In a "fascinatingly evil" plot - as one conservative blogger puts it - liberal blogger Chris Bowers has hatched a plot to "Google bomb" 50 Republican candidates by mounting a concerted effort to link to negative articles about them, thus driving those articles to the top of Google's search results.
For example, Googling "Clay Shaw" - a Florida Republican House member - returns in the #7 spot US News article on the representative's difficulties in light of the Mark Foley scandal. (It would be ranked higher if you ignored links to the other Clay Shaw, who was tried for the assassination of JFK.)
That's because bloggers at MyDD.com have been intentionally pointing to that article in their blogs in a concerted effort to play Google's ranking system. It appears to be working. On a ranking page posted today, Bowers reports on how the effort is going. It's not a total success but it's definitely having an impact on the search results.
The New York Times covered the story today, so Bowers' pages are getting a traffic boost of their own, which might inspire even more bloggers to join the effort.
The project was originally aimed at 70 Republican candidates but was scaled back to roughly 50 because Chris Bowers, who conceived it, thought some of the negative articles too partisan.
The articles to be used “had to come from news sources that would be widely trusted in the given district,” said Mr. Bowers, a contributor at MyDD.com (Direct Democracy), a liberal group blog. “We wanted actual news reports so it would be clear that we weren’t making anything up.”
Bowers also conceived of launching an AdWords campaign to promote those articles, but that part of the campaign will likely not happen due to time constraints.
The Times points out that it would be much harder to pull this off on, say, John McCain, because so many articles reference him. But for more obscure candidates like Shaw or Arizona's "other senator" Jon Kyl, the Google Bomb effect may be potent. Here's Bowers' advice to his coconspirators:
- We've got to have the candidate's name in the title.
- Probably, we should google the name in the first place and choose something that comes up in the first 15-20 pages.
- We should choose articles with local resonance. The articles can also have national focus, but they absolutely should be local.
- We need to be conscious of shared/common names. Charles Taylor and Peter King are names shared by lots of noteworthy people, all the more reason to find a preexistingly popular article.
- If we do this again in 2008, we should start early, expand the field, and introduce articles on a rolling basis before dropping the complete list a few weeks ahead of the election.