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Google Bombing For Good

Gareth Cartman

SEO is often talked about in the same breath as money. It’s all about ROI – profit – how much you’re going to make back on your investment. Black hats and white hats alike know the precise value of every keyword they’ve invested in.

We all work alone, competing silently against each other.

However, a couple of weeks ago, I had the good luck to meet a bunch of people who wanted to improve their search results for non-profit reasons. For two days, the European Blogger Summit brought together People With Diabetes (PWD) from all over the world.

My presentation revolved around evergreen content, and how people with diabetes could build in this form of informative, helpful content into their regular blogging, to take advantage of the more ‘I need help’ type of searcher. For instance, nobody searches for “what I had for breakfast”, but plenty of people do search for “breakfast recipes for diabetics”.

The group discussion on the second day brought up how the search engine results have changed over the years. One person mentioned how a doctor told her not to go online – it’s all negative.

All of that has changed – it’s almost all positive these days. Positive life experiences, positive solutions – you could say that the PWD community has “google bombed for good”. It fascinates me how a community can get together and use search results to .

Google bombing got into the headlines with an attack on George W Bush - who suddenly started ranking for “miserable failure”. More recently, the French (who have a history of dropping la bombe du google) attacked Francois Hollande by getting his website to number 1 for the phrase “incapable de gouverner” - a phrase that needs little translation. However, when a community gets hold of the Google Bomb detonation button, they are capable of flooding the search results.

When someone is diagnosed with diabetes or any other condition, they want facts, but they also want to see positive stories. Those who are not just with the condition, but . So how can communities use SEO to Google bomb for good? Here’s how…

Get together and brainstorm a theme

It’s one thing for an individual SEO to create a piece of content and get a single ranking – it’s another for a group of bloggers to create multiple pieces of content and take multiple rankings. The power of the community is that people can get together and talk…

Find areas where issues might need tackling – for instance, 140 people every month think it’s “funny” to search for the phrase “bipolar jokes”. The community is doing rather a good job of obtaining page 1 placements, and turning the conversation in their favour – but still has to beat sickipedia and Jokebook.

It may be topical – for instance, yesterday, The Sun – in its infinite wisdom – decided to run with the headline “1200 Killed By Mental Patients”. Despite being factually wrong, it gained a lot of attention – a community can do a lot to flood the SERPs, quickly, thanks to Google’s preference for “fresh” content, and change the conversation while there’s a “peak” of traffic around a topic.

Get competitive

Once you’ve found an area where sentiment needs turning around, brainstorm the theme and expand out – and look at how competitive the area is.

There are a number of ways to do this – Google’s keyword planner may LIE to you, but at least it gives you ideas. SEMRush is better, and gives you better ideas, but it costs money. Ubersuggest and Soovle equally give you loads of ideas and they’re both free. Brainstorm away from your screen, and then go brainstorm on your screen.

To find out how competitive an area is, there’s also a number of ways of telling. Firstly, when you search for a phrase within this theme, how many of the results have an exact-match page title? The more you see (this is not scientific), the more competitive it usually is.

Using the Moz toolbar (which you can put on Chrome or Firefox), you can see Page Authority and Domain Authority – the higher they all are, the more competitive it will be to rank for the phrases you’re looking at.

So – take your theme, and broaden it out. Understand what people are typing in, and the many variants of what people are searching.

Here at Clever Little Design, our SEO team build ‘keyword clouds’ to help us understand the variety of “long-tail” phrases around a keyword. It’s a great way of visually illustrating the many ways in which people search for essentially what is the same thing...

Divvy up the work

From here, you can start to allocate blog titles, and let every writer handle the subject in their own way.

For instance, if we’re going to attack the search engine results for “bipolar jokes”, there isn’t a huge amount of variety in terms of what people type in. Therefore, every blogger can attack the one keyword from their own angle, and attempt to flood the results quickly.

However, if the topic is broader, allocate blog titles to cover the breadth of keywords.

Don’t stop at one piece each – you’re more likely to rank for something if you’re an expert in it – so get each blogger within the community to develop two or three pieces on the subject.

Remember the golden rules for ranking (there are hundreds, but here are my top four):

  • Use the keywords in your page title (and H1, although for blogs this is often the same thing)
  • Repeat the keywords at least once in your text
  • Write at least 250 words – “light” pieces don’t work quite so well
  • Link internally – i.e. link from other blog posts to this one

Use the power of the community

Here’s where the community can really have an impact: quote each other. Don’t do it in an orchestrated fashion where you effectively have a linking “circle” – (Google’s not mad keen on networks of blogs linking to each other) – keep it natural.

Each community will have forums and twitter chats, facebook pages, community pages and maybe G+ pages to reference. Reach out wherever possible and spread the word. Tweet each other, like each others’ pages, and make a concerted effort to promote the visibility of each blog post.

Also ensure that everyone has a Google+ profile with a photo, and that authorship is tied into the site. It’s simple enough to do - ensure that your name (on every blog post) is linked to your G+ profile with the tag rel=“author” - and also that your G+ profile links to your blog. I say “simple”, it’s never simple with Google+, but the result is that with a photo in the SERPs, you should get a higher % of the clicks.

Remember, don’t just tweet and walk away – tweet out a blog post multiple times, at peak times of day. A tool like Followerwonk can give you an idea of what times to tweet out (it’s part of now), and when your community is most active.

So how did it work for you? Stories of success – and failure – are the lessons which educate the next step. You’re waging war on the search results, and you’re not going to win every battle. So look at the characteristics of the blog posts that did rank, and you’ll get a better idea of what will work in future:

  • What was the level of the ‘beaten’ competition?
  • Which keywords were particularly successful?
  • What was good about the blog post that ranked well? (page title, copy, characteristics, social shares)

SEO is all about iteration – planning a campaign, testing, analysing, and iterating.

If communities can get together and share the basics of SEO, they really can “Google bomb” for good - pushing down negative sentiment in the results pages.