Google Bowling: What is it? Does it Work?

After being in the industry for years, we often forget that not everyone is familiar with every term we use. We take lots of knowledge for granted. This is not unique to SEO: it happens in every specialty field.
Here was one of the questions from last week’s Link Pyramid© post:

I have a question… is it possible to bring down a competitor’s site by building a totally obvious link farm, totally interlinked and then linking all of the sites to the competitors site?

If so how many sites would you need in the farm? would the result be dependant upon the competitors original strength. Say a page rank five site, with 5000 existing links of which five are .edu and a page rank spread of mostly PR1’s and rising to about 60 Pr 4’s and 5’s’s. What kind of link farm would destroy a site like this?

I am not asking for any moral judgement of whether any one should actually do this but simply would it work, could a site ever be murdered by malicious linkfarm spamming? – if that is the correct phrase.

The industry phrase is “Google Bowling”: Manipulating the external ranking factors that Google uses to penalize a site against your competitors (or someone you just don’t like or want to appear in the SERPs).

Google Bowling

On the most basic level, it’s exactly what was described in the comment: A really bad / obvious link farm pointed at a competitors site. There is not enough information from the “example” question to give a good “how many bad links would it take” answer. Everything is really on a case by case basis. If you have a site of the target’s strength, how much spamming can you do before you get a penalty?

There are plenty of other ways to get a competitors site banned or totally screwed in Google. Imagine the example where someone leaves a comment on a site with a link. That link is later redirected to a virus. The site is then reported to stopbadware: then everyone who goes to the site from Google is told that the site is potentially harmful for at least a month while they struggle with customer (no)service. There are other, even more malicious ways of taking down sites that I’d rather have as few people know about as possible.

For the Aspiring Google Bowler the question you have to ask yourself is: what are the ranking / banning / penalty factors that Google looks at for the target site / page that YOU have some control over. Add in some social engineering and a mind for mischief and it’s easy to see how Google bowling works.

For the Corporate Customer that really wants to Protect their brand: don’t try to tackle this on your own. If you brand is worth in the millions or billions of dollars: pay the money to have someone manage ALL the SERPs for your brand related queries. While this will be impossible for some brands (Viagra springs to mind), for the vast majority of companies and brands, the SERPs can be sanitized to include only things you want your customers to see: by hook or by crook.

The price for this type of service usually starts at $100k per year and goes up from there (for the people that can actually deliver what they promise). I know a few of the best in the Industry that do this and let me put it this way: it’s worth it for companies that do billions in sales to spend a few million a year on Search Engine Reputation Management over and above what they spend on PPC, links and rankings.

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6 Responses to “Google Bowling: What is it? Does it Work?”

  1. Tc says:

    Hello Q,

    I like the fact that you have commited yourself to a rigourous daily blog schedule (weekends included!), on behalf of everyone who doesnt usually comment I would like to say thanks for your suggestions recently, especially the pyramids… which is not a new technique but I love how you put it so simply…

    As a “novice” I would say I do OK, however there are a few things that I can’t seem to get past which really do stunt my growth..

    I do have a few questions of my own if you care to answer:

    – How do you beat a site that is 5+ years old with a few authority links, most of the links are just from pyramids/splogs/1 page sites as you described in your previous posts and they are really bad as the anchor texts are all almost the same with very few deeplinks…. I know this is an awkward question… but any ideas would be great

    – The only way I seem to be able to get authority is by buying it (via old domains – dmoz/yahoo listed seems to work very well), even when you do “buy it” it can become problematic as you have to get the niche absolutely correct otherwise things tend to go tits up.

    another way I have found is by making a site that “gathers” some new content & links frequently and has done for over a year, even then it is a struggle… is there some way to get authority in a shorter time span (besides buying it or waiting months?)….?

    I don’t expect you to hold my hand through this, but even a slight sniff in the right direction would be great… as I have been struggling to beat rather ordinairy sites with “trust/age” for a while now in multiple niches and just can’t seem to do it, 2nd & 3rd place is great….. but I want 1st…

    Thanks alot…. keep up the blog … even after the 30 days…although I am sure you have many more important things to do…and please excuse my rather bad grammar

  2. Ashley says:

    I have a question that would be an easy post for you and quite helpful. What other blogs do you read? I think you mentioned or linked to a while back and while they don’t post a lot there posts, like yours, are quite helpful. Are there any other good SEO blogs that you read regularly, BH or WH?

  3. Tc says:


    If you read blogs to do with IM & BH you can’t go without these: (sadly – he gives out some fine tips on facebook PPC)

    If I were you I would go through all the archives on all these blogs…

    personally I prefer forums, as people tend to let their guard down…(even when they don’t mean to)

    even though 99% on those forums is junk, the 1% is worth sifting through to get the “juice”

  4. Dudibob says:

    Pretty cool Quad, never thought about leaving a comment and redirecting it to a virus, very nasty but clever 🙂 I got some questions for you, what is cloaking and is it still worth it nowadays?

  5. […] TC had some pretty good questions here on competing with authority sites. […]

  6. sputnick says:

    It seems Google have a safeguard built-in to prevent malicious G bowling from knocking out an innocent site, namely the target site has to endorse or link back to – or perhaps otherwise be connected in some other quantifiable way – to the bad neighborhood site(s). But obviously, if you are clever and a little lucky, even this can be circumvented.