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The Internet

Search Engine Payola 295

Cranial Dome writes: "The top four portals -- MSN, AOL, Yahoo, and Terra Lycos -- all have search results tainted by their acceptance of money for listings, according to this article in the Washington Post. Of the top search engines and portals (including Alta Vista, Inktomi, and Lycos), only Google has vowed to NOT accept money from companies for guaranteed placement in search results. Another reason to love the Google thang."
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Search Engine Payola

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  • Google * (Score:4, Funny)

    by MrPerfekt ( 414248 ) on Thursday February 28, 2002 @02:38PM (#3085619) Homepage Journal
    I swear I want to make love to this company..
    • by nebaz ( 453974 )
      I remember an amusing story about how when you typed the keywords "dumb motherf---er" into google, how the first result you would get back would be a link to George W. Bush's campaign page. Now when you type it in, you get a link to a Wired article describing the phenomena. For this keyword, the search has become meta.
      • And "more evil than satan himself" used to return Microsoft's homepage. ;)
        Then it returned Microsoft's homepage followed by a bunch of pages discussing the Easter egg. Then they finally removed the Easter egg. 8(

        Come to think of it that's how I actually discovered Google in the first place I think... and of course it took about 3 searches to decide to never use another search engine ever again.

        =tkk
  • Didn't we all already know this?
    • by wiredog ( 43288 )
      I saw this in the Post while eating breakfast and thought "Submit to slash? Nah, we all already know about it."
  • use others? (Score:5, Funny)

    by n3r0.m4dski11z ( 447312 ) on Thursday February 28, 2002 @02:39PM (#3085644) Homepage Journal
    people still use search engines that arent google? hmm...

    why?
    • Re:use others? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by redcup ( 441955 ) on Thursday February 28, 2002 @03:30PM (#3086038)
      That's like saying "people still use AOL? why?" Because they don't know better. Think about it - paid placement works because the "average" user doesn't realize it is an ad. These sites aren't targeting the tech-savvy user. We
      - research something before we buy it.
      - don't trust the media or corporations
      - circument ads, tracking technologies, etc.
      - look for the best price once we identify what we are buying

      And most importantly, for every 10 of us, there are 2 million new internet users who
      - click on the first link they see
      - believe what the ads have to say
      - want to buy from a company name they have heard of (like "AOL" or "MSN")
      - think "special offers" are really special (because their mommy said so).
    • So they can "honestly" claim that they didn't see the answers to their Ask Slashdot question be returned by a very simple 0.4777 second Google search.
    • Your sig is funnier in context: He's a Canadian postal worker.
  • no wonder (Score:2, Interesting)

    by metotalk ( 168817 )
    no wonder you can never find what you need to on other search sites, they all have to many people paying to get on the list. I only use google, because if you really want to find what you are looking for, today, then that is the only way.
  • by Wind_Walker ( 83965 ) on Thursday February 28, 2002 @02:40PM (#3085649) Homepage Journal
    It was reported earlier that companies pay television companies for placement on popular television shows. Some companies pay outrageous amounts of money for placement on the annual "Super Bowl" special, shocking people who view PBS.

    It also turns out that some webmasters run banner ads on their websites, being paid money by corporations for key product placement. At a site like Slashdot, for instance, more than a million pages are viewed each day, and the ads are seen there, too.

    Finally, it turns out that sarcastic responses on the above-mentioned Slashdot site are often met with poor ratings and insulting replies. Details to follow...

    • Re:In other news (Score:5, Informative)

      by albat0r ( 526414 ) on Thursday February 28, 2002 @02:51PM (#3085771)
      Products placement and banner ads aren't the samething at all. When you see a banner on a website, you know that's a banner, that someone has paid for it.

      But, when Yahoo|Terra Lycos|MSN|AOL|Inktomi|Alta Vista put in a search result link to websites that that have paid to be listed first, you don't know if it's a "real" result, or if someone has paid to put it their.

      If they put these "sponsored links" like Google does it, it'll be a "clean" way to make advertisment (and money). That's one of the reason why Google is so popular.
      • Yes, it would be more like CNN reporting that coke really is better than pepsi. You think that surely CNN wouldn't make a call like that, but if CNN says that it is a fact, I guess you can believe it. Right?
      • Re:In other news (Score:2, Informative)

        But, when Yahoo|Terra Lycos|MSN|AOL|Inktomi|Alta Vista put in a search result link to websites that that have paid to be listed first, you don't know if it's a "real" result, or if someone has paid to put it their.

        Actually, you do. If you visit any of the sites you mentioned you will see that the "sponsored" links are set apart and labelled differently from the rest of the search results. And, *gasp*, they have a link that explains that these are sponsored results.

        If you're really concerned, visit the source [overture.com] of all those evil, and relevant, sponsored results and you can see how much each advertiser is paying per click. Then, you can scroll down to the free listings and use those.

        Seriously people, why would someone *pay* to direct traffic to their business web site if it wasn't traffic that's going to spend money?
    • So what your saying, like I have to every person I show google to, is:
      that Google == PBS
      You get no adds save for "this search was brough to you by.." in the side boxes and they are small text adds and not 30 second mini-infomercials like you see on some sites/channels.
    • Good post...

      First of all, for those of you who don't know about the REAL Payola Click... A little to the left... Now down... Right HERE! [history-of-rock.com]

      Payola - The paying of cash or gifts in exchange for airplay.

      It's illegal, and record companies do it EVERY DAY, EVERY SONG through a 3rd party otherwise known as "indies" (Independent Record Promoters)

      While I'm at it, here's another link to a Salon article: The Salon Article [salon.com] (They have more)

      Not only is it illegal and the record companies essentially pay the radio stations to play thier songs, now the record companies MUST pay the indies, or they will never hear thier songs. (As demonstrated with Pink Floyd when thier label decided to boycott the indies. The result: While Pink Floyd ranked in the sales charts, you couldn't hear them on the radio if you tried for a period of X months in the early 80's.)

