I was astonished to read today that Google have been found out for carrying out a search engine optimisation trick in order to promote their web browser, Chrome. Aaron Wall, the creator of the SEO book blogged to the world that he had found this out by using his specialised searches.
What they had done was to pay bloggers to promote a video about the Chrome Web Browser. This created hundreds of inbound links meaning that Google's well established search algorithms pushed the linked page further up the results pages.
Google is fighting a constant battle against "paid for" links and thin content on web pages that promote websites. For Google to join in with this dubious (but commonly used) method of marketing is incredible for two reasons:
It is ironic that this action shows a certain amount of honesty and a certain amount of dishonesty at the same time. It is dishonest because they have employed a marketing method against which they have fought for so long. But it is honest because it shows they were not prepared to "fix" the results.
It would be difficult to catch them out if they did this. They control a complex set of algorithms and it would be difficult if not impossible to prove they had done anything dodgy. The fact that they felt the need to employ some search engine optimisation shows that they are not willing to fix their own search engine results.
Search Engine Optimisation is at best time consuming and at worst, horrendously expensive. It is also very risky if you employ a search engine marketeer because there are so many sharks in the business.
All of us are trying to learn the latest tricks and techniques to get our websites to page 1 for that all important set of search keywords and for so much time now, Google has been emphasising great content above all else. Many of us strive and struggle to create this great content but we all know it sometimes isn't enough and given the opportunity for a link on a highly ranked website for which we must pay is a great temptation.
In truth, this is probably just a small blip in Google's history which has been marked along the way with much more success than failure. But it is interesting that their search engine has become so powerful that they, just like us, have to find ways to impress it.