Friday, June 10, 2005

Google Bombing and SEOs

(If you haven't already, read my last post with the screenshot)

Webmasters are constantly trying to find ways to outsmart search engines. This has led to the definition of 'SEO' as 'Search Engine Optimizer'.

Most people, quite rightly, target Google as the main search engine, and concentrate on getting their listing to the first place on SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages :-) ).

These SEOs have been marketing themselves to businesses, claiming that they have the expertise to get a site to the top of the listings. They have created these meaningless acronyms, and try to sound as if they know what they are talking about.

In reality, rather than paying a flat-fee, or even a monthly subscription, there is nothing you can't do yourself.

But look at it this way for a moment. Google's only aim is to get the most relevant website into the top of the search results when the user searches for a particular thing. If you are the most relevant website, you will get to the top. If you aren't, you might get there eventually, with the help of an SEO, but you will soon be over-taken by other, more relevant sites. In short, there is no easy way to fool Google, or any other search engine for that matter.

There is one way however, which takes advantage of the way Google associates words with pages.

If I wanted my page to come at the top whenever a user typed in 'cheap cars', I could fill my page up with the words 'cheap cars' all over. But perhaps, I'm not selling cars, and I'm not who I say I am. For this reason, Google and other search engines do not take half as much notice of what YOU put on YOUR site. Instead, they like to see other sites linking to yours, and then they check what they say about you.

If the 'cheap cars' was a ploy to get people to your margarine website (sorry about the examples ;-) ), any other sites that link to you will not say 'Click here to buy cheap cars'. Instead they will say 'Click here to visit a margarine website'. Much more reliable in Google's eyes. After all, you can easily fiddle what it says on your site, but you can't fiddle what other people's sites say about you.

It comes down to the link text that is important. Although Google do use their patented PageRank technology (PR), this only decides roughly where you will come in the listings when the user types in your keywords. The keywords that Google associates with your site are the words in the links that link to you.

For this reason, try to dissuade people who link to you from putting 'Click here' as the link text. Google will ignore that, because it occurs so frequently, they know the words are not associated with your site in particular. Ask them to make the text of the link the words that you envisage your customers typing into Google when they want to find your website.

An example of how effective this technique can be came up quite recently, and it was termed 'Google Bombing'. Google Bombing is when people make links to a site to make Google associate words with a site that are usually ironic, or (to them) funny.

The most recent example is the one I posted a screenshot of in my last post. Typing the word 'failure' into Google, or even 'miserable failure' brings up President Bush's biography as the first result.

The most influential web pages on the internet are blogs. They keep changing, so Google can always tell what is in at that time, and what is being talked about. This means that they know what people are most likely to be searching for, and what sites they want to see. The problem Google Bombs have, is that the links will soon disappear from the front pages of blogs, and Bush may one day lose his 'failure' status.

Some of the sites that link to Bush's biography can be found here:
Pages linking to George W. Bush's Biography (not all sites contain the word failure but most do)
Weapons of Mass Destruction
(A previous, now extinct, Google bomb, which brought up this page [follow the link] when the words 'weapons of mass destruction' were searched for)

This technique has been known to be used by companies to attack competitors sites, and rank them for keywords that ave nothing to do with their site.

The solution, everyone claims, is for Google to check that the words in the link text actually appear on the target site. This way unless the word 'failure' was in GW Bush's biography, it would not work. Either way, people argue, this unfair situation needs to be sorted out.

Find out more:
Yooter (discovered the bomb)
Razvan Antonescu's blog
BBC Report