Posted January 26, 2007 9:29 am by with 26 comments

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Google has announced they’ve made some changes to their algorithm to try to identify and suppress the instances of Googlebombs (when many people link to the same page with the same keyword, in an attempt to get that page to rank for an obscure or insulting phrase).

By improving our analysis of the link structure of the web, Google has begun minimizing the impact of many Googlebombs. Now we will typically return commentary, discussions, and articles about the Googlebombs instead….the extra effort to find a good algorithm helps detect Googlebombs in many different languages.

Ok, that’s a great effort. No one really benefits from seeing a Googlebomb listed in the search results, but what does this do for your link building efforts?

I’m not a “Link Ninja“, but know enough about linking to get the job done. Most webmasters go out and try to obtain as many links as possible, using the same anchor-text, in an attempt to rank well for that keyword. Expert link builders know the value of mixing up link efforts, including varying destination pages and anchor text, but it strikes me that many web sites could see themselves caught up in the new algo, and lose ranking for certain keywords.

Anyone care to comment, help me understand just exactly how Google might be able to figure out how to ONLY filter Googlebombs without innocent bystanders getting caught-up in the mix? Maybe a link to Matt Cutts’ post will trigger his Cutts-sense, and he’ll stop by to explain in more detail.

  • DazzlinDonna

    My assumption is: If number of links with same anchor text is greater than X, and that anchor text phrase is not on page (or some reasonable variation of that phrase), then nuke it.

  • I have some theorizing in my post:

    Defusing The Google-Bomb – And Maybe Reigniting It

    And I’m promoting a test using associated words, i.e. link using “George Bush: Miserable Failure”:

    George Bush: “Miserable Failure”

  • Dazzlin – there’s a danger with that. It’s an extreme example, but search “laptop” on Google. Apple is #1 without a single mention of the word on the page. It doesn’t mention “notebook” either.

  • DazzlinDonna

    Well, Google often throws the baby out with the bathwater, so danger isn’t necessarily a stopping point. However, since Apple is still #1 for that, then either my theory is wrong (quite possible) or their algo is faulty.

  • Yeah, it’s going to be tough to figure out how they can do it without messing with non-googlebomb results.

  • DazzlinDonna

    Perhaps there’s a time element involved as well. If x number of links happen within a short time frame, its a bomb…if they are spread out over a long period of time, it’s natural.

  • agerhart

    >>>Perhaps there’s a time element involved as well.

    I don’t think that would be an effective algorithm.

    It would make sense to have this part of the algorithm look for relationships in the anchor text to the site. So if the number of inbound links with the same anchor text is X% in relation to the entire set of inbound links, throw a flag. If the anchor text in question has no thematic relationship to the overall website, devalue the inbound links and anchor text.

    This would allow a site like to continue to rank for “laptop” even though the keyword appears no where on the page.

  • Andy, your last two posts go hand in hand as I see it.

  • Hypertext analysis might treat anchor text as metadata that makes a page being pointed at to be seen as relevant for the anchor text phrase.

    An impact of this algorithmic change is that anchor text will no longer be considered as useful meta data if the phrase isn’t on the page pointed at, but…

    A number of the patent applications written by Google’s Anna Patterson on her Phrase Based Indexing talk about using a method like this to eliminate Google bombing. They add that if the phrase used in the anchor text is a “related” phrase that it may still have some impact:

    If the anchor phrase A does not appear in the body of URL1 (as in FIG. 8a), then a different step is taken to determine the inlink score. In this case, the indexing system 110 creates a related phrase bit vector for URL1 for phrase A (as if phrase A was present in URL1) and indicating which of the related phrases of phrase A appear in URL1. This related phrase bit vector is then used as the inlink score for the link from URL0 to URL1.

    See the section labeled “Document Annotation for Improved Ranking” in Phrase-based indexing in an information retrieval system. Matt Cutts stated that he can’t confirm or deny the use of bit vectors like this, in a response to me at Search Engine Land, and it’s possible that the method described by Anna Patterson isn’t being used. But, it’s also possible that it is, and it is worth thinking about and discussing.

  • Interesting. I actually thought about this earlier and concluded that relevancy must come into this filter. And then one would have to presume there is some threshold that has to be crossed before the filter will kick in. Not quite as simple as grater than x I imagine, but something along those lines.

    I think the truth will surface sooner or later as we see if other sites are affected by this. One thing seems apparent though, this seems to be a binary filter. You’re either in or out. I wasn’t able to find in the top 400 places for ‘miserable failure’.

    Somewhat related, an Irish Google bomb for the phrase ‘telecoms poodle’, which points at the Irish telecoms regulator, is still in tact. I presume this is because of the relevant word ‘telecoms’ in the phrase.

  • I would assume a lot of it has to do with sitewides as well with the exact same anchor text. In all the instances of Google bombing I have seen there has always been a lot of ROS involved. I just checked 5 different phrases where I knew bombing was taking place and all were gone. Bush was one of them.

  • Andy,

    This is wonderful! This could be the best thing that Google has done in some time. The idea that anyone can cause a page to rank for something that is totally irrelevant is preposterous, and if a page doesn’t have relevance, regardless if a link says so, it shouldn’t rank for it.

    Now, if they could only devalue the uTube videos that shouldn’t rank, then we would be in business.

    Google understands that if they provide irrelevant results, then the user will find a better source. This is good news for users, no matter how you slice it. As far as collateral damage, I think that the developers should do a better job at building content and links that are relevant.

    We are here to get traffic, might as well get the users that are looking for what we offer.

  • victor363

    Not to sound naive – but I have faith in google. Thus far they have behaved very ethical. Woe to everyone the day will be when that company turns unscrupulous!

    I am sure that some web sites will lose traffic, but that is because there links are not from the heart. Inspiring natural linking, opposed to hiring some guy in New Dehli on to give you 100 inbound links for 98 USD are not the same thing.

    Personally, I think the perfect internet would have no SEO firms. Just my humble opinion though. In the interests of full disclosure, I am not an SEO blackbelt either. So take my advice accordingly and trust no one.

  • Andy, the scope of this change is quite small, so it won’t affect many sites at all. DazzlinDonna, we did look for ways to constrain the scope so that no babies would be ejected with the bath water. 🙂

  • Thanks Matt. I’m sure with your involvement, if it starts impacting non-bombing sites, you’ll be open to feedback.

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  • Hi Matt Cutts,
    I run a site called, which has just been shot down in flames for supposed ‘googlebombing’. Even though I have always tried to follow web SEO ethics and more importantly the keywords of my links are totally relevant to the site – ‘Escort’ and the sites they are on are also relevant.

    Regardless of what you may think of such a site I can say that compared to many other sites of this nature, I have tried to ensure there is useful content and that there is nothing overtly offensive. Whilst many of the sites remaining on the search results are not.

    I just thought I would add this, as there seems to be the idea that nobody has suffered from this change.
    I would welcome any comments. Please no morality debates please.This is a pure algorithm issue, that may have affected other sites.

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