Confirmed: Crusaders Google Bomb Scientology

And teach marketers a thing or two about campaigns

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An apparent Google bomb aimed at the Church of Scientology is just a part of all-out ideological (holy?) war perpetrated by a group called "Anonymous."  The rest of the digital war has been carried out via social media as a highly organized and carefully orchestrated Internet campaign that’s getting the group a lot of attention.

It’s learning good lessons from questionable examples, but the Anonymous campaign has a lot to teach us about online campaigns. (Just to be clear, though, not everything highlighted in this article is condoned.)

Yesterday, it came to light that searches for the terms "dangerous cult" brought back the Scientology homepage as the top result in Google – and it apparently took about a week to do that.

Confirmed: Crusaders Google Bomb Scientology

The occurrence was interesting because just a year ago, Google announced they’d taken measures that would eliminate the practice. Those measures including not allowing the anchor text in a mass of links to influence ranking if those words did not appear on the targeted homepage. Thus, John Kerry’s website no longer ranked number one for "waffle" and George W. Bush no longer ranked number one for "miserable failure."

However, the word failure did eventually appear on his website, which served to relight the fuse for the word "failure," at least for a time. Wikipedia has replaced it since, and so has a site that shall not be named and should not (EVER) be visited. (This is like the big red nuke button. Just trust me when I say that the second result for "failure" should not be clicked.)

Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan, unsure if it was a true Google bomb, investigated links pointing toward the Scientology homepage, their anchor texts, as well as the keywords on the targeted page. Under Google’s explanation, the Google bomb should only work if the targeted words are actually on the page. Sullivan discovered the word "dangerous," but not "cult."

The only use of the word "cult" came from links pointing to the Scientology website.

Confirmed: Crusaders Google Bomb Scientology

Then something very interesting happened. In the comments at SEL, a reader points to what appears to be a wiki from Anonymous about how to conduct an all-out media blitz. The master plan includes a Google bomb targeting "dangerous cult," but also "brainwashing cult" and whatever keyword supporters wanted to match with "cult." They also wished to replace Scientology.org with Xenu.net a site aimed at debunking the religion, as the number one result for the keyword "scientology." 

Anonymous didn’t achieve the number one ranking they wanted for "brainwashing cult" or for "scientology" …but they did take them up to the third result. Not bad for a brand new effort.

Confirmed: Crusaders Google Bomb Scientology

Ideologies, agendas, and holy wars aside, Anonymous launched one heckuva successful campaign. If you look closer at the wiki, members are instructed not to spam. Naturally, spammy tactics are targeted by search engines and everybody else – plus, content matters. But they are instructed to set up blogs, to utilize email, press releases and press release sites, Digg.com, YouTube, and other social networking sites, as well as comments in comment sections (which sort of walk the line on comment spam).

(Spam is encouraged, however, as a weapon, as are denial of service attacks, which seem to be working – as of 3:00 PM today – to shut down the Church of Scientology’s website.)

Part of the reason for the quick success could be that recently Google seems to have placed more weight on buzzy, timely resources, which comes from news sites, social bookmarking, and often social networks and blogs. Google definitely weights Wikipedia, Digg and YouTube pretty heavily.

So what we have here, in a controversial example, is a lesson in buzz creation and SEO. This campaign was highly targeted and highly specific. From the SEO standpoint we can confirm:

  • Links are crazy important for higher rankings
  • Anchor text matters
  • Content matters
  • Keyword density matters
  • Link authority matters
  • Timeliness matters
  • Generating buzz via social media matters

It also means that a tightly integrated, holistic campaign can make an impact, as utilization of collective media produce a mass effect the search engines (in their current configuration) can’t ignore.

Likely, Google will do something about it. Matt Cutts is a bit busy giving tips about Gmail and WordPress right now, though. Until then, we have some valuable insight on how to get more attention online (without waging a holy war).   