      Slashdot can be so sensational sometimes they deserve to be mocked, but it sucks when something as blatently corrupt as Payola is potentially minimized as a result.
  • by llamalicious ( 448215 ) on Thursday February 28, 2002 @02:40PM (#3085653) Journal
    It's revenue.
    Read their information about submitting your site to their search engines and the available enhanced listings, listing options etc. This is nothing new.

    What I like to see is Google's far more elegant solution of providing real unadulterated search results, while still providing a paid option on the side. The other engines would do well to adopt a similar model.
  • As a matter of fact (Score:4, Informative)

    by Ayende Rahien ( 309542 ) on Thursday February 28, 2002 @02:40PM (#3085656)
    Google *does* accept money for putting links.
    The difference is that Google does it in a straight forward way, and marks those links as "Sponsored links".
    You can buy a link on the search of a word for a fairly low price.
    See http://www.google.com/ads/ for the detials.
    • Furthermore as the article states, the amount of money will never determine how high you rank in the sponsored links area. The amount of times someone actually goes to the site determines it.
    • This whole scandal with respect to Web search engines reminds me so much of a recent trend in magazine advertising.

      Have you noticed how many magazines have full sections of "articles" with special page numbers or small headers and footers that say "Advertisement". You know the ones, Special Section on How High Tech Businesses Love $LOCALE_WITHOUT_HIGHTECH, etc.

      Those articles and sections are usually pretty polished writing and look, for all intensive purposes, like bona fide "articles".

      It got me to thinking about how much of a typical magazine's content might be similar articles, sans the "Advertisement" qualifying label.

    • Google *does not* accept payment for placement in search results. It accepts payment for placement of ADS. Specifically, the more you pay, the higher the probability that your ad will appear (in the sponsored links section). This is not the same thing at all as accepting payment to skew the ordering of their search results.
  • My question is .. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SirSlud ( 67381 ) on Thursday February 28, 2002 @02:42PM (#3085668) Homepage
    > Another reason to love the Google thang

    How long until the laws of (current) economics catch up with Google, and they can no longer afford to do the right thing?

    Does anyone have any insight into Google's money situation? Where the money comes from? Are they are taking losses on traffic? Could they economically handle disillutioned surgers from all the other search engines?

    Or is it just that the other search engines will do anything for a buck?
    • Re:My question is .. (Score:2, Informative)

      by Arcanix ( 140337 )
      They make money from paid ads but they have them in a clearly marked section away from the non-paid listings. Also they make a good amount of money setting up their search engine on corporate intranets or for searches within a particular website.
    • Re:My question is .. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Masem ( 1171 ) on Thursday February 28, 2002 @02:48PM (#3085734)
      Google's cash flow is only slightly enhanced by the ad placement (not in the search results, but as boxes on the side). Google's biggest income source is the licensing of their search technology out as intranet solutions. Of late, there was a story about Google's new search-engine-in-box, a rack-mountable, scalable solution for companies looking to search-index all internal documents.

    • Right now Google makes most of their money by selling their search services to other web sites. The main search site is really mostly advertizing for their search services. You're supposed to use it and say, "Hey, if it works that well for the whole web, it will work well for my site too." I also get the impression that a lot of their expenses are related to the cost of constantly spidering and re-spidering the whole net, which they have to do anyway for their paid services. That means that the visible search is probably cheaper in real terms than you realize.

    • Last I read, they were actually doing extremely well. Their targetted advertising system is a pretty sweet deal, and so they're getting a lot of revenue from that and from licensing/supporting other people deploying their search technologies.
    • by jabbo ( 860 ) <jabbo AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday February 28, 2002 @03:00PM (#3085834)
      > How long until the laws of (current) economics
      > catch up with Google, and they can no longer
      > afford to do the right thing?

      It could be quite a while. Google is profitable, and the click-through rate on the ads that you *CAN* purchase from them (clearly demarcated as ads) is phenomenal. They're doing fine.

      > Does anyone have any insight into Google's
      > money situation? Where the money comes from?

      Google stays profitable by aggressively negotiating bandwidth from several suppliers. The guy who runs the network there is a former coworker of mine. In fact, I'm logged into his computer right now :-).

      > Are they are taking losses on traffic? Could
      > they economically handle disillutioned surgers
      > from all the other search engines?

      See above. In short, yes, but this depends on the economic climate and the willingness of the networks to play ball.

      > Or is it just that the other search engines
      > will do anything for a buck?

      IMHO, yes.

      Realistically, when was the last time someone asked you to Yahoo! or Altavista their next blind date? Google is a societal totem and if they fell prey to financial weakness, they would be snapped up immediately. John Doerr, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin have not allowed that to happen to their creation. I salute them, and all of my friends and coworkers who went to work for them. It is a great product and makes its own markets.

      • Wiked dude, thanks. The tidbit about attempting to keep their bandwidth costs low is an interesting insight I hadn't considered.

        Google certainly represents the kind of corperate vision I wished there was more of. They actually seem to be interested in sustaining off the virtue of their technology and public image, not their sales & marketing departments. :)
    • http://google.com/jobs/culture.html

      Doesn't look like they're on a sinking ship to me... I've heard that google mades loads through licensing its engine though.

    • > Does anyone have any insight into Google's money situation?

      The money they save from using a Red Hat linux cluster [redhat.com] instead of Windows must be what keeps them afloat.

    • How long until the laws of (current) economics catch up with Google, and they can no longer afford to do the right thing?

      Never. The question you SHOULD be asking is how long Yahoo and friends can continue to display false positives before they are forced out of business by consumer backlash.

