Unlike Google, China’s dominant search engine – Baidu – sells its results page.
Lonnie Hodge, a search engine optimization expert (see video here about his departure from academics after many years), sent over some slides about a relatively new way Baidu is selling search results: Brandlink.
For one million RMB (Roughly US$130,000), a brand – and only the brand itself – can show their logo and image with search results.
Brandlink can help companies control and develop their reputation.
“We were contacted by two companies who were Google and Baidu-bombed by a competitor via BBS and blog reference negativity (mostly fake) and both were doing a lot of damage,” Hodge said, adding that Brandlink might help mitigate this problem.
It is naive to think that Google’s results are not for sale
Google may not be directly involved in the sale of their results, but Hodge pointed out that there is a reason people pay top dollar to search engine specialists. These specialists work for the wealthiest and savviest companies to skew results. “The average SEO specialist in the US with 5 to 7 years of campaign management can command US$100,000 to US$250,000 for his/her talents. That certainly indicates an uneven playing field exists and that the results are dubious at best.”
But the question remains: Are purchased search results unethical?
Hodge praised Baidu for only selling the top four results and putting a line under them and only allowing brands and government agencies to buy their own search results page.