Confirmed: Crusaders Google Bomb Scientology
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  • Guest

    If people think anonymous are doing this against scientology for the public good, then think again. Anonymous have attacked innocent people and other groups in the past and they are not doing this for any good, they do this for fun or as anonymous would call it (to use their jargon) "lulz". Most who make up anonymous come from websites like 4chan and 711chan.

    I’ve been threatened by some members who claimed would revel my private information and use it against me. I wonder after scientology who their next target will be?

    • Guest


    • Anonymous

      Incorrect. For once we truly are doing this for reasons beyond lulz. There were many who climbed onboard after the initial attacks purely for lulz, but as they increasingly came into contact with suppressed documents and government records it morphed into something primarily for bettering the world. Oh, you say they attack innocent people. The closest thing to that were the arrogant trolls who directly provoked anons. What do you expect when you kick you a wild animal to feel better about yourself? And what of pedophiles we put away like Chris Forcand? What about the school shootings we’ve prevented? And Hal Turner, a hateful bigot with a record of domestic abuse and assassination threats against judges and politicians, would he be your poster child for the innocent?

      Your made two more critical errors: the current Anonymous is not just 4chan, and a loosely affiliated group with no leadership cannot be expected to have all people acting the same. Visit YouTube. Visit the others. Anons from Australia, the UK, Sweden, and the Netherlands have pledged their support of the war. YTMND, SA goons, EDiots, digg users, ebaums, and now even fucking furries have pledged an alliance with each other to fight the Scientologist’s leadership. This extends far, far beyond 7chan and 4chan (whose mods are desperately trying to stop anyone from mentioning $cientology). Rumor has it that Totse might join as well.

      Are you still going to try and argue that this is just a couple of jerks from 4chan?

    • Guest

      hello mr and mrs failgime and also failAThackingchan and also failATyoutuberevenge. your copypasta round teh internetz is "lulz" and also "fail" too. questions?

  • Anonymous

    First of all, Anonymous would like to remind you that we are NOT attacking the BELIEFS of Scientology. We are not saying their beliefs are evil or somehow wrong. In fact, we could care less what you believe. God is a very personal thing, and we know better than to tell people our version of "the truth".

    Neither are we attacking the FREEDOM OF SPEECH of Scientologists. Any Scientologist is welcome to share his or her views, just as anyone else is. I understand how taking down an organization’s website could be misconstrued as an attack on CoS’s freedom of speech, but this is simply not the case.

    The truth is that your rights (including your right to freedom of speech, thought, and religion) END at the moment when they infringe upon someone else’s rights. Scientology has a history of a "fair game" policy, attacking anyone who does not agree with them in various ways with their vast resources. They have forced abortions on their members above their private navy, SeaOrg. They have even been responsible for the death of at least one confirmed member (google Lisa McPherson) through their irresponsible practice of therapy. They have numerous human rights abuses on their record. For more information, I direct you to http://theunfunnytruth.ytmnd.com/. If you think that website is biased, keep searching. Everywhere (except sites maintained by Scientologists) there is well-documented evidence of the crimes of CoS.

    Ask yourself, what kind of religion forces you to PAY for a truth they claim will make your life happier, better, richer? What kind of religion then uses that money to enact lawsuits against detractors and give commissions to their higher-ups? The answer is, religion doesn’t do that. Beliefs don’t do that. Beliefs in the hands of evil, greedy people do that. Scientology is more corporation than religion. There is absolutely no reason for them to be tax exempt. Do they worship any type of deity, as most religions do, or are they just hawking bad medicine to the vulnerable?

    These are questions that must be answered. Scientology must not continue its abuse of human rights. If it continues, the war will never end until the organization is gone. Allowing them freedom to continue their money-grubbing pyramid scheme because "they have freedom of speech" is equivalent to allowing skinheads to beat up blacks just because "that’s their personal belief".

  • Guest

    Jason, now this is actually a good fact based article with techno/political slant without all of the biased, vitriolic crapola you layered into the Bush article the other day. I knew you paid attention to more than just the ladies ;)  

  • Zen

    Not only have I seen the sites and read the news but I truly think this war is substantiated. Why wouldn’t we be sick of  the media blitz conducted by scientology all over the world? It’s like the guys in the black ties that keep trying to evangelize me by knocking on my front door, except this is all over the media and television.  It’s all over the place…I am sick of it.