      IF we lived in a world where all search engines followed the same practices, then sure, the most dispicable one would be king. But all it takes is *one* do-gooder, like Google, to turn the tables on the bad guys. I haven't used any search engine *but* Google for over three years now, and I don't feel the need to. I think more and more people see Google as the "good guys", and that goes a *long* way.

      I know of people clicking on Googles ad links *just becuase they want to give something back*. When was the last time you EVER clicked on an ad link over at Yahoo?

      The end result of Google's Good Idea is that they end up making *more* money by being the lone good guy than they ever could being just one of scores of bad guys.
  • by Lextext ( 121217 ) on Thursday February 28, 2002 @02:42PM (#3085674)
    Anyone who runs their own web site knows that Google dominates the search engine world. Over 80% of my referrals come from google and my webmaster friends report similar statistics. All other search engines are on the margins
  • Search results (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BeNude ( 28969 ) on Thursday February 28, 2002 @02:42PM (#3085677) Homepage
    The sad thing is that the search engines who are altering their search results for hire are tainting the very product they sell, thus diminishing the public's desire to use them at all.
  • by TrollMan 5000 ( 454685 ) on Thursday February 28, 2002 @02:43PM (#3085679)
    Using Dogpile, [dogpile.com] which searches [dogpile.com] many of the popular search engines either have no matches or send me to somewhat unrelated stuff. (Wilshire 5000. Powerman 5000. Why?)

    But on Google [google.com], I get 14 Slashdot post links [google.com], which seems a lot more relevant to the original search terms.

    I guess sites like MP3.com have paid the other engines quite well. Gotta love Google and their text-matching-only searching.
  • A Non Story (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NoData ( 9132 ) <{_NoData_} {at} {yahoo.com}> on Thursday February 28, 2002 @02:44PM (#3085697)
    From the article:

    In fairness, most portals attempt to separate their paid listings from their unbiased search results with labels. Terra Lycos calls paid links "sponsored sites," AOL "sponsored links." Netscape labels them more ambiguously "partner search results."


    I use Yahoo! religiously. It is completely unequivocal about which hits are sponsored (read: bought) and which are not. Yahoo! uses Google for results not in their hierarchical database (though admittedly, not as powerful as using Google directly). This story is about as titillating as the fact Windows Media player caches a list of media you've played on YOUR machine (scandalous!). However, while I enjoy an opportunity to take MS down a notch with FUD, I will not stand for such abuse for my beloved portal, Yahoo!.

  • by quantaman ( 517394 ) on Thursday February 28, 2002 @02:45PM (#3085703)
    I wonder if the success of Google could be driving the other search engines under. Using payed placements is as about as good a way as any to shoot yourself in the foot. The largest users of search engines are likely techies like us who would not only realize that often the good sites are the ones that wouldn't have the money to pay for good placements but these people would also be the ones most likely to object to being fed information like this on a moral point. Does anyone know how AltaVista's been doing since they started accepting money for placements? This move strikes me as more a move of desperation than anything else.
  • Yahoo using google? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mjh ( 57755 ) <mark@hor[ ]an.com ['ncl' in gap]> on Thursday February 28, 2002 @02:46PM (#3085722) Homepage Journal
    I thought yahoo was using google [google.com] to generate its search results.

    Is yahoo modifying the results so that their customer's searches appear near the top?

    • by sporty ( 27564 )
      If you search for something that is in their directory, results are from their own databases first. If they run out of results, they go to google next.

      1. Try searching for "pogo sticks" on yahoo.
      2. Note the url.
      3. Scroll down and hit the next button.
      4. Repeat until you see google.yahoo.com

      Note, they put sponsored links above it. That and after seeing the last page of results (in this case, the 1st page is the last), it lets you use google.

      Proof that they don't alaways use google, search for "cars". You'll get a bunch of their directory links and sponsored links.
  • by Cirrocco ( 466158 ) on Thursday February 28, 2002 @02:46PM (#3085724) Homepage
    After all, who wants to search for plaid boxer shorts and actually come up with PLAID BOXER SHORTS? My goodness, it would create ANARCHY! No, when I search for something I want it to come up with whatever they WANT to show me, not what I wanted! Why, those websites will certainly distract me from whatever it was I was searching for in favor of purchasing their fine wares! And that's what I want; I want to be a mindless sheep that clicks on every link and goggles at every banner ad that gets put in front of me.
  • by Phoex ( 412808 ) on Thursday February 28, 2002 @02:46PM (#3085726)
    Now it is up to the internet community to support the good services and keep them alive when money gets short. Google depends on the internet savvy surfers to bring it income, through advertisements, or donations, or even submitting ideas/programs to help them expand thier services. Yahoo, AltaVista, etc depend on the "Portal" concept where they provide everything for the user, Google provides a quality service for next to nothing.

    Support quality companies and keep Google afloat!
  • by zoombat ( 513570 ) on Thursday February 28, 2002 @02:47PM (#3085730)
    If you're wondering how Google DOES make money, according to CEO Dr. Eric Schmidt:
    • Half of Google's revenue comes from selling text-based ads that are placed near search results and are related to the topic of the search. Another half of its revenues come from licensing its search technology to companies like Yahoo!.

    That's from a very cool recent interview with him from CNN [cnn.com].
    • Half of Google's revenue comes from selling text-based ads
      According to this Sept 2001 article [searchenginewatch.com], 2/3 of Google's revenue is from advertisements.

