Junk flyers in your mailbox. Telephone calls at dinner time. Mudslinging tv and radio ads. We’ve all been subjected to these types of marketing campaigns for politicians for years. Like most forms of marketing, we’re receptive to some more than others.
But political marketers – although right now it seems to manifest itself at the grass roots level – have a new arrow in their quiver: Google bombing. Google bombing consists of selecting a search term or search phrase, usually negative, and getting a site that you do not own or manage to rank highly in the search engines for that phrase.
The most famous example is “miserable failure”. If you do a Google search for “miserable failure”, you will see the first link shows up is George W. Bush’s bio page on the official White House Web site. Similar tactics have been used to push up Web sites for John Kerry and Al Gore for “waffles” and “miserable loser”, respectively.
Here’s how it works. Search engine optimization, or seo, is the process of getting Web sites to rank higher across the major search terms for various terms. While Google, Yahoo!, and MSN’s Live.com all have different formulae for ranking sites, they all use a large number of variables – up to 100 or more – to determine their rankings.
Even though the formulae, or algorithms, are all different, two items weigh heavily in their rankings: relevant content, and link quantity / quality.
Google bombing focuses heavily on the second item. By getting hundreds or thousands or hundreds of thousands of sites and blogs to write some text with the keyword in question and then link that keyword to the site they’re targeting, they can achieve their desired effect.
Today comes news of bloggers trying to band together to Google bomb George Allen’s campaign. The goal of the allied bloggers is to get an unflattering CBS news article to return the top ranking when a user searches for “George Allen”.
Google says it has changed its algorithm to make such bombing more difficult. Will the bloggers succeed? Track it yourself. Do a “George Allen” search on Google over the next couple weeks until election day to see what shows up.