    A taste of thier own medicine is due. To try to say that anonymous hurts people is not true…this guy is one of them:)

    I do not know why he is on his computer anyway…it won’t be working in a while if these anonymous guys track him down.

  • David Miscarriage

    Well, I think this google bomb is the best one ever simply because there is a lot of truth in it.

  • Anonymoose

    My Google disagrees :(

    • Guest

      There are 6 active petitions thatritish citizens can sign by going to the Downing Street website:


  • http://www.antisectes.net roger gonnet

    It’s rather evidednt that there is NO google bombing.

    Scientology has some 8 million web references in google, and  is a very very  important topic since the cult has tried since june 1950 to forbid any critic of its dangerous practices. Scientologie – other orthograph: 361000. Cienciologia: 77000, etc.


    Take a look as well as "scientology + trials" or "scientology + justice", you’ll find another pack of references:

    - + trials= 276000

    - + justice: 398000 occurences…

    That’s its ranson for the crimes committed. No bombing there.



  • Guest

     I only wish I had the technical knowledge to help Anonymous in their fight against Scientology.

    • http://findatweet.com Guest

      Actually you do but I hope you don’t. All you have to do is to add links to these comments you are leaving on blogs but I hope that you just let them be. Everyone has their own beliefs and that is what makes America good: Freedom to chose what you want to believe in.

  • The PAKman

    I just started following this rivalry about 3 weeks ago and am excited to see where this is going. To think that CoS deserves so much effort and attention is kinda like saying: Stopping them is more important than stopping the flagrant abuse of human rights in China, Africa and South America. 

    Another great cause would be to help stop drug addiction or nuclear proliferation. I guess you have to start somewhere (small in this case). I agree with most everything you bitch about in your comment but we have laws in place to deal with such infractions (as poorly enforced as they may be sometimes). I initailly enjoyed hearing about your cyber attacks but I was also raised to believe that two wrongs don’t make a right and let’s face it, vigilantism won’t make the world a better place to live either. If you really want to help and make a difference in the world, use all your numerous hours of free time to monitor CoS and report any illegal or innapropriate activities to the authorities and mainstream media. You might even get them to mention your organization on National or International News. That way … when someone says they heard it from "Anonymous" the other person doesn’t say "never heard of ‘em". Punn intended.

    The PAKman

  • Guest

    This is the best thing that could have happened to scientology.
    Hubbard moved into my home town and tried to take over all the teenagers, he also did an interview with the local newspaper in which he said that he talked to trees (I don’t have a problem with that) and they answered him (I do have a problem with that).

    He also said in the same interview that scientology was NOT a religion that, of course, was before he found out that religions get tax relief in the UK.

    He wasn’t even a good sci-fi writer his books are terrible.

  • Scientologist

    I understand the interest in "google bombing" because, frankly its a lot of fun.

    I had a great time typing in "miserable failure" and watching george bush come up number 1.

    As a practicing scientologist for over 30 years though,  I find it pretty dissapointing that out of all the google bombing case studies you had to pick my religion. Whether or not it is interesting, it is in poor taste. You could have picked many other much better case studies without offending people like me.

    I have to thank Mr Anonymous though, for helping to bring thousands of visitors to scientology websites and bring hundreds of new people into our churches. We not only help people get off drugs, stop criminal lifestyles and become successful people, but our literacy and scholastic programs help literally millions daily. People easily can see the truth when presented with the facts.

    Any additional exposure we get, helps, so thanks very much!!





    • Jason Lee Miller

      Actually, we cover google bombs every time we know about them. It’s part of our “beat,” so to speak. This was not only the most recent one, but it was on a rather massive scale after Google supposedly eradicated the ability to manipulate its search results this way.

      It has nothing to do with taste, or selective case studies. This is newsworthy, period, and falls in within our coverage scope.

      Thank you for commenting.

