Google Bait and Switch

// // February 02nd 2011 // Rant + SEO

Does Google truly understand SEO? One would hope so but in the last few weeks Google took one step forward and two steps back.

What Google Says

Matt Cutts gave SEO a sort of backhanded compliment in a recent post about search neutrality.

I don’t believe all search engine optimization (SEO) is spam. Plenty of SEOs do a great job making their clients’ websites more accessible, relevant, useful, and fast.

I like Matt and I think he does understand and may even appreciate SEO.

And a recent Google Webmaster Help video titled Using Webmaster Tools Like an SEO was also a positive sign. The content is very basic and Maile seems to be talking like Mr. Rogers, but that’s probably to ensure the video helps beginners and those where English is a second language. So, they talk the talk.

What Google Does

Does Google walk the walk? The new Google Engage program recently launched and I’m seeing ads on Google promoting it.

Google SEO Search Ads

The keyword targeting seems focused around any term containing SEO. I got this one to fire when I searched for ‘seo services’.

A different version popped up during my morning Google Reader review.

Are you an SEO?

What’s the problem? Google Engage has pretty much NOTHING to do with SEO. Here’s the landing page.

Google Engage Landing Page

The highlighting is my own, but is there to underscore the fact that they’re equating search engine optimization with AdWords services. I find this disturbing.

I would give most people outside of the industry a pass on distinguishing between SEO, SEM and PPC. Google is no outsider. I think it’s pretty clear that SEO is about optimizing a site and pages for natural search. SEO is not about paid search.

Yet here they are advertising against SEO keywords, using an SEO focused display URL to encourage AdWords business. I’m left to believe that those behind Google Engage don’t understand what SEO really is or that they know what SEO is and seek to convince people to spend on paid search traffic instead of optimizing for free search traffic.

Bait and Switch

So which is it? When I search for ‘sem services’ I get a different ad.

SEM Services Adwords Ad

That ad takes me to an interesting page.

Google Defines SEO and SEM

Huh. Looks like Google’s got the definitions down pat. So I’m left to assume Google Engage is purposefully muddying the waters.

Am I blowing this out of proportion or are you disturbed by this bait and switch technique?

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Comments About Google Bait and Switch

// 4 comments so far.

  1. Jim Gaudet // February 02nd 2011

    I can say one thing that I noticed is as soon as I started using Adwords and my organic search results increased dramatically. I assume it’s based on traffic more than my pages, though I am not sure.

  2. JC // February 07th 2011

    try signing up for it….. broken link, and a disclaimer which distance google from the programme….it is outsourced.

  3. Johnny Rogers // February 09th 2011

    I actually left a similar comment on Matt McGee’s blog…

    It’s a classic case of the Golden Rule “He who has the Gold, Makes and Breaks the Rules” and we all know that Google has lots of gold.

    I have always found it ironic how Google will penalize you if they think you are using a paid traffic source, but you can purchase as much of Adsense as your money can buy.

    I was always lead to think that SEO and Adsense were like apples and oranges, If Google follows its own rules, then the ad would be somewhat misleading.

    But I had heard a rumor that Google was having some indexing problems and you wonder if it is also impacting things on the Adsense side. Not sure if that is possible, as I am fairly new at this but maybe…

  4. aj // February 16th 2011


    Yes, Google could certainly make its own rules when it comes to these things. Traditionally, they haven’t done something this blatant, so I’m hopeful that this is a reflection of a silo-based work structure where the one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing.

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