Advanced Online Research
SEO and Google Bombing
We have touched slightly on the fact that Google results are ranked based on an algorithm that measures popularity and currency more than veracity and factuality. In fact, it is so well-known that Google results can be manipulated that there are well-paying jobs just to trick Google into ranking certain sites higher.
Many people have heard the term SEO (Search Engine Optimization) before, but few people think very much on what it means exactly. SEO is a set of techniques - everything from adjusting code to adding specifically worded content to a site - to ensure that a site is more visible to search engine web crawlers and ranking algorithms. This is generally seen as a marketing technique aimed at improving unpaid, natural, or organic search results.
On the other side of the SEO equation is something popularly referred to as "Google Bombing." The practice of Google Bombing employs a similar set of techniques to SEO, however, its intention is to elevate sites that may not be directly related to the search in question. This has been done for the sake of business, comedy, or political activism. For example, successful Google Bombing campaigns of the past have seen to it that when searching the names of certain politicians only negative articles or critiques would be reported in the results. Others have associated the names of prominent politicians with search terms like "idiot" or "completely wrong."
It is important when conducting online research to recognize that information has power, and the information landscape of the internet is contested territory. The information found on the visible web is hotly contested, debated, and many times manipulated for the interests of those who post it.