      Google can't survive without ads, but it's ironic considering the founders Brin and Page once said [scu.edu.au] "...we expect that advertising funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers...[A]dvertising causes enough mixed incentives that it is crucial to have a competitive search engine that is...in the academic realm."
  • The First Annual Google Programming Contest [google.com] shows how google will always be the best around. Join the contest know!!! You might win:
    Grand Prize

    $10,000 in cash
    VIP visit to Google Inc. in Mountain View, California
    Potentially run your prize-winning code on Google's multi-billion document repository (circumstances permitting)
  • by SirSlud ( 67381 ) on Thursday February 28, 2002 @02:50PM (#3085749) Homepage
    >"Yellow pages pay for the printing and distribution of white pages"

    Sigh. Yeah, but the Yellow Pages are not called a "Search Engine". They are called a "Directory Listing". It's much more obvious to people that ads are ads, listings are listings, and none of the entries are there out of the goodness of the Yellow Page publishers' hearts.

    A better analogy would be to 'merge' the yellow pages with the white pages. Assume there are 425,432 people named 'Mike Smith'. Finding Mike Smith's phone number is annoying. But now you have to deal with 500,000 more bought (even if indicated on the page) 'Mike Smiths'. Its not even so much that people are fooled into thinking commercial entries with non-commercial, but rather that the sponsorship of the product is getting in the way of the original intent of the product. In this case, now you have one million Mike Smith entries to check out. In the case of web searches, that page with the result you wanted might have been the 4th page without sponsored entries, but now it's on the 30th page.

    There's nothing wrong with sponsorship, but everything wrong with it when it reduces the effectiveness of the product or service it's financially supporting. I mean, whats the point?
  • 1) Before we cheer on the good corporate ethics of Google, let's remember that this is a company just like any other. Their goal is to make a profit, not benefit the community. Right now they'll profit more by not tainting their search results. But there's nothing to stop them from changing their minds and selling out later.

    2) There's also nothing stopping another company from buying them out in the future and changing their advertisment/search results policy.

    3) The article said that E-Bay pays 10-11 cents per click-through to their site. Why not write a script that repeatedly goes to the site through Yahoo? You'd tie up their bandwidth and cost them a fortune.

    4) Lastly, what's to stop microsoft from paying top dollar for searches including the words "Linux," "open source," and "monopoly"?

    • 1) Duh. And MS could turn nice. But while "Their goal is to make a profit, not benefit the community." is, of course true, the question really should be "What are they willing to do to grow?" You'll note that the most unethical companies tend to be the ones that have the largest visions of grandeur. Some companies are content to stay the same size if it allows them to serve their market's needs sustainably while still turning a profit. It's usually the unmitigated desire to grow, grow, grow that turns companies into scammers. So long as Google doesn't want to expand their services horizontaly, the risk of them compromising their current ethical standards is fairly low.

      2) Duh.

      3) Sounds fun to me, although I'd support just forcing them to rename themselves a la Yellow Pages instead of a Search Engine. But culture jamming is cool, no args here.

      4) Nothing. I think I recall a story about them having bought "Linux". As for "monopoly", why on earth would they do that? I mean, do you think they'd buy links for "companies with anti-competative practices"? But "Linux" and "open Source" .. I'm sure they've already investaged the opportunity, if not done so.
  • by sporty ( 27564 )
    What?! What are you talking about. Searching Yahoo, altavista and others was the best way to get irrelivant porn! :)

    Or is that images.google.com :)
  • by chrysalis ( 50680 ) on Thursday February 28, 2002 @02:54PM (#3085792) Homepage
    I work for a major hosting company for adult (yes, XXX) web sites. Our sites are very well ranked on all search engines. On some search engines, this is because we gave money (sometimes to be the only one to bring answers for specific keywords) . But we're also very well ranked on Google because of mass spamming.

    99% of the pages we submit to Google aren't real sites. We buy a lot of domains (with explicit keywords) . Then, out of every domain, we do tons of subdomains with other keywords. All related web sites are different. But they only have one page, automatically generated by sets of scripts. These pages have randomly chosen keywords and pictures, and every fake site have links to a dozen of other fake sites. On all sites, there's only one link to a real site. A real user will immediately catch the right link (because it's a big picture, it has a caption like "click here to access the site", etc) . But search engines are crawling.

    Googles gives better ranking to web sites that have a lot of other web sites linking it. So we abuse that. All our sites have excellent scoring because fake sites are referring other fake sites. It takes 10 minutes to automatically generate hundreds of fake sites. Apache's mod_rewrite is extensively used. We have an entiere team devoted to reading mailing-lists of search engine software (like ASPSeek... Google uses a lot of ASPSeek ideas), in order to abuse search engines.

    So although Google's ranking doesn't depend on money, it isn't fair. It depends on how people are cheating with it.

    PS: I don't support what the company is doing, it's a shame, and I'm looking for a new job.


    • so YOU'RE the bastards that have been screwing up my porn searches(@*(@(
      um
      i mean...
      never mind.
    • by yintercept ( 517362 ) on Thursday February 28, 2002 @04:10PM (#3086295) Homepage Journal
      There seems to be an entire industry dedicated to finding ways to cheat search engines...like making the title of the page a long keyword list. This industry really is annoying.

      I have noticed that the quality of Google hits has been dropping dramatically as people study these techniques.

      DMOZ [dmoz.org] is one of my favorite engines because people look at the pages at least. Of course, DMOZ is owned by AOL now, and will be subject to the AOL agendas.

      Since Google calculates the number of links to different sites in its weight calculation, I try to make sure all of my sites have a rich index to high quality sites, but it seems that promoting quality is an uphill battle.

    • Google should do reverse lookups of the hostnames and degrade the quality of a result based on what subnet the reference comes from. If a site is recieving lots of references from a particular subnet, it could be determined that that site is spamming. It wouldn't be a ten minute setup process if each site you setup had to be on a different /24.

      I can't think of any situations where this would unfairly degrade a user's quality rating...anyone?
      • by chrysalis ( 50680 ) on Thursday February 28, 2002 @05:04PM (#3086678) Homepage
        The magic of search engines is that you don't need to submit 1000 links to have them referenced. You submit 10, and Google will crawl the 1000 for you.

