The library provides “tips” for researchers who want to find reference-quality websites; for example, limiting your search to .edu or .gov domains (more tips here). But to be a savvy internet researcher, one should know that a search engine’s results can be manipulated by commercial companies and by prankster webmasters & bloggers. Word Commercial manipulation is the result of a search engine “selling” their top results spots; a company pays the engine to display their company site toward the top of search results–the engine may or may not indicate that the commercial results are advertisements. Prankster manipulation is sometimes referred to as google-bombing; it happens when several websites or weblogs use “keywords” within their site as links to an external site to make a humorous or political statement. Election-time examples of google-bombing included searching the term “miserable failure” and having the top result be The White House Biography of George Bush, while typing “waffle” led to a John Kerry Biography. A search for “french Military victories” directed researchers to a spoof Google page that told users there are no results matching “french Military victories”, and enquiring whether the the user meant “French Military defeats?” (find more articles on googlebombing by consulting this RefShare page)

Last week, Google announced that is was trying to change their search algorithm to thwart this latter type of manipulation (Cohen, C6), however pranksters and hackers always seem to have alot of time on their hands, so cast a critical eye on your top search results, and be sure to evaluate your sites!


Cohen, N. (2007, Jan 29). Google halts ‘miserable failure’ link to president bush. New York Times, pp. C.6.