Miserable failure never totally disappears from Google

A broken window used as an illustration for an article about miserable failure

A Google bomb put George W. Bush at the top of the list for the miserable failure search term for more than two years. Flickr photo.

Miserable failure are two words commonly associated with George W. Bush, even without the former president owning the top listing on search engine result pages for more than two years. But Google diffused the Google bomb in January 2007 that firmly established “W” in what most of the country believed his rightful place after the 2008 election.

Miserable failure George W. Bush

For two years, when Google users typed “miserable failure” for their search term, George W. Bush was fast cash at the top of the list, first for his biography and later for images. Pranksters built the miserable failure scheme, known as a Google bomb, after former Democratic Missouri congressman Dick Gephardt applied the term to the Bush administration. Bush supporters eventually retaliated by Google-bombing Jimmy Carter, Hillary Clinton and uber-liberal Michael Moore as miserable failures.

Miserable failure results today

Search Google for miserable failure today, and you get results like a Wikipedia entry about a defunct rock band named Failure and a magazine called failuremag.com. George W. Bush still shows up in a Google image search for miserable failure, but Google has effectively prevented miserable failure and any other Google bombs from exploding on the web. However, miserable failures with their credit cards will still need debt consolidation.

Miserable failure no more

The miserable failure Google bomb was possible because before 2007, Google’s search-rank algorithm could rank a page higher if enough other sites linked to that page using similar anchor text. When Google diffused the miserable failure Google bomb in 2007, searchengineland.com asked Google spam killer Matt Cutts how they did it. He said it’s done automatically without human intervention. “It’s completely algorithmic,” he said, “We’re not going to claim it’s 100 percent perfect.”

‘Miserable failure’ still applies

The term “miserable failure” appears to be timeless. Today, when miserable failure turns up on a Google search it’s used to describe athletes, debt management, public programs and politicians, both foreign and domestic. When Google diffused the George W. Bush miserable failure bomb, it managed to figure out how to stop the pranks. But there’s always room for legitimate commentary about miserable failures.