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Google Bombs, Jew Watch News & the Hypocritical Linking Universe

Marty Weintraub
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One person's Google bomb is another's SEO solution: a concerted effort to enhance a site's organic prominence by effective use of anchor text in outbound links from other relevant authority sites. Google rewards us when done "naturally," defuses some "bombs" by hand (amidst semi-automatic hoopla), and leaves others alone.

SEOs are thinking about link building in light of Google's hypocritical and imperfect solutions for the impossible problems surrounding using links to determine relevancy. Since much of SEO is based on anchor text bombing (AKA SEO), does Google allow some Google bombs based on a corporate public relations agenda and defuse the rest? How can Google possibly avoid the intertwined politics of some bombs?

What exactly is the fine line between acceptable link building, paid linking, good SEO and black hat Google bombs? How does Google's taste, editorial discretion, or standardized algorithmic hooks affect their perception as to whether a pattern is "natural" or not? The folks that work at Google are human.

Google Bombs & Politics

One of the most volatile Google bombs began in April 2004, when hate site Jew Watch News lit up mainstream and SEM media. Coverage included SEO Roundtable's Hate Sites Ranks # 1 for "Jew", SearchEngineWatch's Google In Controversy Over Top-Ranking For Anti-Jewish Site and the Anti Defamation League's post, ADL Praises Google for Responding to Concerns About Rankings of Hate Sites.

The New York Times covered the controversy reporting that Google had "no plans to change search results" and ZDnet noted that Google was "caught in an anti-Semitism flap." Wow, that was a lot of heat on Google.

The solution for supporters of Jews was a successful Google bomb that lives today, continued from before Google bombs were so uncool.

You see, back in day it was called "SEO." In a 2004 letter from Google to the Anti defamation League, Sergey Brin apologized for the "upsetting nature" of the presence of Jew Watch News in the SERPs for that query. Google promised to "look at various technical modifications – specifically for categories and other auxiliary information." Then they stood by and watched a massive Google bomb unfold before their eyes.

Now 4 years later, Jew Watch News is down to the 3rd organic position below two Wikipedia listings for the query Jew. The lowered result for the site came over time partially as a result of the long-term bombing effort organized in public by Jewish community supporters, aimed at bolstering the organic prominence of Wikipedia's /Jew tag. The tactic was brilliant and timeless industrial espionage.

A Word for the Uninitiated

Google bombing is a technique whereby many Web sites (often blogs) collude to build outbound links, using anchor text designed to increase the relevancy of the target site for the keywords in the anchor text. Usually that happens as a result of a social media push, be it by e-mail, IM, Facebook chatter, or other.

Anchor text means the actual word(s) the link is set on. The most famous (now defused) Google Bomb was when many links anchored on the keyword "miserable failure" caused President George W. Bush's bio on whitehouse.gov to appear atop the organic SERPs for that query.

Good SEO or Nasty Bomb

Google the word "Jew" today and you'll discover Google's historic solution to the bomb atop the page, an "offensive result" explanation in the #1 AdWords position.

jewwatchnews

The Offensive Result document explains "If you recently used Google to search for the word "Jew," you may have seen results that were very disturbing. We assure you that the views expressed by the sites in your results are not in any way endorsed by Google. We'd like to explain why you're seeing these results when you conduct this search."

Since 2004, in order to diminish Jew Watch's dominance, interested linkers executed a Google Bomb on the keyword "Jew," even to the point of creating a public call to "Help bury JewWatch.com on the last page in Google!!"

There was even an easy interface for amenable Google-bombers to one-click link out to Wikipedia on the anchor text "Jew." According to the public record, Wiki tag "/Jew" has more than twice the inbound Google links of "/Christian," three times as many as "/Muslim," and incinerates "/American." Is there any question that this is a Google bomb? Umm, is THAT a natural linking pattern? For the last 4 years, rhetoric has been raging as Jews all over the world were encouraged in congregation newsletters and from pulpits to "link, LINK OUT, my brethren and push these evil results down the SERPs."

Good SEO Requires Us to Bomb Google

Everyone knows organic prominence is heavily dependent on the algorithmic quality and quantity of a site's inbound linking profile. There are many known and black-box attributes which define Google's analysis of a site's profile, none as rife for SEO mastery (or abuse) than anchor text. Luminaries preach that linking patterns must be "natural" and paid links are out because they foul up the stew. In the post paid-link-PageRank-jihad era, SEOs must concern themselves with being stealthy.

Sure, it's nearly impossible to imagine a scenario where Google could fully enforce this new police state. Still we toe the line. Some sites thumb their nose. Other serious journalists stick to the paid link model, and who gives a rat about precious PageRank? It's utterly ludicrous that aimClearBlog has the same PR as SERoundtable in anyone's world. I can't wait to see mine go down to 2 now.

Matt Cutts indicated that defusing Google bombs is not based on a "live" algorithm and is "not run every day." Therefore Google must exercise some editorial discretion in light of every newly alleged bomb, even if starting the evaluation by hand. They face a no-win road wrought with peril.

Today in Duluth, Cornwall, New York, London, Berlin and Louisville, SEOs are huddled by the glow of computer light building links to pump organic prominence and drive traffic. Every quality link harvested is a perfect little mini-bomb, pointing towards the destination URL with energy and clarifying anchor text. Some SEOs are entrenched in social media and others finding clever ways to sew "natural" paid links into seemingly benign content. Others crank out eZine articles or specialize in LinkedIn Dofollow gimmies. Whatever, it's all good.

Some among us use mass-produced anchor text art to blow competitors down the SERPs, crank our clients' sites, engage in social activism, and play practical jokes. It seems that anything goes so long as it is defensibly "natural," whatever that means. Sometimes Google lets unnatural patterns go if the political hot potatoes are just too hot.

Obviously the anchor text police can't be fully automated, are subject to human intervention/judgment, and the sheer magnitude of the anchor text universe is incredibly vast. Search engines are like divorce laws; imperfect solutions to impossible problems.


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