Web links and search engine ranking: The case of Google and the query “jew”


  • Judit Bar-Ilan

    1. Department of Information Science, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, 52900, Israel and the School of Library, Archive and Information Studies, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, P.O. Box 1255, Jerusalem, 91904, Israel
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The World Wide Web has become one of our more important information sources, and commercial search engines are the major tools for locating information; however, it is not enough for a Web page to be indexed by the search engines—it also must rank high on relevant queries. One of the parameters involved in ranking is the number and quality of links pointing to the page, based on the assumption that links convey appreciation for a page. This article presents the results of a content analysis of the links to two top pages retrieved by Google for the query “jew” as of July 2004: the “jew” entry on the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia, and the home page of “Jew Watch,” a highly anti-Semitic site. The top results for the query “jew” gained public attention in April 2004, when it was noticed that the “Jew Watch” homepage ranked number 1. From this point on, both sides engaged in “Googlebombing” (i.e., increasing the number of links pointing to these pages). The results of the study show that most of the links to these pages come from blogs and discussion links, and the number of links pointing to these pages in appreciation of their content is extremely small. These findings have implications for ranking algorithms based on link counts, and emphasize the huge difference between Web links and citations in the scientific community.