Thursday, March 1, 2012
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A Google bomb is not just another piece of internet jargon, but quite a powerful tool when it comes to influencing the results of search-engine queries. While Google bombing isn't massively widespread, it has nonetheless appeared in a number of well-known incidents, often those affecting celebrities or politicians. It remains a concern for those involved in website SEO.
So what exactly is a Google bomb? A Google bomb occurs when a large number of websites link to a particular site by using the same anchor text. This anchor text can be anything as long as it's consistent throughout a wide number of websites. These sites could all be set up by the same party in some cases, simply to enable the Google bomb.
This anchor text is often an insult or funny comment related to the target website. When the phrase contained in the anchor text is searched for, the results will list the target site prominently, thanks to the ways in which Google's ranking algorithms work. This will occur because of the way in which the anchor text links have been set up, even if the phrase actually used for the link has no relevance to the content of the main website.
Google bombs are possibly only a trend in website SEO and sometimes occur purely as the result of accidents. They can, for example, happen if the anchor text used on many websites to link to a particular site is a common phrase such as 'click here'. However, they can be offensive and may affect the reputations of companies or individuals targeted by a well-orchestrated Google bomb. Internet search companies therefore take steps to make achieving a Google bomb considerably harder.
The search-giant Google has already addressed the issue of Google bombs originating out of website comment sections by highlighting the need to respect the part of a hyperlink that reads 'arel="nofollow". Since 2005, Google's PageRank has ignored any links that have this attribute and the administrators of comment boards can alter links to include it. The result is that these links can't be used as part of Google bombs.
Google bombs aren't limited to Google alone and other search engines, namely Yahoo and Bing, have taken steps to prevent them. Yahoo, for example, took out a patent for a process that employs a sentiment analysis to identify when Google bombs may be occurring. In particular, if the sentiment of the anchor text in question is negative in nature and the nature of the target website being linked to is positive, the links are ignored by the search engine when answering a query. The same would be the case should the anchor text be positive and the destination site more negative in nature.
Bing now powers Yahoo searches, so the sentiment-analysis method has not been fully tested or implemented. However, some commentators believe Google may use sentiment analysis to fight Google bombs themselves.
A final method could involve further analysis of web links, as performed by Google in their fight against Google bombs. The search giant was able to gain an increased understanding of how these links led to Google bombs. It was able to direct search results for the phrases used in the anchor text to actual discussions of Google bombs, rather than to the site targeted by the Google bombers. Although Google bombing isn't a hugely common problem, it has still not been entirely solved.