If you’ve been reading Minnesota’s liberal bloggers, you may have noticed that a local columnist for the Star Tribune, Katherine Kersten, has been Google Bombed. Liberal bloggers have been linking to the arch conservative and Center of the American Experiment alum’s section of the Strib site using the phrase “Minnesota’s worst writer.”
Google Bombs work this way: When a lot of web sites (or blogs) link to a specific web site using the same phrase as the text in the link, it helps that link rise to the top of the search results when using the phrase in question. The same thing happened to President Bush two years ago when a ton of liberal bloggers linked to Bush’s biography on the White House web site using the phrase “miserable failure”. You’ll notice that the second link for the Google search “miserable failure” is to Michael Moore‘s web site; that’s because conservative bloggers retaliated.
What we didn’t know is if Google Bombs such as the “miserable failure” one were effective at anything other than garnering headlines. Now we have proof that it they can have a high click-through rate:
The word “failure” is the top search query that is driving visits to the White House web site, according to the Search Engine Watch blog. Search Engine Watch knows this because of a security hole in Google’s Sitemaps service, a tool for webmasters to tell the search engine about the content on their site. By implementing some code on your site, you can tell Google about every page on your web site and they, in turn, will provide some rudimentary statistics on the phrases that people use to find your site and the frequency with which they clicked on said phrases.
The security flaw in Google’s Sitemaps service allowed anyone to see those statistics on any site that was using the Sitemaps service. The White House site was not the only site affected–stats were available for eBay and AOL as well.
Online Reputation Management
The relative ease with which one can be Google Bombed highlights the importance of monitoring your online reputation, especially within the blogosphere.
There are some tools that will help you monitor the blogosphere and, if not help you discover if you’ve been Google Bombed, at least let you know what, if anything, bloggers are saying about you. Google’s advanced blog search engine options are a good place to start. Technorati and IceRocket are excellent tools because not only can you monitor by search phrase, but they offer popularity indicators for individual blogs by telling you how many other blogs link to that blog and how many incoming links a blog has garnered. Visit my del.icio.us bookmarks for more blog search engines.
If you’ve been Google Bombed, it’s probably a good idea to respond. Having a bunch of bloggers do a counter Google Bomb–as conservative bloggers did with Michael Moore–is probably not a bad way to go.
But if you don’t have a pack of bloggers at your beck and call, populating search results with your own competing content through search engine marketing is likely your best bet. At the very least, you’ll want searchers to have the option of reading your side of the story.