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Manipulating search engine algorithms: the case of Google

Judit Bar‐Ilan (Department of Information Science, Bar‐Ilan University, Israel)

Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society

ISSN: 1477-996X

Article publication date: 19 October 2007




To investigate how search engine users manipulate the rankings of search results. Search engines employ different ranking methods in order to display the “best” results first. One of the ranking methods is PageRank, where the number of links pointing to the page influences its rank. The “anchor text,” the clickable text of the hypertext link is another “ingredient” in the ranking method. There are a number of cases where the public challenged the Google's ranking, by creating a so‐called “Google bomb” – creating links to pages they wanted to be highly ranked for given query. Google is chosen as the search engine, because it is currently by far the most popular search engine.


PageRank, one of the major parameters of Google's ranking algorithm is described, and the author explains how this algorithm is exploited by communities of users to promote a certain web page for a specific query. This process is called “Google bombing.” Recent reaction of Google to this phenomenon is also described.


Specific examples of “accomplished Google bombs” show that the public is able to manipulate search results.


Google, instead of being an unobtrusive information retrieval tool has become highly influential in the web scenery. Some users pay for search engine optimization, while others utilize the power of the crowd to influence Google's rankings. This paper supports the claims of Introna and Nissenbaum regarding the power of search engines.



Bar‐Ilan, J. (2007), "Manipulating search engine algorithms: the case of Google", Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, Vol. 5 No. 2/3, pp. 155-166.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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