There can be no doubt that search engines are not just a commercial tool any more. It became the optimal starting point for any information research, especially in countries with no freedom of speech and an entirely corrupted media, search engines would be the last reliable resort of finding trustworthy information.
In the business world, tactics have focused on optimising “the right pages” in order to outrank the pages with harmful information (think about brand search queries where “Company X is a scam” is on the first page of results). This is already so common that arguing about the ethics is useless. When millions of dollars are spent on building the brand equity, any method becomes ethical by default. A few thousand dollars for an SEO company is a very cost effective method considering the potential harm bad reviews can cause the company’s bottom line.
However, when a government company is offering taxpayer’s money in order to hide their own mistakes it’s definitely over the top.
Russian Government is planning to “clean” the SERP
Recently, I stumbled upon the post (unfortunately, it’s in Russian but Google translate might help you out) from the most famous Russian corruption fighter where he spotted a government tender looking for the SEO company:
The highlighted area states the required service – “Looking for the service of changing and supporting the 1st page results from both Yandex & Google”. For those who are not familiar with International SEO, Yandex is the market leader with 64% of the search market in Russia and majority of post-Soviet countries.
The price for the project is considered at 359167 Rubles which equals around £7 954 or $12 959.
At first, I was pretty proud to see the Russian Goverment (not the world’s most technologically advanced) finally understanding the power of search. But looking deeper into the targeted keywords list the feeling of pride got substituted with shame and disgust.
The highlighted part explains the task in details stating that: “Government is looking for optimising 1st SERP so the ratio of negative materials would be not more than 20% followed by the list of 15 keyword.”
The keywords are basically possible different variations of Mayak Production Association combined with cities and rivers nearby.
Mayak production Association is one of the biggest nuclear facilities in the Russian Federation. An accident that happened on the 29th September 1957 at Mayak was compared to Hiroshima based on the amount of radiation released creating a contaminated region of 15k-20k square kilometres.
Moreover, even after the 1957 accident there were at least 3-4 other accidents caused by management or government negligence and mistakes. One of the workers was stupid enough to almost receive a Darwin Award.
As already mentioned above, other keywords were related to the geographic locations nearby including Karabash – One of the most polluted towns in the world.
And to finish…
I really think that these issues will only grow in numbers during next couple of years and when in commercial terms it can be solved by a competitive industry (if your company is a scam your competitors will make sure to let everybody know about that).
On the other hand, with cases like this, a couple of days of link building will do the job and maybe by the time this post is published Karabash in search engines will be the cleanest city on the planet. So I have 3 questions bothering me right now and I would really appreciate if you can leave your opinion in comments below:
How search engines can guarantee to me as a user the delivery of the trustworthy and reliable information?
More interesting are the question to our web marketing readers – Do you consider this type of optimisation ethical or not? Would you take the contract in case of the opportunity?