The best way to get users to link to a Web site is to offer something that is free, unique and desirable. Many Web sites offer online tools that provide valuable insight or information to a user. Freebie e-books or a report that provides useful information sometimes works very well.
The real question is how to get thousands of Web sites to each set up a single link to your site. There are link building services that can accomplish this, but the cost would be phenomenally expensive. The answer may be in a method that invites users to set up links to a site. It’s called viral marketing.
Viral marketing spreads awareness of a unique online tool, humorous video, freebie item or something very interesting to a wide range of users. Most of the inbound links that are generated may originate in blogs and small web sites. Typically, the feature must be unique and desirable and be something that would cause most users to say, “COOL!”
Viral marketing can sometimes spread awareness of a Web site on a worldwide basis in a matter of days. If you intend to initiate a viral marketing program, you must be prepared to deal with a potentially huge volume of users that can overwhelm and shut a Web site down in a matter of hours. This visitor volume tends to drop off in a few weeks, but most of the links pointing to the Web site remain in articles and blogs, sometimes for a long time. Today, the most common viral marketing initiators are humorous videos and Adobe Flash cartoons. If you have a funny bone and want to share your humor with others, you could set off a Google Bomb that can drive your web site to a top ranking position.
Matt Cutts, one of Google’s engineers, recently mentioned in his blog that Google has fixed the Google Bomb issue. Indeed, a search for “miserable failure” no longer produces the same set of politically-oriented results. However, a search for "click here" still returns the Adobe Acrobat Reader page in the number one slot. I suspect that this is due to a threshold of perhaps millions of links that must be reached before the Google Bomb filter kicks in. Perhaps there are exclusions written into Google’s code. Nonetheless, viral marketing campaigns should theoretically still be safe to use to drive traffic to your Web site.