How Big Companies and Politicians Bury Search Results They Don't Like

NPR's Peter O'Dowd has a disturbing report on the business of burying search results. When I think of search optimization, I tend to think of finding ways to direct Google towards your own content. But O'Dowd's piece looks at the other end of the business: hiding the stuff you don't want to see. The SEO specialists he talks with recommend creating "a barrage of new websites promoting positive content" to push things farther down Google's search rankings. In essence, O'Dowd writes, "Free speech on the Internet increasingly comes down to who's able to pay for it, and which company is willing to manipulate the listings." Here's a longer excerpt:

According to the digital media research firm eMarketer, search optimization -- and suppression -- is a $2 billion industry. Prominent public companies including BP and Toyota spend fortunes in an effort to keep negative press about oil spills or faulty brakes far away from the first page of a Google search.

"It is an absolute game changer, and a fundamental piece of marketing for any company out there," says Jon Kaufman, a senior vice president at the search optimizer Zog Media. He says this industry is about who controls the message.

Ben Quayle, the son of former Vice President Dan Quayle, is a Republican candidate running for Congress in Arizona. Type Ben Quayle's name into Google and it's impossible to miss negative postings about the candidate's racy contributions to an adult website called Dirty Scottsdale... A few weeks ago, the dirt on Quayle was actually higher in the search results than his campaign website. And that is a case of brand management failure, according to search experts.

Read the full story at NPR.

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