Why Donald Trump is an idiot ....... on Google image search, and what this teaches us about Search Engine Optimisation

Hi everyone,

So this blog is a little bit more fun than copyright law, I’ve now moved into the much more thrilling world of international politics and influencing algorithms. - James


Why Donald Trump is an idiot ....... on Google image search.

So I think it is pretty common knowledge by now that if you type idiot into google image search you get pictures of Donald trump, and this is an interesting fact and its good for a laugh, but have you ever wondered why?

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Why does he appear so frequently for the word idiot. I did some tests and used some synonyms for idiot, like moron, fool, stupid etc. and while Trump appears, it isn’t to the same degree that he appears for the word idiot.

So I did some research (this is two blogs in a row now with research, I can’t promise that will continue) and there is a history to why which involves reddit, the UK, the band Green Day, major news outlets and the US Congress.

The History of Donald Trump being an Idiot ….. on Google Image Search

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So where did it start? It looks like it started in July of 2018 when Donald Trump visited the UK. The reaction by the locals could be called less than friendly, and he was followed by protests the whole time. You might remember the baby Trump balloon that followed him around. Not quite as famous, but important to this story, was that the protestors would also play the song “American Idiot” by Green Day. They even managed to get it charting again for a little while.

This was the first big connection that started to link Trump and idiot differently than other similar words, like stupid and moron. Now people would create posts talking about the protests mentioning the song and Trump. The big news sites would also report on the protest mentioning both words under a banner with a picture of Trump.

This step was spontaneous and organic, but the next step on Donald Trump’s rise up Google image search was more deliberate and organised, it was Reddit’s turn now.

Google Bombing

“Google bombing” are campaigns or posts where users are encouraged to like images that are tagged with specific words in order to skew Google’s search engine algorithms. In this case users (be they activists or trolls) saw the growing connection between Trump and idiot and wanted those images at the top.

This isn’t the first time that Google bombing has been used in this way, and while it feels kinda fun to see Trump under idiot, it has been used in some far more sinister and disturbing ways. In 2009 images of Michelle Obama where doctored to look more apelike and google bombed up to the top, so that searches of “Michelle Obama” came back with these racist images. Similarly the term “Jew” had images of hooked nose “Jewish” caricatures google bombed to the top of the search rankings in 2004. And former US President Clinton has consistently had “rapist” google bombed with his image.

It is a growing problem that Google has been historically reluctant to change, preferring a more neutral, purely algorithm based approach to their search results to avoid complaints of censorship. In fact in 2004 they posted ads explaining why “Jew” was returning the racist images, rather than to alter their algorithm or censor the search results.

The Media & Congress

The Google bombing and UK trip had put Donald Trump and idiot at the top of the Google Search Rankings, but historically Google bombing fades, it only works while there are users who want to do it, but Trump is still at the top.

The reason he is still at the top? Well that is the media’s fault. Looking at the top image searches now they all go back to sites like the BBC, The Guardian and other main stream media sites. When they heard that typing “idiot” shows pictures of Trump they posted articles on it. Now the story had moved to some truly huge players with main stream coverage, and their followers represent a big spike in people reading articles and sharing posts about the Trump/idiot connection from the niche audience the Reddit/Google bombing community represented.

This repeated towards the end of 2018 when the US Congress asked a representative of Google, Sundar Pichai, why a search of idiot showed Trump. His explanation, and the absurdity that the question needed to be asked became a huge story covered by all the major news services, which again gave the connection a boost.

In fact a google search (not an image search) of the word “idiot” predominately now shows articles talking about the connection.

Look I clicked on a link, that’s research there!

Look I clicked on a link, that’s research there!

Our Lesson

Can we learn from Donald Trump being an idiot on Google? Definitely!

Whilst your goals might not be as extreme as this example, you might just want to rank well for ‘doctor wagga’ or ‘plumber wagga’ or 'custom cookies wagga’, it shows the potential ways people can manipulate search engines to help drive web traffic or achieve a bigger goal.

Google’s algorithm is top secret and it is changing all the time, but we can use what we know about the algorithm to skew the results in our favour (or as it is commonly called Search Engine Optimisation or SEO).

Search engine optimisation, when done strategically, can achieve excellent results. Consistently using key words on your website and in blog posts can assist to rank your website higher for these words and phrases, as can using other websites to lend their credibility to your site.

SEO takes more than just ticking a box when your website is built, it is an ongoing process to ensure your website is working with Google’s latest algorithm, building on the site content over time, and keeping ahead of the trends.

If you want to find out more about websites and search engine optimisation, get in touch today.

Cristy Houghton1 Comment