Businesses spending thousands of dollars to get their websites prominently displayed by Google should look at a much cheaper option that archivist Daniel Brandt demonstrated last week.
His Googlebomb is still exploding. Using just five domains he's managed to place a page at No.1 in Google, Yahoo!, MSN search and Alltheweb. The latter two use Yahoo!'s search results, reminding us how we heavily we rely on such a vulnerable information pipe. The page in question is returned by a search for "out of touch executives".
Brandt says he hopes this will be the last Googlebomb; he performed the exercise because he thinks Google executives are being complacent by dismissing the gaming as harmless fun.
The five domains cost $44.75. However, as Brandt explains, subdomains might do the job just as well. Google indexes subdomains as if they are distinct sites, so fred.googlebomber.com, jane.googlebomber.com and harry.googlebomber.com can contain the links.
Google is aware of this, and has intervened in a recent rigging attempt which saw a search for "california apartment insurance" return dozens of pages from subdomains at areaguides.net. Now the results return fifteen results, with over 800 more not shown.
Brandt has a fascinating service at Yahoo! Watch which compares Google and Yahoo! search results.
A London-based weblogger has gone one better. He's rigged Google to return a page with just three weblog entries.
"I decided to do this as a joke after being treated rather rudely by the staff at one of my local pubs," writes Matt Armstrong. "Inspired by the group of New York bloggers who did something similar, I managed to successfully Googlebomb the pub's website so that it is now the top result for the search: rudest pub (which was actually better than I hoped for: I was going for 'rudest pub in Islington', but no, apparently it is the rudest pub anywhere)."
"Frankly, I'm amazed how easy it was, and couldn't believe that it only took just over a month for Google to start showing it in their results." Here is one example that Yahoo! caught: it places his description of the bomb first, but not the target.
For small web businesses who depend on visibility in Google or Yahoo!, it's no laughing matter. Google doesn't put paid-for entries in its main results pages, but in a parallel column. Yahoo! mingles the two slightly more explicitly. But are they really so different? If web businesses can't get prominence on the results pages by creating legitimate pages that conform to good web practice, then the message is clear: if you want visibility, take out ads.