Separation of Search and State

Posted to Google’s Health Advertising Blog on June, 29th was an entry called Does negative press make you Sicko? In this post, Google Account Manager Lauren Turner champions the Health Industry by offering them a solution to their Michael Moore-damaged image through, you guessed it, Google Advertising.

Though auspicious by intent, the blog was poorly dressed in partisan language.

Moore attacks health insurers, health providers, and pharmaceutical companies by connecting them to isolated and emotional stories of the system at its worst. Moore’s film portrays the industry as money and marketing driven, and fails to show healthcare’s interest in patient well-being and care.

Kind of makes you want to see the movie, huh?

A follow-up post by Lauren attempts to clean up the mess by reminding folks that this was her opinion, not Google’s. She learned her lesson to the tune of national blogger fury and calls for her humble position.

Although Ms. Turner’s post appears a harmless use of slanted opinions to sell advertising, there is a broader threat present, one concerning the blatant consultation of Google to its advertisers.

As Danny from SearchEngineLand.com enlightens us:

The advice of buying ads is actually good. The problem goes back to the criticism of Moore and more broadly to Google providing strategic advertising advice for industries, where it threatens to lose the neutrality it long has sought to maintain… Google ought to get back to just selling space and not trying to be an ad agency to these groups.

Now, every branch of media has their angle; from mudslinging radio spots to the heavily partisan antics of Fox News and Comedy Central. However, to say there is not a democratic responsibility for the search engines to remain fair and balanced is irresponsible. Recommendations of this nature blur the line between search engine and SEM firm. Being a PPC marketer myself, I want Google bloggers to stay out of my Kool-Aid.

I propose a separation of Search and State. Search Engines shall fill their company pens with only unbiased ink. Companies that vow to offer relevant, quality-based directories assume a civic responsibility to simply offer links, not ad marketing advice, and avoid posting seditious blogs about seditious films.

Google is a presenter of ads. Of course there are tons of methods for improving the quality and visibility of your ads, and Google’s blogs offer plenty of advice to wayfaring marketers looking for the answers. Unfortunately, the generosity gives way to special interest when the advice is aimed at the companies themselves.

Remember that we, the SEO and SEM marketers, are the conductor by which sparks travel from your marketing team to the search engine results pages in best practice form. Therefore, offering strategic search advice directly to the companies themselves is a leg-sweeping kick to those committed to high-quality ad production.

Perhaps there is a benefit for Google to pass along strategic advice. The more businesses they empower, the higher the sales of the brand new Saleforce.com-supported AdWords product. I liken this possibility to television bypassing creative writers and performers, choosing instead to offer “premium” programming approved by the consumer and starring the consumer. What we have left is a wasteland of bad reality shows followed by hollow sitcoms. Is that what you want your SERPs to look like?