There has been a lot of buzz about using Google Bombs to disseminate negative articles in political races (such as this recent article on MSNBC’s site and this one on the New York Times site), and we even wrote about it briefly here yesterday. While I agree with my colleague, Todd Zeigler, that the overall impact of such efforts is probably minimal, I do think that it can work from an execution standpoint, although I question its efficacy in making an impact on the actual results of the election.

Given that the election is now less than two weeks away, Google Bombing plans have been criticized for being too late because Google can take up to 30 days to index a website.  While it is true that Google can take up to that long, it does not always require that much time and it can work within a matter of days – if the correct set of conditions are met. From experience and reading various articles, I have learned that if an established website or blog (that has already been included within Google’s index), which receives a lot of links from other sites and is updated frequently, posts a given piece of information, it will begin appearing within the search results fairly quickly and relatively high within the rankings for relevant terms.  On the other hand, if something is posted on a site that is new, that has few links from other sites, that has not been included within the search index previously, and/or does not produce new content on a regular basis, it can take weeks to begin appearing and it will likely not appear as high within the results.

Why does this happen?  Because Google’s algorithm skews towards re-indexing sites that have been established as ‘quality sites’ (i.e. it has a lot of links from other ‘good sources’ on the same subject) on a more frequent basis than those that have not.  It also re-indexes sites that have a track record of continuously adding new content.  This clearly makes sense from an efficiency standpoint for Google as it attempts to cover the vast amount of data that makes up the Web.  It also seems to be a boon to bloggers, as blogs tend to be both link-rich and frequently updated.

In short, a campaign or politically active organization could very well manipulate the system to show negative content pieces higher within Google’s results, if they employ a popular, frequently updated, established site/blog.  It probably would not work if a new / less popular site/blog were used as the central dissemination point (a less popular site would also generate less pick-ups from the blogosphere).  Whether or not paid search placements would have a significant effect is hard to say.  Officially, Google contends that it does not give preference to advertisers within its organic search results.  That said, obviously a site that is seen and visited more frequently because of the ads will likely do better within the regular search results.