Monday, 30 April 2007

Google manipulation

We have been doing a bit of work recently in class about search engine optimisation. I was interested to read a story on the BBC website which pointed out how easy it can be to manipulate search engines. The writer points to a recent example concerning Google. Until recently (I'm assuming it's been fixed), if you typed in 'miserable failure', the official George Bush page on the White House site was top of the list!

How did it happen? Search engines operate on the premise that relevancy of a particular site is related to how many external links there are to it. An underground blogger movement picked up on this and created a 'link bomb', encouraging people to link to the page and label it 'miserable failure'. The search engines were not at first at liberty to censor any such attempts, so off it went on its merry way. A similar stunt was pulled recently using the term 'liar' and Tony Blair's homepage.

One drawback is the fact the link bombs end up being 'self defeating'; the more successful they become, the more people talk about it on the web and other sites end up become more 'relevant' in search engine terms than the orginial bomb.

Google has since modfied its functions to spot link bombs but other search engines have not yet done so, so you can still get George Bush under the search term 'miserable failure'.

In corporate terms, the report discusses the example of BMW Germany which was blacklisted by Google in February 2006. The site consisted of keywords which could not be seen by customers but could be seen by search engines, purely to bump it up the list. Google has rules to guard against such tactics and dropped it from their search results. The site has since been redesigned. The report refers to this as an 'uneasy truce' between the search engines and the optimisers who are trying to cheat the system to their advantage.


John Rowlands said...

Hmmmm, this sounds awfully technical to me. Well done!

This also sounds like the search engine optimisation equivalent of flogging, fabricating the nature and manipulating the content of an ICT's purpose. I think its marvellous!

Moreover, I think a lot of other people do to. The internet nutters still think they should basically be able to do whatever they want on-line, relatively unregulated, with the idea that this domain is not that of the corporation or establishment. There are probbly more good things to come from that than bad.

Can you tell I'm really, really reaching here?

Evi said...

Hey Nic!

Interesting post indeed. In my point of view once again is proved that the fact that the new media give access to everyone is not only their strong weapon, but their Achille's heel as well. Everyone can intervene and corrupt the image of a company, individual or even governments. The fact that Google fell "victim" to such practises proves that the power of the new technologies can be harmful in some cases. But we shouldn't forget that SEO is a useful tool for PR and the practitioners should lay emphasis on it, in order to increase their brand's visibility.

ps: if you type "miserable failure" now in Google, on top of the list are bbc, Wikipedia and several bloggers commenting on the issue:-)...

Nic said...

I agree. More power to the people can only be good!

Deborah Findlay said...

This is truly marvelous I am going to search engine optimise myself so that when people type in beautiful brunette I appear on their screen just for laughs.

I totaly agree with John about the internet nutters, when will they realise that the internet is no longer radical it is part of the establishment, it is the norm. People who do not use the net are the ones who are radical loonies.

Just look at how many footprints you leave on the net just by surfing a few pages, this is how bad nasty people are caught.

These people should get over themselves and find something else to rant about.

Howabout Elvis truely is alive! He is above me right now.