Nigritude ultramarine

Nigritude ultramarine is a term created by ( and SearchGuild ( to test methods and best approaches for search engine optimization (the process of modifying a web page's contents and links to ensure a high ranking in a search engine). The specific target of interest was the Google search engine. The phrase was chosen because Google initially showed no results for it, so the competition would not adversely affect results for anything real.



The contest ran from May 7, 2004 to July 7, 2004. Two prizes were awarded for the top position in a Google search: one for the top position on 9am GMT on June 7, 2004, and a second prize awarded at the close of the contest on 9am GMT July 7, 2004.

There were about two hundred competitors, who deployed an astonishing variety of dirty tricks, from Google bombing upwards. The competitive conditions encouraged intensive, free use of techniques that would have otherwise been used in a more conservative manner, and it is entirely possible that some normally-legitimate SEOs took a dirty approach for the occasion. Weblogs and wikis were hit by the contest, and needed to be constantly policed to prevent "nigritude ultramarine" spam from lowering their signal-to-noise ratio below acceptable limits. Public wiki sandboxes were especially vulnerable.

On July 7, Six Apart Vice President and weblogger Anil Dash was announced as the contest winner. Dash stated that his goal in entering the contest was to "prove that real content trumps all the shady optimization tricks that someone can figure out". Instead of resorting to such tactics, he simply wrote a weblog entry and asked his readers to link to it. Another competitor took this idea further and wrote the Nigritude Ultramarine FAQ, which placed sixth overall, won the "Judge's Choice" award, and remains a valuable source of information about the competition.


Since the end of the formal competition, the evolution of the Google results ( for nigritude ultramarine remains an enlightening area of study. As of September 5, 2004, the top two Google results are the blog entry that won the competition and the Nigritude Ultramarine FAQ.

It is known that Google generally tries to detect and penalise dirty tricks, and nigritude ultramarine makes an obvious test case. An important open question remains whether Google has treated nigritude ultramarine specially in any way; the notoriously secretive company has refused to comment. It is possible that they have applied special attention to the "nigritude ultramarine" in order to improve the results in this prominent case. However, as of September 2004, the Google results do not appear hand-crafted, and several insipid pages appear high—although lower than they did during the competition—on the search page. More likely, but also unproven, is that Google has studied the techniques applied to nigritude ultramarine in order to improve their dirty-trick-penalising code.

Comparison of search results for nigritude ultramarine during and after the competition is complicated by the change the competition has caused to the meaning of the phrase. Before, it was purely a nonsense phrase that could not possibly be searched for by anyone looking for any real resource. Now it refers primarily to the competition itself, and is a natural phrase to use to find information about the competition. (As of September 5, 2004, the highest Google result that is an official competition page is SearchGuild's, which is ranked 18th.) It is also natural for someone to search for the phrase to find out why it appears on so many webpages. (The Nigritude Ultramarine FAQ, ranked second as of September 5, 2004, is an excellent resource for this.)

Furthermore, due to the nature of web searching, any web-based reporting about the nigritude ultramarine competition, including this encyclopedia article, feeds back and affects the search results in question. (As of January 6, 2005, this Wikipedia article ranked 36th on the results page.) This effect was previously noticed in the reporting of Googlewhacks, and takes a more complex form in this case.

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