        But yes, all our domains resolve to 10 IPs among three C classes. There's probably a way for search engines to detect too many loops between different sites that resolves to the same IP, and I hope Google will implement that.

        But well... It's just like any form of SPAM. We have mail filters that check RFC conformance, keywords, RBL lists, etc. but we still get more and more mail spam, because spammers use more and more sophisticated software. It's an endless fight. This is really lousy and it degrades the whole internet.


  • by NOT-2-QUICK ( 114909 ) on Thursday February 28, 2002 @02:55PM (#3085802) Homepage
    But I, for one, am neither shocked nor appalled by this realization!

    Search engines are essentially a very useful service provided to the public by for-profit companies at no direct cost to the individual - they are FREE! They are one of the few remaining offerings in the world that meet the 'something-for-nothing' criteria...

    Of course, the companies that provide these services are not exactly doing this out of the goodness of their heart. They compete amongst the other search engines to win to win favor with the users and then turn their daily page hits into advertising dollars via banners, pop-up's and other such advertising... Now that web advertising has slowed with the rest of the world economy, how long did you truly think it would take before the parent companies and investors demanded further, less principled tactics to increase profits? Obviously, not long...

    And here comes the stinger...I don't thing there is anything wrong with this. Ultimately, the companies that back search engines have a business to run - this requires revenue. No revenue, no search engines....and exactly where do you think that would leave us all in the jungle of information that is now the internet!

    And as for Google, I applaud there adherence to morals and integrity. But don't think that if it comes down to it, they will not do whatever is necessary (including accepting money for search placement) to stay afloat in tough economic times. And I would want them too - a slightly corrupt Google is better than no Google at all!!!

    • the moment Google takes money to place listing on the top of the search results(not on the side) is the moment it becomes just like every other engine.
      Why do you think those engines aren't any damn good? because the returns are becomeinf less and less relevent.
    • a slightly corrupt Google is better than no Google at all!!!

      A slightly corrupt Google ceases to be Google. I can see no reason why Google would have to mix its sponsored links with the rest of the results.

    • This should be obvious to anyone, but the difference is whether it's obvious search results are added product "placements". Search engines are pretty much implying they try search a match based on relevantness, not based on money they make. Google clearly indicates the ads... And it's much easier to do it succesfully when their search engine is known to work well, and they have never done it other way. That is, for other search engines it might be tricky to go from 'invisible' placements to explicit ones. Their ad customers would probably just leave, or demand significant price reductions.

      As to Google, I like it not only because of clearly marked ads, but also because of the damn well working matching.

      An interesting sidenote is that matching also seems to be dynamically adjusted based on hits (ie. times user clicks on particular search result). I noticed that for one of my "own" pages, which went from number 8 to number 1 in a week (took a month for Google to find the page, but only a week to upgrade it... the page gets 90% of hits via Google actually). It's not a huge amount of hits (5-10 a day), but I think search matching works well (page contains a piece of open source code in a popular programming language, so it's reasonably easy to "guess" correct keywords; but it seems that there aren't all that many real alternatives, even though result set has ~7000 pages)... and that's not because it's my page and I want tons of hits but because it seems like a perfect match, compared to most other results returned (like I was objective observer here... :-) ).

  • Acception money in certain industry for ranking is viewed as very bad. Especially bad for those who try are in the "rating products" game. For instance could Consumer Reports weild the command and power they have if they accepted outside money? Probably not. Consumer Reports is all about building the reputation that you can believe their findings because they have a reputation of never bowing to manufacture's pressure because they accept none of their money. No money means no pressure to bias.

    Maybe it is high time people realize that search engines that "slight" there returned results a probably not as accurate or as trusted. In the back of my mind I never touch Yahoo, MS, et al for broad internet searches because I can't convince myself they'll produce an accurate unbiased list of hits.

    Or in short, why should I believe Yahoo's search results over MSN's? Why should even try either when I know Google will give me many more hits in an unbias manner?
  • by mr_gerbik ( 122036 ) on Thursday February 28, 2002 @03:08PM (#3085897)
    Google is not all high and mighty, they accept plenty of money for their "Sponsored Links", which are advertisements, but appear almost identical to search results, and appear at the top of the results. For example, a search for "compilers" will yield the following result:

    Intel® COMPILER - Improve Application Performance
    www.intel.com/software/products

    how about... "stocks"

    Convenient account access. Powerful tools. Advanced trading technology.
    www.ameritrade.com

    The average computer user (my mom), would see this as the first result to her search.. but really its a well disguised advertisement.

    Google is great, don't get me wrong.. but before you go bashing other engines for taking money for guaranteed links, you should bash Google for their manipulative and sneaky ads.

    • Catalog of Free Compilers and Interpreteers: introduction
      Catalog of Free Compilers and Interpreters. ... If you wish to search
      the free-compilers list, fill out the following form: ...
      www.idiom.com/free-compilers/ - 12k - Cached - Similar pages


      I didn't get that. I entered "compilers" and got:

      Catalog of Free Compilers and Interpreteers: introduction
      Catalog of Free Compilers and Interpreters. ... If you wish to search
      the free-compilers list, fill out the following form: ...
      www.idiom.com/free-compilers/ - 12k - Cached - Similar pages

      ...which is pretty much the opposite of what you said. Is it randomized?
    • by RollingThunder ( 88952 ) on Thursday February 28, 2002 @03:27PM (#3086010)
      Sneaky?
      Almost identical?

      You seriously need to get your eyes checked.

