Bush: Fix Your “Miserable Failure” Googlebomb Legacy Before Obama Takes Office

Few realize that outgoing US president George W. Bush has left behind a unique legacy for future presidents, including Barack Obama — that they are all condemned to rank tops for a search on “miserable failure” in major search engines. It’s my hope that Bush will correct this before leaving office, or that Obama will fix it soon after he’s inaugurated. Below, more about the situation and how it could be solved.

Google Kills Bush’s Miserable Failure Search & Other Google Bombs is my article from January 2007 that covers the history of how it came to be that for many years, a search for miserable failure on Google would bring up the official George W. Bush biography. This was due to a “Googlebomb” where many people had linked to his biography using those words in their links.

Didn’t Google fix all that? And if it’s Bush’s biography, how does that impact other US presidents?

Yes, the miserable failure “Googlebomb” was fixed at Google. However, should any future administration ever use either the words “miserable” or “failure” on the US president’s home page, there’s a good chance that page will start ranking tops again for searches like “failure” or “miserable” or even “miserable failure.” Using those words effectively overwrites Google’s “fix” for Googlebombs. My George W. Bush: A Failure Once Again, According To Google article from April 2007 covers this in more detail and illustrates how Bush ended up back at the top of Google despite its Googlebomb solution.

Meanwhile, the two other major search engines, Yahoo and Microsoft, continue to rank Bush tops.

From Yahoo, miserable failure:

Miserable Failure @ Yahoo

And miserable failure at Microsoft Live Search:

Miserable Failure @ Microsoft Live Search

Fair to say, the problem isn’t gone. It remains a lurking threat at Google; it’s an active issue at Yahoo and Microsoft. But how does this impact future presidents? Isn’t this Bush’s biography we’re talking about?

Yes, it is Bush’s biography. But in an inept attempt to defuse the Googlebomb, someone in Bush’s White House moved his biography to the page used by the current US president. That means when Bush goes, the next US president (Obama) inherits the problem.

Here’s how it happened. When the Googlebomb campaign started back in December 2003, people were told to use the words “miserable failure” and link to Bush’s biography here:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/president/gwbbio.html

That page started ranking tops for “miserable failure,” and in September 2006, the White House appears to have had enough. They moved his biography to a new page here:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/president/biography.html

As for the old page, it was removed and any requests for it were “redirected” to the main page for the current US president here:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/president/

I think those behind this thought killing the old page would break the bomb. It might have, if they hadn’t redirected requests for the old page to a new location.

Of course, they had to do a redirect. Too many people had bookmarked the former address of the biography. But rather than redirect to the new biography page, they choose to point at the page used by all US presidents — Bush currently, Obama next and future presidents to come.

Aside from turning Bush’s search engine problem into a legacy issue for future presidents, the change is also misleading the US public and others. The redirection from the old bio page should lead to the new bio page, not require those using old bookmarks to guess at where the new location is at.

Here’s the solution. First, all past US presidents have their own biography pages on the White House site, URLs that typically end using the president’s initials and which “number” president they were. For example, George Washington, the first US president:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/gw1.html

Ronald Reagan, the 40th president:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/rr40.html

Bush, being the 43rd president, should have a URL like this:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/gb43.html

I don’t understand why he hasn’t had this page all along. As I’ve covered, he did have a unique page originally that ended “gwbbio.html.” The generic “biography.html” page never existed before September 2006. In other words, there’s no long history of the current US president having their biography on a generic page that eventually will be used by other presidents. Instead, it’s entirely a creature that came out of trying to combat the Googlebomb.

My recommendation — my hope — is this.

First, that Bush’s biography immediately be moved to a new page here:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/gb43.html

Second, change the redirect in place on this old page:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/president/gwbbio.html

It should point at the new page, as a “permanent” redirect. Technical note: stop using a fast meta refresh to do this. Google still seems to treat that as a 301 permanent redirect, while Microsoft and Yahoo seem to treat it as a 302 temporary redirect (see A Short Case Study on Redirects: 301s vs. 302s for more about the differences).

