It’s official. Stephen Colbert is the Greatest Living American, or at least now ranks tops for that phrase at Google. It’s all come from the latest Google bombing campaign sparked off in part by Stephen himself. The backstory on this, plus the “I thought Google bombing didn’t work anymore” angle, all below.
Jonah Stein from Alchemist Media raised the issue of Google-bombing during the audience Q&A with Mr. Colbert at a taping of his show (out of respect, I use the Mr. honorific. So say we all). What would Mr. Colbert like to rank for?
Giant Brass Balls.
Sure, Jonah thought — but why not also truthiness and most important, Greatest Living American, he wrote at the Alchemist Blog. Search Engine Watch spread the news. SEOmoz spread it further, complete with more detailed instructions and a bribe.
Today, we spotted News.com noting he was now ranking for the term. Congrats, Mr. Colbert. We salute you.
OK, specifically looking at first page of search results:
- greatest living american ranks the Colbert Nation’s home page tops on Google (fourth on Yahoo, a letter from Stephen third on Live.com and Ask gives him no respect)
- giant brass balls ranks the Colbert Nation’s Balls For Kidz page tops on Google (zilch on Yahoo, tops on Live.com and Ask again gives him nothing)
- truthiness ranks a Comedy Central clip of him on that topic at seventh (zilch on Yahoo, zilch on Live.com and Ask puts his page at Comedy Central at seventh).
I’ll drill deep on the most important phrase, Greatest Living American. Both Jonah and Rand told people to link to the “Letter From Stephen” page here, like this:
But it’s not that page which is ranking on Google. It’s the home page. And that brings us to the entire wasn’t Google bombing killed thing?
The change Google made back in January was designed to stop pages ranking for terms if a lot of people linked to them using those terms but the pages themselves didn’t use the words. Everyone want to call George W. Bush a miserable failure? His page no longer ranks for that since the page itself doesn’t use those words. OK, so it did just rank again recently, due to the White House using one of them. But the word is gone now – and the page has dropped back down in the rankings.
The Colbert Report’s home page uses NONE of the words (because Stephen, who is modest, has no need to declare himself the greatest). Here’s Google confirming that the site ranks for that term solely based on links to it:
See the part at the bottom: “These terms only appear in links pointing to this page: greatest living american.”
So what’s the deal? Wasn’t the Google fix supposed to prevent this exact thing?
Yes, actually. Of course, we’ve had a few exceptions cited, such click here ranking things like Adobe and Apple downloads. Maybe Google’s Matt Cutts will come along to shed some more light on the situation. I suspect the answer will be that the link bomb fix Google uses is more sophisticated than just looking to see if the words people are using in links, when a lot of links suddenly point at a page, actually appear on a page.
Postscript: Mission Accomplished—Top Ranking in Google is a hilarious congrats on the effort to all who made Mr. Colbert’s victory possible.