      A sponsored ad (specifically the search you mention) is:
      - in bold
      - two lines
      - says SPONSORED LINK on the right
      - no Description
      - no Category
      - no size
      - no spider date
      - no cached

      a real search result is:
      - not in bold
      - at least five lines
      - contains the segment of text off the site with the keyword higlighted
      - does NOT say sponsored link
      - can have a Description
      - can have a Category
      - has a document size
      - has a spider date
      - has a cached link

      I suppose if your definition of "similar" is "they both use alphanumeric characters", then you're right, but I suggest that definition is a bit too wide.
  • by trenton ( 53581 ) <trentonl@gmail. c o m> on Thursday February 28, 2002 @03:09PM (#3085901) Homepage
    The Yellow Pages have been doing this for years. You pay them money, you get an ad. You pay them more money, you get a bigger ad. You pay them lots of money, you get your own laminated insert with a tab sticking out the side of the book. (Go check; I bet you'll find an ad for a personal injury lawyer.)

    No one complains about this practice. There's no doubt that the more you pay, the more prominently you're displayed. How is this different than a search site? In fact, the YP is even worse than the search sites. If you don't pay at all, you're given a crap listing in the White Pages. You don't even turn up in a search by category.

    I guess you could argue that a search site is supposed to return the most relivant sites first. Or, at least, people might think that. But, one could argue that a search should return the sites that most useful or at least somewhat useful.

    Or, you could look at it this way: without ad revenue, there would be no search site at all, and that would be worse, right?

  • Someone asked: "Does anyone actually click on that garbage anyway?"

    The answer is yes, definitely. A well-optimized campaign of paid search terms at Overture (formerly GoTo.com), can result in huge increases in relevant traffic and sales.

    Many search engines, including Google, don't provide relevant information because they are bloated with spam (spoofed web pages, often for porn sites) and they also can't keep up with new submissions (so relevant content never gets indexed). Google certainly remains the best place to find certain types of information, but if you use Google to search for a specific consumer product, you'll get mostly garbage.

    In late 2000, I designed the paid-search strategy for MovieGoods.com, which sells movie posters. We submitted about 450,000 unique search terms (including several variations for each actor/actress name, director, movie title, and movie theme), and GoTo.com approved about 27,000 of them (they won't let you buy a search term unless their records show that it has been searched more than 10 times in the past 90 days).

    Of course, for a company like MovieGoods, a huge portion of traffic comes from people who search for simple terms like "movie poster" (the top ten search terms probably drive 60% of the GoTo/Overture-sourced traffic). But the other 25,000 search terms (like "Fellowship of the Ring movie poster" or "Antonio Banderas posters") drive a lot of sales, and usually at a very low cost.

    For a merchant like MovieGoods, the key is to carefully track the performance of each search term: I determined how many dollars of sales were generated by each search phrase, and how much we spent, and we achieved a simple balance: for every $1 we spent at GoTo/Overture, we generated $6 in sales.

    And consumers also benefitted by finding exactly what they were looking for. Yes, Overture does allow some off-topic bidding, but they are trying to crack down on it so that only genuinely responsive links come up in the paid listings.

    Of course, some consumers ignore the paid results on search engines (including Google, which does sell top-of-list placement and right-margin AdWords, so they are NOT so much holier than the others). But like so many "bad things" on the internet, paid results work for the merchants and often for the consumer.

    There are some interesting issues: for example, if I search for "MovieGoods" and a competitor bids for the #1 position for that term, there are some real concerns. There have even been lawsuits over this issue (really not much different, legally, than the "Meta Keyword" disputes).

    Of course, if the result said "Click Here for MovieGoods" and instead the consumer is misdirected to a competitor (or to a porn site), then it's just not right, but I haven't seen much of this type of abuse (and Overture prohibits it, though as you'd expect they don't check all listings as carefully as some folks would like).

    Also, every major search engine (including Yahoo, Alta Vista, Google, Lycos, and more) is pretty clear at distinguishing the "paid" results from the regular results. Usually the paid listings are in a different font style or size, bold or not, indented differently, or boxed to stand apart from other results.

    Finally, note that on many search engines, there are multiple paid-placement opportunities. For example, on Yahoo, there are pay-per-click results from Overture, then there are paid "sponsored links," and then there are the "most popular links" which generally are the paid sponsors since the sponsor links are shown first and thus get clicked most often. On Google, there are left-margin "AdWords" as well as top-of-list placements. And everybody sells banner ads and often buttons also.

    These days, most of my time is spent on designing "cost-effective marketing" campaigns, with strong emphasis on optimizing paid-search-engine placements, affiliate programs, and of course traditional search-engine-optimization strategies.

    The key is that I can achieve that $5 return on every dollar spent on these strategies, but banner ads and other types of advertising rarely return even $2 in sales for every dollar spent (and often the return is pennies on the dollar). That explains why banner ad rates have plummetted so far, so fast. And it explains why the content-versus-advertising borders are getting fuzzier.

    (Here on Slashdot, people complain all the time about those FatBrain links in book reviews, which will vanish in a day or two since B&N acquired FatBrain and is discontinuing the generous FatBrain affiliate program.)

    -- Mark J. Welch, Internet Performance Marketing Consultant
    -- http://www.MarkWelch.com/consult.htm [markwelch.com]

    • if you use Google to search for a specific consumer product, you'll get mostly garbage

      This is a seller's perspective. When I type a product name into a search engine I usually *don't want* a seller, I want real unbiased info and reviews. (Actually I never do this anymore. If I want reviews I'll type '(product name) reviews' and if I want to buy it I'll type '(product name) price'). There is more to the internet then retail.
  • Decisions (Score:2, Redundant)

    by quantaman ( 517394 )
    That's because eBay and Amazon lately have been top bidders for the George Bush "keyword," offering 11 cents and 10 cents, respectively, for each click-through a search engine delivers.

    So by clicking on these repetedly we can cost eBay and Amazon loads of money!! However doing so supports the search engines whom have sold search placements....