Third, kill this generic biography page:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/president/biography.html

Instead, redirect that to the main page for all US president biographies here:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/

Why? Because while I personally like Obama, voted for him and am pretty positive about his future, if he screws up, I don’t want future US presidents to suffer Googlebombs. Obama’s bio should be on its own standalone page from the start, using the regular URL naming convention:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/bo44.html

Here’s hoping we’ll see some fast action. If you know someone in either administration, please spread the word.

Postscript: I’ve just noticed today that for a search on failure, the US President’s home page currently ranks in the top results:

Failure @ Google

Google’s Googlebomb fix is supposed to prevent this from happening, as long as the word “failure” doesn’t appear on that page. I don’t see the word there, either currently or in the copy of the page that Google made as part of its search process.

However it happened, it underscores why Bush should stop redirecting requests for his old biography to the current presidential home page. He leaves that page with a legacy of ranking for failure.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Features: Analysis | Link Building: Link Bombs | Search & Society: General | Top News

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About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • http://www.planetc1.com/ chiropractic

    I notice that change.gov is ranking for “change”. A move in the right direction.

  • Michael Gray

    I think we should leave it the way it is, make this an example for people who try to game the system without knowing the repercussions of their actions, citizens need to learn to take responsibility for their action too.

    Ron Paul FTW!!!

  • cryptblade

    I think it should be kept the way it is. “Miserable failure” is not Bush’s legacy, it’s Google and Googlebombing’s legacy.

    I also think it’s a lesson for the public.

    Just because you think Bush is a failure or you think this type of effect is funny, doesn’t make vigilante action right. There’s a reason why in the real world vigilantes are not welcomed and are legal – because mob-mentality, vigilante and lynchmobs are almost always wrong. Just because something is done in cyberspace doesn’t mean it’s right or should be legal as well.

    To disagree with the policies of the government and to voice that disagreement is a constitutional right. However, taking action beyond voicing your opinion in the real world means risking breaking the law. Google bombing is the cyberspace equivalent of assaulting a person in the real world.

    It’s hard to grasp this right now, but with increasing cases of “cyber-bulling” and as the newer generations grow up having been completely immersed between real life and cyber life, the lines are blurred. For example, in real life cases such as the myspace mom Lori Drew who’s cyber actions led to the suicide of a teen girl, the ramifications of cyberspace to real life are real.

    Take also, for example, the steady increase in interest over “reputation management”. Companies are realizing that their reputation online, in searches, have real life ramifications. There are some companies who lose out on thousands or millions of dollars if they have any poor reputation remarks online.

    “miserable failure” needs to be kept as a reminder of the danger of cyberspace vigilantism.

  • paisley

    see i wasn’t the only one mistaken about miserable failure.. (see above)

    FYI… here’s a GUESS, think Obama and CMS.. same page won’t be there. so me thinks your problem will be solved.

  • malersteffi

    Just because you think Bush is a failure or you think this type of effect is funny, doesn’t make vigilante action right. There’s a reason why in the real world vigilantes are not welcomed and are legal – because mob-mentality, vigilante and lynchmobs are almost always wrong. Just because something is done in cyberspace doesn’t mean it’s right or should be legal as well.

    To disagree with the policies of the government and to voice that disagreement is a constitutional right. However, ecowelt.de taking action beyond voicing your opinion in the real world means risking breaking the law. Google bombing is the cyberspace equivalent of assaulting a person in the real world.

    It’s hard to grasp this right now, but smartcoupon.de with increasing cases of “cyber-bulling” and as the newer generations grow up having been completely immersed between real life and cyber infos7.com life, the lines are blurred. For example, in real life cases such as the myspace mom volxweb.com Lori Drew who’s cyber actions led to the suicide nc-giesen.de of a teen girl, the ramifications of cyberspace to real life are real.

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