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Searching for an Honest Engine

By® Staff

Originally Posted

Search engines: We all use them. We have our favorites, probably related to familiarity, results, speed, and maybe even appearance.

Most of us understand that a portion of a search engine's revenue model is some form of pay-for-placement. Even so, we're expecting the results to be fair and reasonably comprehensive.

The Federal Trade Commission has decided to help us. They looked into paid placements, in which search engine result rankings give preferential treatment to advertisers and greater preferences to bigger spenders. In most search engines, paid placements appear before the search results that use the engine's mathematical algorithms that rank a Web site's relevance to the request.

These search guys have another, more subtle trick, too. Under their "paid inclusion programs," you and I can pay to have them search (spider) our site more frequently, or our content more deeply. FTC doesn't like this either, says it skews the results.

The Associated Press tasked a dozen of the popular sites earlier this month. To no one's surprise, Google appeared to meet all the FTC criteria. Google's co-founders have been steadfast at protecting their product's integrity, and were early adopters of the concept of separating "sponsored links" from the rest of their search results.

The FTC says the others have been slower to make clear their policies on fee-based results and adopt its other recommendations. Legal action may follow.

Frankly, at CornerBarPR.comSM, we don't much care if the information is paid for or is divined by Miss Cleo, so long as it quickly and accurately answers our question.

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