Whitey - 10:51 pm on Apr 12, 2013 (gmt 0)
The only motive I can imagine for Google deliberately delivering irrelevant results when they could do better is if that would somehow steer people to click Adwords.
Organise the advertiser market into 3 buckets. Eliminate bucket 3 as it contributes little. Place your highest spending customers in the top bucket, caused by the use of brand related terms being measured in the algo due to user retention.
Then make it difficult for those big spenders to withdraw because it's darn hard to work out where your brand related earnings are coming from when you have a huge marketing mix across many channels; there's sensitivities, variables and invisibles that tracking just can't do effectively enough. So Google creates dependency amongst it's advertising customers by muddying the waters.
Then put the question in every big brand spenders mind, we can't afford not to be in this organic/Adwords mix, so we'll retain and grow our advertising spend.
Google leverages their rates according to their opportunity's, spreads it's risk across multiple devices and channels and conceals all transparency on like for like bids and publisher rates.
Then there's a plan for bucket 2, split between local and wannabe big spending Adwords folks that perhaps rely on organic. Guys with real business' on every street corner, that's called local. Ween them and find a way to charge them. The old telephone paper directories were a gold mine, and Google's well on the way to locking in local brand with further multiple channels and devices.
Also, in that bucket are the organic Adwords prospects, that serve to keep the top brands honest, those are the sites that have an "overall prospect" of keeping the top brands spending. It's lobster over lobster.
Since the beginning of time, the last thing a media operator wants is transparency in which to operate. There's little sustainability in it.
Whilst we may argue about the lack of integrity in surfacing great content such as the earlier medical example, or superior UI's that don't really get acknowledged to compete with the brands, the bottom line to me is that Google is focused on it's overall strategy of profit over integrity, and false positives are sad but irrelevant to Google so long as the user is happy to consume it and Google gives off the appearance of a superior, effective search product.
Through Panda and Penguin, any site that used manipulative tactics, that wasn't brand was put into a sub class, and even if they escape [ and very few have ] , you'll always be a sub class to big spending brands who have preference in the algo through "brand recognition", regardless of your efforts, unless you also build it up to being a brand and properly enable your site with SEO.
One thing - united against Google doesn't suit. So Google will be sure it has enough participants to divide and conquer, playing off brand against brand, and choking off anything organic that scales that doesn't suit them.