This may be the most amazing feat of search-engine optimization we’ve seen. Just days after Apple announced its uberhot MacBook Air upgrade, someone pitching HP Pavilion Elite desktops has used SEO tricks to take the No. 2 organic (correction: news) search result for “MacBook Air” on Google.
On one hand, yay marketers. But let’s think deeper, people. This also shows a challenge for Google, as SEO gameplayers gum up search results with stuff you, the searcher, don’t really want to see. If you’re looking for a MacBook Air product review because you’re keenly interested in it, an HP organic search result is out of place. This is a different play than an HP reseller bidding on Apple terms for a paid sponsored link at right of the search results — now the very organic stuff, the core of Google’s value, has become polluted with content that doesn’t make sense. If enough SEO players game the Google system with such off-kilter results, users will begin to leave Google as the utility of the search engine falters. Or, perhaps, that is already happening.
But it’s just the news feed?
Commentator Brent Terraza clarifies that this HP ruse popped up in the Google News feed, which is easier to manipulate than Google’s core engine itself. “News is greater affected by topical keyword gaming than regular search as it looks more for authoritative websites that have ‘breaking news’ than the over-all picture,” Terraza writes. Digging deeper it looks like the PC seller posted the “HP news” story to 1,064 total sites to leap to the top of the MacBook editorial links. We missed the subtlety in our late-night tired searching, but the effect is the same — a strange PC in place of the computer we sought. Ah, Google, news is even harder to get right.
cc Matt Cutts.