For some odd reason the whole Google Declares War issue has caught my attention and I keep seeing it all around on various media outlets. This morning as I was driving to church, I heard a very interesting piece by National Public Radio’s “On The Media” concerning the Google war and how certain companies have learned to cheat at Search Engine Optimization. Some of the companies that were mentioned as having been caught “red-handed” by Google were JC Penney and Overstock.com, as well as the obviously controversial Demand Media. One particular search that drew attention was the key term “dresses”. To make their site show up higher when people searched for dress or dresses, JC Penney had used the key term to link to their site from completely irrelevant websites for business and organizations. These sites included such things as a website for a dentist and a site promoting a casino. Overstock.com was allegedly paying college students to link to their site using relevant search terms. Personally, I fee a bit concerned now that it is so easy to leverage the power of search engine optimization, and I am glad Google has the power to stop these sites from using irrelevant material and linking to fool people into visiting their sites.
The story also piqued my interest because it addressed the issue of Google perhaps having too much power. After discovering JC Penney’s misuse of SEO, Google buried the site that had ranked 1st or 2nd for searches in many clothing key term searches on the fourth or fifth pages. If they so chose, Google could also bury a lot of other websites promoting actual causes or issues that would actually be important to the people. We shall see how these algorithm changes progress and how our searches are really affected.
I could not figure out how to embed the audio for the NPR story, but if you would like to get the full story you can listen here.