    • http://www.musicfreedom.com/soulofhiphop Alfred Collins

      Thanks for that information i have the same problems and im just a artist.The hardest part is when you sell digital music and thay hold your payments as long as thay can because that dont like your religion or steal it from you.In the end GOOD will always win it might take time but the truth always comes out.Most people know with is right and whats wrong but are scard to do the right thing.God love all good people that believe in justice and peace.People will never every make it to heaven or happyness if their for War & Greed.A loving God of wisdom and peace for all religions that knows how to love their bothers and sisters.This is the Key and test for man kind will we use Wisdom or Greed..Check out RETURN OF THE PHARAOH by Soul Of Hip Hop…

    • Guest

      It is because your religion is run by a power hungry and money hungry short fella (no names named).  It is because your religion hopes that the deluded Tom Cruise will rope in a new fresh and cheap "volunteer force".  Ever heard of the RPF?  It is because your religion practices "Fair Game" and then lies about it on tv, radio, and print.  Your religion pulled it in.  There are some great people in Scientology and I hope they wake up and walk away from that game.

    • Guest

      It is everyone’s right, according to the principles of freedom of speech, to be offensive or to cause offense to anyone or anything.  Offense does not constitute actual physical harm, and that is where the line is drawn.  It’s all part of that wonderful messy chaotic but marvelous thing that we call a free and democratic society. 

      We absolutely must have the right to criticise and be offensive about everything, and that must include religion.  Look at where the UK, a country that is supposed to be closely allied to us culturally, is going with laws to curtail the freedom of speech of it’s citizens by making it a criminal offense to say anything bad about minority religions!   The Mother of Parliaments is letting itself down badly and we should learn that lesson before it happens here too!

      Dragging myself back on topic: I agree with the suggestion that the campaign was perverse in that it only served to increase the exposure of Scientology!  If you want to ruin a website, you deny traffic, the life blood of a website, although not necessarily through a DOS attack or anything similar.  Your goal is to drive it’s ranking down instead.  That kind of campaign would teach us far more about marketing than this one has, because as far as I’m aware that kind of attack has never been tried.

    • Guest

      Why does a story about Scientology offend you? Is it because you are not used to seeing Scientology articles.

      Also, if the CoS does such a good job helping the cummunity with drug and crime issues, why doesn’t the CoS or Narcanon publish anything about their methods or success rates?

  • http://nascarmax.info nascarmax.ino

    It was a very interesting post!

  • anon?

    While the bomb may put it at the top of the dangerous cult list it misses the standard cult list. By making it the headliner of any list, it promotes more traffic to the site. While someone would want the movement to disappear can be understood. The idea of vaulting it to a most visited site under any search engine will definitely make it do the opposite.

    I do not agree with the scientology idea that there is no God, but each one of us is instead our own god. We are not in charge of each person doing what we all want. This is the cause of anarchy. We all will die. There is no reincarnation or coming back in another life form. Once we die we will either be judged as heaven bound or hell bound. Live right, Do what the Bible says, be a witness for God, That’s it!

    Enjoy your appolegetics discourses. I’ll drop in once in a while.

    Anon? why hide if what you say is true?

     Get real! Say who you are and be proud of it!


    Webster City, Iowa

  • http://www.think-ebiz.com Guest

    Hello first i wis the comments stayed within the context of SEO and not the virtues (or non) for Scientology.

    Of course, I clicked on the Nuke site. After my brain melted I check the source code etc.  Out of 165Million responses, this site is #2  with no real backlinks and no content.  so this leads to a previous post – owning the domain for the key word can be significant.  it is the ONLY SEO aspect of this sick site.

    and – I can concur  really  dont click it   take my word there is no SEO content here  yet it is #2.

    this is interesting itself    SPH



    • Jason Lee Miller

      If I had had the stomach for it, I may have learned that too. Thanks for doing the dirty work. That is interesting that the domain name can be so important in ranking, especially, from what I blinked at anyway, since there were no relevant keywords targeted other than in then domain, and the site (abomination) had nothing to do with failure…unless you take an artistic interpretation and say the webmaster failed … and I mean FAILED … to create something anybody would want to look at or think about and in the process became a general failure as human being and thus becomes proof that God, indeed, sometimes makes junk.