    To click, or not to click, that is the question.
    eBay [altavista.com]
    Amazon [altavista.com]
  • If Google does eventually need to consider doing something drastic to make money, I certainly hope they come to us instead of ad companies. I would easily pay something like $100/year to use Google provided it was clear of ads and sponsored links. Even my employer would pony up the cash for it. It *is* that much better than other search engines. However, the 'donation' method sucks as a lot people just don't bother to pay up. It would have to be a premiere service. Ad up the free stuff all you want but techies will pay to avoid all the crap - that's why we started dealing with Google in the first place. I'd have no problem paying for that from Google and it's better than the alternative.
    • If Google does eventually need to consider doing something drastic to make money, I certainly hope they come to us instead of ad companies. I would easily pay something like $100/year to use Google provided it was clear of ads and sponsored links

      I never would. I'm scum; I'm sorry.
      But how about this: For $10/year you can search and not see the ads and sponsored links. Then google makes money from the purists (they pay $10/year for being pure) and they make money from scum like me (they sell ads that I wind up reading). That seems the best of both worlds, Narsindal. What do you think?
  • It feels unethical to me for a search engine to take money for top spots. I'm not saying it should be illegal, don't get me wrong - I'm as libertarian [lp.org] as the next guy - but it feels somewhere between sleazy and fraudulent.

    Imagine if you called directory assistance and asked for the number for Burger King, and they instead gave you the number for McDonalds (since McDonalds paid a hefty sum), and then only after a pause gave you Burger King's number. Or if Channel 5 listed the top ten films at the box office, and showed you all Paramount films as being at the top (since Paramount paid Channel 5). It's dishonest.

    So what can we do about it? Use Google instead. And click their ads occasionally.

  • by legLess ( 127550 ) on Thursday February 28, 2002 @03:27PM (#3086011) Journal
    Almost every one of the search engines mentioned makes a very clear distinction between paid placements and search results. This is not about Yahoo sprinkling paid placement links in its search results and pretending they're real. Even the worst offender, Dogpile, lists results by search engine, rather than pretending they're all real searches from the same source.

    Yes, they could be clearer, but this isn't nearly as bad as the hysterical submitter wants you to believe. In some ways, it's good. Do a search for Ted Bundy [yahoo.com] on Yahoo and you'll see a paid link to our site (not gonna tell you which one). Of the people who click that link, most end up pretty happy because we've got some cool stuff.

    Overture is the company that puts must of these paid links in searches; we pay them, they pay Yahoo. Overture's standards for search terms are breathtaking - I've spent over a month arguing with them about search terms which are exactly applicable to what we're selling. They go out of their way not to be deceptive.

    Of course Google will say that Overture's not a real search engine - Google's competing with them for the same market. Hello! Google isn't some great white knight, immune from the evils of capitalism. They're the best search engine by far, but their AdWords program sucks ass compared with Overture's. This whole article reads like a Google press release. Contrary to what they say, it's much much easier to get a deceptive ad in Google AdWords than in Overture (not that we've tried - it would be a waste of money).

    Unless I'm looking to buy something, I avoid Overture and all the sites they sell ads to. If I am looking to buy something, Overture is a great tool to start. For knowledge, and obscure or very specific searches, of course, nothing beats Google.
  • by wdavies ( 163941 ) on Thursday February 28, 2002 @03:49PM (#3086160) Homepage
    The Slashdot Intro is misleading in my opinion. The main point is GOOGLE is moving into the Bidded Placement Business. Look at a google result set - 2 sponsored listings at top, 3 on the side.

    The article compares Overture and Google, and for an example tried Digital Cameras... These results seem identical in relevance to me. I think the main point she missed in the article is that the bidding model forces advertisers into being relevant for what they bid on. If not they lose revenue every time some clicks but does not buy. This of course applies to Google as well now that they finally caught on.

    As for the claim by Google that they are pure:

    (1) Why are they getting into the Ad search business :-) ?
    (2) AOL, MSN and everyone else would just put Google's ads in the same place as they did before - as Google does with it sponsored listings.
    (3) Google is clearly trying to move in on our profitable business model - perhaps they are the ones that should be tainted with the impure results brush - we have always simply served bidded line listings :) and hold a patent on the model.

    Try "hotel in france" on Google and Overture's site -- and compare -- in fact Google has two sets of listings, their so called Sponsored ones, and their Ad Words. In this case they come up with just "Sponsored" ads, which actually look like their search listings. And they are general hotel ads, not French Hotels.

    Just some stuff to think about :) I personally don't feel guilty :)

    Winton (an Overture employee :-))

    OVERTURE:
    1. Digital Cameras at ZoVoS.com
    Shop ZoVoS Electronics for digital cameras and more. Low prices, free shipping, fast processing and no sales tax - it's time to expect more: ZoVoS.com.
    http://store.yahoo.com/cgi-bin/clink?z ovos+6gB3e8+ digphot.html $0.54

    2. Don't Buy It Before You PriceSCAN It!
    PriceSCAN is your unbiased guide to finding the lowest prices on digital cameras.
    http://www.pricescan.com/home_digiphoto. asp?sid=46 860012 $0.53

    3. Digital cameras at Staples.com
    From digital cameras to Palm Pilots, laptops to toner, cartridges to office furniture, you'll find the best deals at Staples.com. Plus, get free shipping on product orders over $50.
    http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;3427561;647761 3;n?ht tp://www.staples.com/catalog/search/Search_Sum.asp ?PageType=2&SearchPageType=2&cromulent=&Keywords=d igital+camera&Area=All+Areas $0.51

    GOOGLE
    DIGITAL CAMERAS for LESS!
    Free Shipping, Low Prices, Fast
    Order Processing, No Sales Tax!
    www.zovos.com

    Digital Camera Sale!
    Sony, Olympus, Nikon, Canon, Pentax
    Minolta, Cameras & Camcorders
    CameraClub.com

    PriceSCAN.com
    Save money! Don't Buy It
    Before You PriceSCAN It!
    www.pricescan.com
    • Absolute crock of horse shit.

