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Google bomb

(also Googlewashing, Google bombing)

Google bomb definition

A Google bomb refers to manipulating search engine results to rank a page highly for unrelated search terms. The phrase came into popular use in the early 2000s. However, Google has since implemented algorithms to detect and counteract Google bombing.

See also: URL redirection attack, DNS redirection

How a Google bomb works

  • Link manipulation. The main way to create a Google bomb is to get many sites to link to a page using the same anchor text (the clickable text in a hyperlink). This anchor text is usually unrelated to the actual content of the page.
  • Coordination. Achieving a Google bomb often needs many people working together to influence Google's algorithm.
  • Algorithm exploitation. The tactic exploits how old search engines relied on links and anchor text as strong signals of a page's content and relevance.

Motivation behind Google bombs

  • Political or social commentary. Many Google bombs have been created as a form of protest or to make a satirical point about a public figure or policy.
  • Fun and challenge. Some people have used Google bombing simply to experiment with search engine algorithms or as a prank.
  • Highlighting algorithm vulnerabilities. Some Google bombs were made to show the flaws in search engine algorithms and lead to improvements.
  • Attention. Google bombing can draw significant media and public attention, and some may use it for publicity or to promote a particular message.

Notable cases of Google bombs

  • “Miserable failure.” One of the most famous Google bombs, this search phrase led to the biography of U.S. President George W. Bush. This was a coordinated effort by critics of his policies in the early 2000s.
  • “French military victories.” This prank redirected users searching for “French military victories” to a page suggesting they might have meant “French military defeats.”
  • “Weapons of mass destruction.” This Google bomb pointed users to a fake error page, stating that “weapons of mass destruction” could not be found. The joke referenced the controversy surrounding the Iraq War.
  • “Great technical support.” This search phrase was ironically linked to Microsoft's homepage as a comment on the quality of their technical support.