In September 2011 Google had won a case in a lower court brought by the ACCC over claims that they sponsored misleading links as part of their search results. This prompted an appeal from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) where the Federal Court found in favour of the commission.
It was found that sponsored adverts using keywords for Honda, Harvey World Travel, Alpha Dog Training and Just 4X4 Magazine were delivered by Google and led consumers to rival competitor websites. While Google argued that it should not be “responsible for the content of four particular ads on its platform”, the court said: “It is Google’s technology which creates that which is displayed.
This sends a clear message that Google and other search engines using similar technology are directly accountable for misleading or deceptive paid search results. Google, however, is adamant that the advertisers should be responsible for the ads they create on the AdWords platform.
The sponsored adverts in this case pertain to Google AdWords, and the search engine giant is believed to be considering its options as a result of this outcome.
So what does this say about SEO practices?
You could argue that Google are taking the hit for the practices of Black Hat SEO operators. These are people who participate in illegitimate methods and practices to attain favourable results. Contrary to Black Hat SEO (Search Engine Optimization), White Hat SEO (Search Engine Optimization) follows more rigorous ethical standards.
Whilst Black Hat techniques were considered legitimate and widely used ten years ago, these days Black Hat techniques are considered cheating. It comes down to how much risk you want to take for short term gains.
The problem here is that there are too many ways to cheat and to fool search engines to rank for specific keywords. Google does not help this, as they are always changing their algorithms in secrecy and behind closed doors. As Google does not release this information it leaves much speculation and uncertainty about SEO. It also creates a dilemma, as what is a White Hat today, may be Black Hat tomorrow, or the other way round.
For this reason, my advice is to stay well away from anyone claiming to be an SEO expert or rank you at the top. In fact, I would go as far as recommending you go with an SEO company that promises you the least.
Or you can spend several years or research and do it yourself.