      This is what pisses me off about paid listings. The companies assume everyone on the internet is searching for something to buy.

      We aren't. Some of us, dramatic pause, actually search for information. You know, the stuff that is useful in our lives.

      Overture is nothing more than a very cool, very specific, very targeted shopping index. That's it.

    • Exactly :-)

      That is exactly what Overture is. We aren't a traditional Information retreival search engine, and that is exactly what Google is trying to muscle in on.

      Look at the results on Earthlink now from Google -- and compare with AOL...

      For what its worth I use Google constantly when I'm doing research - but for items I can buy, services I need, I'd prefer Overture.

      Compare and Contrast:

      Earthlink Web Search DVD Players [earthlink.net]

      AOL Search for DVD players (Overture) [aol.com]

      Winton

  • by pgrote ( 68235 ) on Thursday February 28, 2002 @04:11PM (#3086298) Homepage
    This is one thing that has me worried about the internet. The one common thread that ties us all together on the internet is the need to find information on the billions of pages that exist.

    The search engines have a right to make money. No one doubts that at all. They are for profit and they need to make money.

    With that said the only pure player in the space is google, which is sad. Sad because when you know what you're looking for ... a specific filename or person's name ... the pay per click sites are utterly useless. Google is the only search engine that maintains a complete virgin index and keeps the paid links outside the virgin links.

    If Google were to ever change we're all screwed.

    The pay per click engines are fantastic for sites that sell things, but for sites with content they are abyssmal.

    I would venture to say that 50% of the sites on the internet with content are not making money at all, but are labors of love. With that said you're alienating 50% of the sites when you move to a pay per click metaphor.

    As a webmaster of a content site I can attest to others claims that Google is responsible for 80% of our hits. Links from other content pages is 10% and pay per click sites, which we don't pay for, are 10% more.

    As long as Google is alive and uses the searching dynamic they do the internet can be a very useful tool for information. If they go to straight pay per click we're all screwed.

  • by turambar386 ( 254373 ) <turambar386.routergod@com> on Thursday February 28, 2002 @04:28PM (#3086409) Homepage
    Google may not accept payment for placement, but at least one unscrupulous organization knows how to manipulate their way to the top of search results.

    The cult of L. Ron Hubbard has managed to keep all critical sites off of the first page of search results for "scientology" using a vast web of cookie-cutter home pages and domain names all linking to one another.

    Check this [operatingthetan.com] out for a full description of how they did it.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    From here [thestandard.com].

    "Last year, however, Google did follow competitors in offering sponsored links - a form of advertising based on search terms - on the top and left of search results. Today such advertising accounts for two-thirds of Google's revenues, with the remainder coming from powering searches on other Web sites, including that of Yahoo. Observers have wondered whether Google's business model can survive, especially given the downturn in Internet advertising. Schmidt insists that the company has been profitable for the last two quarters, although he declines to disclose numbers."

    From here [google.com].

    "Google's advertising programs enable advertisers to closely match text-based ads with users' search queries. The result is a highly targeted service that consistently produces an average click-through rate four to five times higher than the industry average for traditional banner advertising. Google provides advertisers with a full complement of monitoring services to ensure the best results. Online advertisers, such as Acura, Expedia, Eddie Bauer, Ernst & Young and REI, consistently rank Google as their top online advertising choice."

    From here [businessweek.com].

    "So, where's the business model? To this end, Google has started to diversify its revenue stream. It boasts 100 co-brand partners, such as The Washington Post and Netscape, that have selected Google as an embedded Internet search engine on their site. Most of these co-brand partners pay the company from $8 to $10 per thousand queries and from $600 to $2,000 per month in licensing fees. Google also has a program offering free search capabilities to smaller Web sites, with the caveat that it might begin inserting advertisements on search-query pages at a future date -- but no banner ads.

    The company has also instituted a pay-for-play scheme called Adwords that allows an advertiser to purchase a word and place a small text ad on the page whenever that word is mentioned in a query. But Google is making the most money from customized intrasite search functions, built for a dozen select clients, such as router giant Cisco Systems and Linux provider Red Hat."


    I leave it as an exercise to the reader to find more.
  • by Hyped01 ( 541957 ) on Thursday February 28, 2002 @06:42PM (#3087319) Homepage
    Hi... wanted to clear some misinformation...

    Recently there was an article (commented on Slashdot a few days ago) about Google selling listing spots.

    Now there are posts referring to "Yahoo uses G$o$o$g$l$e..." etc...

    Time to set the record straight as an outside observer (ie: I do not work for Google or it's affiliates).

    (1) Google does not sell ranking spots. They sell "Sponsored Links" spots, and have for a while (though their system was in beta - not that it was labelled as such unless you read all the signup text). Those spots have been and still are on the right column of the listings labelled clearly, and occassionally on the top of the listings, also labelled clearly with a different color background than their standard white. Their ranking engine (search engine) is separate from their ad server, and the departments are supposedly separate as well.

    (2) Yahoo uses Google for their standard search engine facilities - BUT STILL MAINTAINS their Yahoo Directory... you cannot pay Yahoo for placement in their google search facility - but CAN pay for placement in their directory searches - both search options (and more) are available on Yahoo by clicking the appropriate link, button or checkbox (depending on where on their site you are searching from).

    - Robert

    FoodPlaces.com [foodplaces.com]

  • by MoNsTeR ( 4403 ) on Thursday February 28, 2002 @09:01PM (#3088008)
    I use Yahoo for 99% of my web searching. Usually, when a search turns up sponsor results (which certainly doesn't always happen), they consist of 3-5 sites. In general, these sites have proven to be among the most useful of the total body of results, and regardless, are easily ignored.

    It gets Yahoo money, it gets more customers for the advertisers, and it shows me better results. What's the problem?

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