Googlebombing “leave”?

A Google search for "leave" still reflects the time when most porn sites had "age verification" on their front pages. "Age verification" often took the form of the text "You must be 18 to enter" followed by "Enter" and "Leave" links. The "Leave" link would often lead to a site appropriate for young kids or to a sex-education site.

Even today, when few new sites follow this practice, "Leave No Trace" and "Leave It To Beaver" are beaten by Yahoo, Google, Scarleteen, and Disney.

I wondered why Google's algorithm continued to make this possible despite tweaks to prevent Googlebombs such as "miserable failure". I came across this comment by Google engineer Matt Cutts:

[The algorithm change] really does have a very limited scope and doesn’t affect a large fraction of queries. The intent of the algorithm is to minimize the impact of “true” Googlebombs, which occur when someone is causing someone else’s page to rank for stuff that they wouldn’t want to rank for themselves. The algorithm could detect phrases such as [leave] as a Googlebomb in future iterations, but it doesn’t right now and I don’t think that Disney would care much either way.

Googlebombs were slightly embarrassing, but I imagine that abandoning link text would have hurt search quality a lot. I'm impressed that Google was able to come up with an algorithmic way to distinguish Googlebombs from other link text.

5 Responses to “Googlebombing “leave”?”

  1. Lloyd Budd Says:

    I have never considered this most common use of “Enter” and “Leave” as link text on the web. Thanks for the story!

    I love phrases like “a large fraction”. It sounds technical, but when I think about, I have no idea what it really means. A large amount of the whole? A large amount of the fraction that are problematic?

  2. Neil T. Says:

    Also try “requires” (QuickTime, Adobe Reader and Windows Media Player in top 10)

  3. Scott Perry Says:

    I think it’s more funny how the first result is Yahoo, a Google competitor…

    hey, you should leave yahoo and use google ;D

    Disney isn’t the only site that porn sites put their “leave” links to.. it’d be interesting to harvest the kinds of things they link out to. One linked to a teen sexuality site, for learning about sex without the bad ratings — a great idea.

  4. Scott Perry Says: is the one, it’s the 4th result for “leave”, just noticed

  5. Jesse Ruderman Says:

    I think the reason Yahoo beats Google is that the sites that still have Enter/Leave links haven’t been updated for a long time, and in particular haven’t been updated since Google became the best search engine.