The Corner

Beware the Google Bomb

Old-fashioned get-out-the-vote efforts are fine, says Daily Kos, but tech-savvy smear campaigns are a lot more fun.

The liberal blog is inviting its readers to “make a big difference in 2010” by taking part in a “very different, but still very important, form of election activism.”

It’s called grassroots-based search-engine optimization, or Grassroots SEO. It’s also known as Googlebombing, and the goal is to try to influence undecided voters by overloading search-engine results with negative news articles about Republican candidates in competitive districts. The more people are clicking on links to these articles, the higher they’ll appear in Google searches, and (as one can imagine where this train of thought continues) the more mindless boobs will read the articles, and proceed to march zombie-like to the polls to vote for the Democrats.

Kos claims to have reached more than 700,000 in 50 congressional districts as part of a similar Grassroots SEO campaign in 2006. The blog provides users with a list of 98 target candidates and a handy set of instructions as to what makes a “good” article:

 

1. Title damaging in and of itself. Not many people who see the article will actually click through and read it. So, it is critically important that the title itself is damaging to the Republican candidate in some way.

2. Name of candidate in title. In addition to a catchy title, it is key that the name of the candidate appear in the title itself. This will both help the SEO effort, and lead to more people clicking through to the article.

3. From a well-known, non-partisan news source. Time and time again, people have sent me links to progressive blog articles to use in these SEO campaigns. Don’t do that. Just don’t. Find negative articles from as high profile a news organization as possible. When high profile can’t be found, then local news outlets will do just fine. Whatever you find, make sure said new organization at least ostensibly claims to be non-partisan.

4. Already has a high Google ranking. Increasing the visibility of the article will be a lot easier if the article already has a decent Google ranking. For our purposes, top 100 is OK, and top 50 is good. Something already in the top 20, or even the top 10, would be awesome. (Note: make sure you sign out of Google before conducting keyword searches on the candidate’s full name to test the Google ranking of the article).

5. Name of candidate in URL. The SEO effort will be greatly enhanced if the name of the candidate appears in the URL of the article.

6. Keep it short. Try to find shorter articles with the negative hit on the candidate near the top. We don’t want to make people struggle to find the info.

7. Keep it recent. This is the least important criteria, and may actually damage SEO efforts on search engines like Bing. But, Google seems to favor more recent articles, and people looking for candidate information probably do, too. So, try to find as recent an article as possible, given the other criteria.

Democracy at its finest.

Andrew Stiles — Andrew Stiles is a political reporter for National Review Online. He previously worked at the Washington Free Beacon, and was an intern at The Hill newspaper. Stiles is a 2009 ...

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