Bush Whacked Online
Search Engine Trick Lists President as "Miserable Failureâ"
By Paul Eng
Dec. 8 -- President Bush is a miserable failure.
How much one agrees or disagrees with that statement is
a matter of personal opinion. But according to the
Internet's most popular search engine, it is cold, hard
Go ahead, try it.
Type in "miserable failure" on the Google Web site and
the first Web link most likely to show up will take you
directly to the official online biography for the
current occupant of the Oval Office. (The trick will
also sometimes work on Yahoo! and other search engines.)
Has Google gone gaga for Richard Gephardt, the
Democratic presidential candidate who has often used the
term to describe Bush's policies? Should Bush supporters
begin rallying against a vast, online left-wing
"This is not a political statement from Google, but
rather a reflection of a recent Web phenomenon," says a
spokesman for Google in Mountain View, Calif. "In this
case, a select group of Web masters used the words
[miserable failure] to describe and link to George
Bush's Web site."
In other words: the president has just been the latest
victim of a "Google bomb," a crafty but simple
manipulation of how the well-known online search engine
How to Make a "Google Bombâ"
Google uses a technique that searches not just for words
on a Web page, but also the words or terms used to link
to that page.
For example, if another Web site links to this story
using the term "shiny penny," Google catalogs this page
along with other Web pages that actually use those words
in the context of the subject. If gangs of other Web
sites start using the exact same term, eventually this
page will top the result lists for Web users looking for
information about bright coins.
Google bombs have been around since 2001, when one Adam
Mathes discovered and used the loophole to
good-naturedly mock a friend as a "talentless hack."
But the phenomenon has started to gain recent traction.
Why? Because it doesn't take millions or even thousands
of tweaked Web pages to make a Google bomb â€” even a
politically charged one â€” successful. It just takes
the dedication of a few good "blogs," or online journals
published and maintained by independent Web operators.
In fact, the Bush Google bomb apparently mushroomed from
the idea of a single, anonymous "blogger" on a blog site
called the Old Fashioned Patriot
(http://oldfashionedpatriot.blogspot.com) in late
"Someone dropped a link [from the Old Fashion Patriot
blog] in the comments on my blog," says Don Waller, a
50-year-old Web designer who runs the Blah Blah Blah
(blah3.com) blog. "I thought it was a clever idea and
starting posting the link on a daily basis early in
Other bloggers, such as Adam Pressler, a 34-year-old
financial analyst in Dallas, caught on to what became
known as the "miserable failure" bomb project and joined
"It's a funny political protest," says Pressler, who
runs a personal blog called Barefoot and Naked at the
Retrogrouch.net Web site. "We have a point of view that
we just want people to be aware of."
A Questionable End
Pressler and others have no idea just exactly how many
others have joined in on the effort, but it's a sure bet
that the project netted plenty of co-conspirators.
"This was not an organized thing. It was guys like me
liking the idea and picking up on it," says Waller. "But
I'd say there were quite a few involved, since the goal
of getting that link to the top of Google was
accomplished within a pretty short period of time."
And while it took just over a month latest Google bomb
to go off, it's still isn't clear just when -- or if
-- it will ever stop.
A lot will depend on the ever-changing dynamics of the
Web world. What's hot online today could quickly fizzles
out if it fails to maintain the interest of online
But so far, the "miserable failure" bomb has been
anything but a failure among bloggers.