The terms Google bomb and Googlewashing refer to practices intended to influence the ranking of particular pages in results returned by the Google search engine, in order to increase the likelihood of people finding and clicking on selections in which the individual or other entity engaging in this practice is interested. It is either done for business, political, or comedic purposes (or a combination of the latter two). Google's search-rank algorithm ranks pages higher for a particular search phrase if enough other pages are linked to it using similar anchor text (linking text such as "miserable failure").

However, by January 2007 Google had made changes to search results to counter popular google bombs, such as "miserable failure", which now lists pages about the google bomb itself. Other google bombs, however, continue to remain operative, as exampled by the search engine results pages (SERP) for the search phrase "french military victories". Google bomb is used both as a verb and a noun. The phrase "Google bombing" was introduced to the New Oxford American Dictionary in May 2005 and is closely related to spamdexing, the practice of deliberately modifying HTML pages to increase the chance of their website being placed close to the beginning of search engine results, or to influence the category to which the page is assigned in a misleading or dishonest manner.

The Google bomb has been used for tactical media as a way of performing a 'hit-and-run' media attack on popular topics. Such attacks include Anthony Cox's attack in 2003. He created a parody of the "404 – page not found" browser error message in response to the war in Iraq. The page looked like the error page but was titled "These Weapons of Mass Destruction cannot be displayed." This website could be found as one of the top hits on Google after the start of the war in Iraq. On 2 February 2007, many have noticed changes in the Google algorithm that largely affects, among other things, Google bombs: only roughly 10% of the Google bombs worked as of 15 February 2007. This is largely due to Google refactoring its valuation of PageRank.

The term Googlewashing was coined in 2003 to describe the use of media manipulation to change the perception of a term, or push out competition from SERPs.

A Googlewhack is a type of a contest for finding a Google search query consisting of exactly two words without quotation marks that return exactly one hit. A Googlewhack must consist of two actual words found in a dictionary.

How it works:

  • Visit Google.
  • Submit a query of two words, but don't use quote marks. (Quotes tell Google to find the enclosed words immediately adjacent - and that's just too easy!)
  • Use no punctuation in your words, and no numbers (just 26 letters from A through Z).
  • Find two words that return one result, then see whether Whack agrees (Whack may not see the same results you see). Whack only accepts words between 4 and 30 characters in length. (Any shorter or longer, again, that's just too easy!)
  • To add to The Whack Stack, please respect these simple guidelines (Whack decides; no exceptions).

So, a Googlewhack is considered legitimate if both of the searched-for words appear as live links in in the blue bar above the Google results. Published googlewhacks are short-lived, since when published to a web site, the new number of hits will become at least two, one to the original hit found, and one to the publishing site.

Here are again the rules:

  1. Your two Googlefactors must exist in Google's view of legitimate words in this dictionary. Not your view; Google's view! Google does the work, and Google has the final word on what may be legitimate! In the blue bar atop your Google results, accepted terms are linked, and appear 'underlined.' No line, no link, or no legitimate word = Googlejack! (As in, You've got jack).
  2. Google also is the arbiter of a whack's uniqueness. Look to the right end of the blue bar atop your Google results. If you see "Results 1 - 1 of (any number),' you found exactly one hit = Googlewhack!
  3. Google shows you an excerpt of the page you whacked. Look at that text. If it's merely a list of words (such as a bibliography, concordance, encyclopedia, glossary, thesaurus, dictionary, domain names, or plain old machine-generated random garbage), No Whack For You!

Did you know? The probabilities of Internet search result values for multi-word queries have been studied in 2008 with the help of Googlewhacks. Based on data from 351 Googlewhacks from the whackstack, the Heaps’ Law β coefficient for the indexed World Wide Web (about eight billion pages) was measured to be β = 0.52. This result is in line with previous studies which used under 20,000 pages. The googlewhacks were a key in calibrating the model so that it could be extended automatically to analyze the relatedness of word pairs.

Googlefight is a website that allows users to compare the number of search results returned by Google for two given queries. The results are displayed graphically in a mixed flash and javascript animation. Two animated stick figures fight on screen after the queries are entered, and then an animated bar graph appears showing the results. The stick figure animation has no impact on the actual results. The results may be comforting, funny or self-referential.
Googlefight has been highlighted as an example of a site making money from contextual advertising, as well as one that derives its longevity from community participation (in this case, the always changing search terms).