I’d thought the googlebombs relating to “miserable failure” and “failure” had finally been defused earlier this year. Guess not. Ranking tops in Google right now, the official White House page for US President Barack Obama:
I’ve not heard of any active campaign to linkbomb Obama to the top for these words, so I’m guessing this is fallout from the long-standing “miserable failure” googlebomb that was impacting his predecessor, President George W. Bush.
Below, some key background from our archives:
Google Kills Bush’s Miserable Failure Search & Other Google Bombs from January 2007 provides detailed background on what googlebombing or linkbombing is. In short, it’s a campaign to linking to a particular page with certain words, in hopes of making the page rank for those words. That article also explains how Bush’s biography was bombed into the top results for “failure” and “miserable failure,” until Google put in a solution designed to disable all types of linkbombs (they weren’t trying to help Bush specifically).
Google Says Stephen Colbert Is No Longer The Greatest Living American from May 2007 explains how Google’s solution had a flaw. Rather than running automatically, it required that Google periodically run a linkbomb defusing algorithm. Or so Google said. Some simply felt that the “algorithm” was nothing more than Google making manual edits to remove new bombs, when detected.
Bush – Tops For “Who Is A Failure” On Google from February 2008 shows that Bush was ranking again for a “failure” related query, “who is a failure.” It turns out that this wasn’t a new thing. It was a consequence of earlier “miserable failure” linkbomb that hadn’t been detected, apparently — where changing the order of the words or adding a few more could trigger the bomb to blow up again.
Obama Is “Failure” At Google & “Miserable Failure” At Yahoo from January 2009 shows how Obama inherited the “failure” and “miserable failure” googlebombs from Bush, in part because Obama’s web team redirected visitors looking for Bush’s biography to Obama’s.
That was fixed, and the rankings went away. I’m not sure how long the “who is failure” search has been ranking Obama on Google. It’s puzzling, because his page is isolated from those past Bush links now. A quick rundown on rankings for key terms across the search engines makes things more puzzling:
Google: “Failure,” “miserable failure” and “who is a failure” bring up neither Bush nor Obama in the top 50 results, but “who is failure” ranks Obama #1.
Ask: “Failure” doesn’t find Bush or Obama in the top 50 result. For “miserable failure,” Bush ranks #45. For “who is a failure,” neither ranks. For “who is failure,” Obama ranks #1, as with Google.
Bing: For “failure,” the Bush bio ranks #2 for me. It ranks #3 for “miserable failure.” It ranks #2 for “who is a failure” and “who is failure.”
Yahoo: For “failure,” Bush ranks #11. Bush ranks #5 for “miserable failure.” His bio ranks #16 for “who is a failure.” For “who is failure,” neither Bush nor Obama rank in the top 50 results.
Overall, Bush continues to show up for failure-related terms other than at Google and Ask. With Ask, I suspect this is because they’re taking some of Google’s editorial results. Ask has denied this in the past. But Ask has also prided itself on how in the past, it stood above the other search engines by not showing the same linkbombs that would often appear elsewhere.
So if Bush is the failure based on link analysis but everyone else (or at least Google’s two largest rivals), what’s up with Google? Why’s this happening? Perhaps there’s new link data out there influencing Obama’s page?
Alternatively, it might be something that Ciarán Norris pointed out the last time I wrote about this. There’s still a link that might be transmitting “failure” credit that was aimed at Bush to Obama, at least in how Google counts things.
This was the page that originally was bombed:
It now does a 301 permanent redirect to this page:
Without the technical jargon, that means if anyone “calls” that original page, they get forwarded automatically to the new location — and search engines are told to transfer anything they know about the old page to the new one.
Unfortunately, in 2006, that “gwbbio.html” was also temporarily redirected here:
That page now does a 301 redirect here:
My assumption is that some people who wanted to googlebomb Bush used the post-2006 “/president” address, which is still causing problems today for Obama, just as I was expecting might happen:
Of course, they [the Bush White House] 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.
What to do? In looking at my past writings, I realize I never addressed how to handle that “/president” page myself. I don’t think I was expect it to carry much link weight versus the original URL that has been out there so long.
The original page redirects to Bush’s bio, as it should. It might be that it does make sense to keep that “/president” page pointing at whoever is the current sitting president. And they might be forced to inherit whatever linkbombs hit their predecessor in the past.