It doesn't take much to get the SEO industry from driving straight to Kooksville with their conspiracy theories and predictions of doom and destruction. Last Thursday Google announced that they have made changes to their algorithm to combat Googlebombing, a linking technique designed to get other websites to rank well for obscure phrases. (Jennifer provided a good summary of all this on Thursday.)

It only took a day for someone to post a comment over at Threadwatch suggesting that this new algorithm change is going to be bad, bad, bad. The (conspiracy) theory goes that if Google can detect Googlebombing and therefore remove sites from rankings for bombed phrases, then SEOs can then use Googlebombing to get client competitors sites dropped. Essentially, Googlebombing would have the exact opposite effect and this would be a way to get competitors sites thrown out of the search results. If you can get through all the political nonsense which has become a staple over at Threadwatch, the comments are quite an interesting read into the minds of the paranoid.

Without providing much detail, Matt Cutts replied to Danny Sullivan's post over at Search Engine Land, debunking the theory that this would effect any SEOd sites whatsoever. While I don't take everything Matt says at face value--I think he talks the company line quite a bit and tells us what Google would like us to think--I'm going to have to shy away from the conspiracy side of things.

A significant chunk of optimization is about integrating keywords for which you wish to rank on the page. While its entirely possible to rank well for a phrase that is not located anywhere on a particular page, there has to be a reason that a page would rank well for that keyword. Usually that means that the keyword phrases has to be both closely related to other terms on the page and targeted via hyperlinks. Googlebombing was the exception to the rule, not the rule itself. By sheer force and quantity of links, you could Googlebomb a page to rank high for a relatively uncompetitive phrase that was absolutely unrelated to the page at all.

To combat that algorithmically, without effecting SEOd websites, Google simply needs to look at a couple of things:

1) The number of links that contain a single phrase
2) The content of the page itself

Let's take the Googlebombing of 'miserable failure' which led visitors to the web site of the White House as an example. It would not be surprising if the phrase "George W. Bush" was linked to the white house page far more often than "miserable failure" so looking at a phrase's link volume alone would prove to be an insufficient measure. If Google did that alone then you would no longer find the White House website #1 for "George W. Bush."

But what Google can do is compare these highly linked phrases to the content of the page being linked to. In this case the words "George W. Bush" appear as a phrase once on the page and, not surprisingly, the words "miserable failure" are nowhere to be found. But let's suppose that the phrase "George W. Bush" was not on that page, would the page still be relevant for such a search? Absolutely, the White House home page frequently refers to President Bush, a clear indicator that the linked phrase "George W. Bush" is relevant and not just a bombing. Google can also easily make the connection that "President Bush" is also "George W. Bush."

So are you worried that the algorithm change to fix Googlebombing will hurt your SEO/link efforts? Don't be. If someone Google bombs you for an irrelevant keywords, so what? You won't notice the difference. And unless you are targeting completely irrelevant keyword phrases through a link campaign alone then your site is unlikely to be effected. You're free to continue to build relevant links using relevant keywords. Stick to those principles and you'll be fine. Then just sit back and be amused by the conspiracy theorists and their "out there" ideas. Hey, sometimes you just want to believe!
January 29, 2007

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.


Google treated subdomains as entirely different sites. Because of this, it would allow a site to dominate multiple spots in search results for some search terms. This would allow search marketers to domainate a keyword through subdomains.

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