George W. Bush: A Failure Once Again, According To Google

Remember how Google introduced a link bomb fix in January that, among other things, finally got US President George W. Bush out of first page of results for searches on miserable failure and failure at Google? Bush is back, at least for failure, and the White House has only itself to blame.

Someone reading our article about the fix – Google Kills Bush’s Miserable Failure Search & Other Google Bombscommented yesterday about Bush’s return to the results. I didn’t see Bush’s page ranking myself when I checked yesterday, but now I do:


What happened? The White House used the word "failure" on Bush’s page, which resulted in the page becoming relevant for the query again. If the White House was smart, they’d have realized it can never ever ever ever use the words "miserable" or "failure" or both of them together without risking showing up in Google’s top results for searches on those words.

More on why in a moment. But first, we know already that the White House isn’t smart when it comes to search engines. That’s because it tried to stop the link bomb once before, back in September 2006. My article above explains more about what the White House did. As a result, any future US President now has this "miserable failure" search threat hanging over them, rather than it just being isolated to George W. Bush, as it once was.

Now for the science bit. Google’s never explained how its link bomb fix works. However, it’s widely assumed that Google looks for an unusually high number of links using certain words pointing at a page that doesn’t use those words. If lots of people link to a particular page at the White House site using the word "failure" in the anchor text — but the White House page itself doesn’t use that word – Google guesses there’s a link bomb happening and defuses it.

If the page DOES contain the word, then Google assumes there’s no link bombing going on and doesn’t tap into its automatic link bomb algorithm. That’s where the White House misstepped. Currently on the page is this text:

In a time of war, it’s irresponsible for the… Democratic leadership in Congress to delay for months on end while our troops in combat are waiting for the funds. The bottom line is this: Congress’s failure to fund our troops on the front lines will mean that some of our military families could wait longer for their loved ones to return from the front lines. And others could see their loved ones headed back to the war sooner than they need to. That is unacceptable to me, and I believe it is unacceptable to the American people.

I’ve bolded the word "failure," where it is used. That single use of the word was enough to reactivate the link bomb, which for the word "failure" had been happening since September 2005. When the words goes off the page, as it will, you should see the page quickly drop out of the rankings once again.

For the records, here’s how things stand across all the major search engines from what I see (it’s possible others will see slightly different results):

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: General | Link Building: Link Bombs | Search & Society: General


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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  • savage

    someone at the white house knows SOMETHING about search engines

  • Seth Finkelstein

    I have a theory on reigniting the Google Bomb – use additional words.

    As in: George Bush: “Miserable Failure”

  • RedCardinal

    Well I think we can safely dispel any theories about this being a handjob now.

  • f-lops-y

    Hah! And as to the ‘fix-it’ there are a few others out there yet. Case in point {clarifier- Yes, I’m Canadian and no, I have no problem with the French), if you type in ‘French Military Victories’ – the top result in Google is still … well, there… :-) – and if you click through to the page – it’s well worth a look if you haven’t seen it.

    Thanks for the heads up Danny – and after all the brouhaha – why would they ever, EVER put the word failure on the GW home page – in ANY context… the mind boggles. Maybe *basic* SEO should rate a little higher on the budget PR spend – as in Public Relations not page rank :-)

    Why *basic*? ‘cos of this..

  • chris boggs

    Seth I think you may have something there. Another hint as to why this may have overcome the ban is a simple idea: the snippet indicates the word “failure” being used on the page to describe a particular non-action by congress. Should this word be removed from the page, it may lose the ranking next crawl?

    Way to go on the Digg factor of this article, btw. 1963 when i just dugged it…

  • chris boggs

    duh fyi, I guess I should have written “like you said” after the single failure-use idea. :p That’s what I get for commenting before reading Danny’s whole post.

  • Adam Sharp

    Nice piece, but there seems to be more to linkbomb-detection than this:

    “If lots of people link to a particular page at the White House site using the word “failure” in the anchor text — but the White House page itself doesn’t use that word — Google guesses there’s a link bomb happening and defuses it.”

    Neither “here” nor “click” is mentioned on the #1 result. Somehow the linkbomb-defuser realizes that Adobe’s “click here” links are natural, and the “miserable failure” links are manipulation.

    Maybe if the % of identical backlink anchors are too high, it sets off an alarm. Could be based on timing, neighborhoods, who knows.

    It really shows how scarily good their artificial-link-detection is getting. I posted about their paid link detecting here:

  • Michael Visser

    Just letting you know “President of the United States – George W. Bush” has upped technorati’s listing on the ranks for #1 in the SERP’s for “failure”. :D

  • fantomaster

    I’m surprised not to see the most obvious explanation being discussed here! To wit: Google is all about RELEVANCE. (If in doubt, check out all their corporate statements on the topic including the Matt Cutts blog, etc. etc. Would all these nice people ever lie to us?)

    So what are you all essentially saying? That Google is WRONG about George Bush (and his White House site) qualifying for #1 position for the terms “miserable failure” and “failure” (without quotes)? That this is an IRRELEVANT search result?

    So what are you – a bunch of Republican hardliners, peeved because you’re assuming that Google should adopt your specific view of G.W. Bush’s performance as president of the U.S. rather than the majority’s (and that of most of the rest of the world, btw)?

    Ok, a wee bit of Chinese censorship, the triviality of their treatment of Falung Gong, dissident bloggers etc. etc. apart, Google is politically non partisan – so their search results shouldn’t be misconstrued as a political statement.

    Nor is it helpful to introduce another conspiracy theory of the Axis of Evil Googlebombers into the equation.

    Because, by Google’s own own standards (see above), their SERPS are OBJECTIVE and IMPARTIAL, like it or not.

    And hey, what kind of a black hat search engine spammer discussion is this, anyway? :-)

  • WebOptimist

    They apparently caught it quickly cuz the text has been changed and even the cache comes up empty. So, look quickly.

  • algoholic

    “what kind of a black hat search engine spammer discussion is this, anyway? :-)”

    Ralph, the “SERPS are OBJECTIVE and IMPARTIAL” as long as they are parallel to the *Right* Interests.
    Q: Are they commercial? Do they make money?
    A: I believe so…


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