Bombing Google & Implications to SEO's
Implications of Google Bombing Competitions to Professional Search Engine Optimizers (SEO's). In the long term, such Google Bombing competitions present the SEO practice in a bad light.
EasyNet Search Engine Team
Israel is a very interesting country which is unique in regards to its people's creative and innovative IT development abilities. Israel is not, however, renowned for its marketing capabilities. This does not come as a surprise since Israeli firms have little experience with international marketing (as opposed to the U.S., for instance, which is considered the marketing leader of the world).
Search Engine Optimization in Israel
Search engine optimization is growing in Israel and in February, one of largest Israeli portals, NRG Maariv, held a Google Bombing competition called "Latoor Motor". The competition invited the search engine optimization community to take the Hebrew translation of the two words “latoor motor”, in Hebrew, and promote any web content that targets that phrase in order to achieve top rankings among organic search results of Google Israel http://www.Google.co.il. In search of mass ratings, NRG Maariv was using its homepage and explicitly called anyone to "fool Google".
Bombing Google in Israel
As noted in Wikipedia, winners of Google bombing competitions are won by sites that use a combination of keyword spamming and, at times, link spamming. Google has publicly commented about Google Bombing in the past, calling it “cyber graffiti”. In my opinion, it didn't want to give too much stage to the phenomena in order to diminish its publicity, but I'm quite sure that the Google engineers are very much against (and possibly afraid of) competitions that mess with their algo's, increase their transparency, attract potential law suits and affects users' experience of finding and browsing search results.
Back to the Google bombing competition going on in Israel till the end of February 2005... the response was pretty impressive among many small-time SEO's and webmasters, many of which have only 1-2 years of experience in the field and fewer have ongoing hands-on experience in handling real optimization campaigns while professionally servicing real clients. Personally, I was quite disappointed with the approach of this competition as I oppose the over-rating of any Google bombing competition. I would like to share my opinions of my reasons for this.
A SEO Challenge?
First, Google bombing competitions are what the initiators might call a “Google Test”, “SEO Challenge”, “SEO Competition”, etc. The ides is to take a search query (i.e. term of phrase), which at the time of the competition's announcement, returns either no results (i.e. “Your search did not match any documents.” This sterile search results space is now a good starting point for competitors to start their optimization race in. Following, at a specified pre-set date and time, the judges of the competition search for the targeted phrase and Google SERP's define the order of placement winners (1st place winner, 2nd place winner, etc.).
Google Bombing Competitions Deliver the Wrong Message
The first reason that I don't like such competitions is that they give the field of SEO a bad name. Search marketing is the primary driver for the growing internet advertising market. It is a sophisticated field that requires a combination of technical and web marketing knowledge, skills and most importantly - experience. In the real world where competitive market players are operating, SEO is not a practice to hack Google by simply fiddling around with on-copy optimization techniques (reminder: don't you love it when people ask you if a website can be pushed to the top by simply stuffing some keywords into the Meta tag…!?!). Google bombing competitions deliver a wrong public message to people outside the community, including potential clients and stakeholders, that Google can be pretty easily hacked in order to quickly achieve top rankings for any website within any market. That message is far from the truth.
Professionals search marketers today already know that SEO and search marketing as a whole is only one small (and critical) part of the sales and/or relationship-building chain. It is only part of the lead generation link in the chain. Why only part of a link and not an entire link? Well, would you contact a business after landing on its website following a click on a search engine result, only to find out that the content of the site is not to your satisfactory? That the company seems unreliable? That you find it really irritating to navigate and find the information you are seeking for? If your answer is ‘no', then it means that the other side has just lost a lead. Hence, in this case, the lead generation link in the chain is broken.
Real World SEO
What does this have to do with Google bombing contests? The winner of the competition may deserve some credit for the achieved top rankings but it does not reflect the real world since the winner doesn't really care if a search engine user would have been converted into a real lead. Things like ‘conversion rates', ‘brand recognition' and ‘consumer confidence' are completely outside the scope of a Google bombing competition but are very much inside the scope of a real search engine marketing campaign. So, in that case, who cares if the competing site has terrible graphics? If the fonts are ugly and take up half of the entire page? Who cares it the copy of the homepage doesn't make sense, thus making new visitors leave the site within 20 seconds? And there are more unrealistic elements to a Google bombing contest. For instance, the winner's site may well be supported by a link campaign that is unrealistic because it has exchanged links with other players in the same exact market, as defined by a set of keywords. Most real clients would be reluctant to exchange links with their direct competitors. All in all, why should the winner of a Google bombing competition care if the winning site can not convert a single user?
The Relationship Algorithm Architects and Professional SEO's
A second reason that I don't like Google bombing competitions is that they may trigger unhealthy instability in the subtle relationship between search-engine algorithm architects and professional, ethical SEO's. I argue that the evolvement of search engine technology is beneficial to users, search engine companies and professional SEO's. Thus, when search engine algorithms become more complex and performance is improved, professional SEO's should be happy with that, rather than frowning at it! Why? Eventually, it requires SEO's to evolve while improving the convergence of their marketing and technical skills. This is harder to do so and, in turn, creates a situation where the stronger and more professional SEO's survive while the weaker SEO's are left behind. And if you agree that stability between professional, ethical SEO's and search-engine algorithm architects is beneficial for both sides, then both should not support Google bombing competitions that may force the search engine architects to tweak certain parts of a an already stable algo, just because they are required to avoid transparency (for obvious reasons).
To summarize, while it is possible to find certain merits in Google bombing competitions, such as the exhibition and learning of a variety of SEO techniques being used, high publicity of such competitions impose serious disadvantages to the SEO community. In the long term, such competitions present the SEO practice in a bad light.