  • http://www.lukelive.org Luke Nichols

    I’m fascinated by this war.  I don’t know anything about Scientology.  I didn’t even know there was a Lisa Mcpherson, til this campaign started.  Just for the information dissemenation alone,  this is a good thing.  I tend to stand for truth myself and cannot stand liars.  If to stop Net Censorship, what about the major News Media, especially their online presence?  A news story can be up for two days,  and then poof!  Gone.  What about sites like godlikeproductions, or Alien-Earth, that the moderators remove good solid posts, full of information?  Where does it stop?  Where does it end? 

    I for one am glad it’s not a war against religion.   What if they get mad at Southern Baptists?  Or Pentecostals?  Or Anglicans and Presbyterians?

    So, I view this war with great fascination, as an outsider.  Everyday I find myself searching the net for MORE information on it.

    But, I have to take a neutral stand:  I neither support, nor decry their actions.

    But, to me it’s fascinating.


  • Guest

    I’m not going to comment on what seems to be the prevalent discussion here.

    I just wanted to know the reasoning behind this statement: "Google definitely weights Wikipedia, Digg and YouTube pretty heavily." Call me an idiot, but if I’m not mistaken Wikipedia and Youtube add nofollow tags to their links, so how could a Googlebomber (or webmaster, for that matter) leverage those sites to improve their target’s Google ranking?

    I’m a webmaster and I’d be thrilled to hear about a new way to promote my site. Thanks in advance.

    • Jason Lee Miller

      pardon my lumping together…as part of a media campaign, getting onto wikipedia, youtube, or digg is important because of where those sites rank themselves…each of those often show up at the top of the rankings, so they may not count as much for the google bombing aspect (they prolly couldn’t hurt)

      • Guest

        Sorry – misunderstood your paragraph. Thanks for the response.

  • Guest

    Rather than debate the targets of the "attacks", I think the underlying and relevant issue (to SEO and Web Pros) is the manipulability of Google rankings. Clearly it indicates that key words can be "kidnapped" basically. It’s like a new organized crime family. Maybe next is paying protection to The Anonymous Family not to redirect traffic to a competitors’ site.

    Besides, does anybody really care what comes up for "miserable failure"?

  • http://www.netrepreneursblog.com Caleb

    Looks like the old religious ‘Crusades’ have taken to a new battlefield: the world wide web. Of course,many wars have been won based on media campaigns.

    But if this keeps up,the government might argue the need for more "internet security" and we don’t need them for that!

  • Quentin

    Some call organized scientology a racketeering cult. Others view them as a terrorist organization.  However one views this unusual organization, Anonymous possesses erudite knowledge of SEO.  The SEO manipulation that scientology used several years ago – and ultimately failed at – is coming back to haunt them, like an army of Body Thetans. 

  • http://birim-matutando.blogspot.com/ Guest

    Wikipedia is off. At least in my pc, I´m from Brazil,

    Still, "intelligent design" is at large.

  • Guest



  • http://www.digitalnasties.com Guest

    about time someone took on the Scientology nutters

  • Hugh Dobbs

    Try the "miserable failure" search and this time look at the last line, the related searches…

  • Guest

    it also seems the group somehow also managed to get "Scientology is a terrorist cult" into Wikipedia entry on Google search result for term "Scientology", the word "terrorist cult" is nowhere to be seen on the current Wikipedia entry and the Google cached page. FULL STORY – www.megaleecher.net/Scientology_Google_Bomb

    • Guest

      that doesn’t seem to work now. Wikipedia has this huge discussion page on Scientology, seems the article is always changing. lots of scientologists on there too, it figures that they would flock en masse to a popular community-driven information site to spread their propaganda

  • Guest

    Research $cientology "Fair Game" practices.

    ENEMY — SP Order. Fair game. May be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.

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