The latest stunt in a game between Google and activists, known as “Googlebombing,” has been going on, with tech savvy individuals gaming Google to influence the search rankings.
The most current exploit, there are a number of posts on Reddit that associate Trump’s name, photo and the word “idiot.” These posts are receiving tens of thousands of upvotes, which is used by Google as an important ranking signal. There are media posts, including Fortune, The Hill and The Guardian (and others) that are writing about the story that is also influencing the placement of images in search results.
This manipulation of search results has a long history, with the most well known Googlebombing taking place in December of 2003, where if users searched for “miserable failure,” they’d get bring up the official biography of then-president, George W Bush. This was the grassroots campaign urging webmasters from around the web to link to the whitehouse.gov biography page with the words “miserable failure” as anchor text.
According to an official Google blog post, who took their time fixing the results, said this: “Google’s search results are generated by computer programs that rank web pages in large part by examining the number and relative popularity of the sites that link to them. By using a practice called googlebombing, however, determined pranksters can occasionally produce odd results. We don’t condone the practice of googlebombing, or any other action that seeks to affect the integrity of our search results, but we’re also reluctant to alter our results by hand in order to prevent such items from showing up. Pranks like this may be distracting to some, but they don’t affect the overall quality of our search service, whose objectivity, as always, remains the core of our mission.”
Interestingly, Bing search results don’t appear to have been influenced by the manipulation efforts that have resulted in Google prominently featuring pictures of Trump in image search results. Although in the following image, although some of the images are politically related, for the most part, the seemed to be normal images and memes.
Google has a history of fixing these exploits algorithmically, so, more than likely, you’ll see these results much longer. Fili Wiese, a Search Engine Land author who spent years working within Google, helping to shape the company’s ranking algorithms and spam policies, said, “They do have something that has probably not kicked in yet, and is likely to do so in the coming days. Not to worry, it will likely not work soon again.”
Want to learn more about Googlebombing and some of the crazy results that have cropped up over the years? Take a look at Search Engine Land’s Link Building: Google Bombs & Link Bombs archives.