Jonathan - 10:54 pm on Jan 22, 2011 (gmt 0)
This is a great example of how Google's ownership of both the leading search engine and the leading contextual advertising program can taint its objectivity. "Quality" aside, where does their economic incentive lie?
Their search engine skyrocketed to success on a "Don't Be Evil" mantra that separated paid/organic results, but the fact was that, at the time, that was an economically sound move, because the market was ripe for such a product.
Now, the greatest money to be made is by feeding their ads out to content farms that, in a completely unrelated algorithmic coincidence, rank wonderfully in their search engine. They maintain that their "paid" results are kept separate from their organic results, but it's not that simple.
The market is savvying up, the incentives are shifting, and people are once again demanding that paid and organic results be truly separated, and that the separation is not obfuscated by the existence of paid relationships between content providers and search results providers.