netmeg - 2:10 pm on Apr 15, 2013 (gmt 0)
Nobody has ever convinced anyone into or out of a conspiracy theory on WebmasterWorld. Seriously. It's never happened. If you think Google is nothing but evil, nobody will convince you otherwise. If you think Google generally means well but often fails in the execution, ditto. Or if you're like me and believe somewhere in the middle of those two, you might temporarily shift more to one side than the other, but ultimately you come away with the save viewpoint you went in with.
All we have to go on are our own experiences, and the experiences of those we can see (and even that's usually only partially useful) Google is a corporation, and like any corporation, stockholders or not, they want to make money. But they're also sitting on a ginormous enough pile of cash that they can afford to take the long view, and not have to do profit grabs every quarter. As a general rule, they're trusted in the markets (see also: Amazon)
If you think that there are a bunch of Googlers sitting in a room somewhere symbolically rubbing their hands and cackling with glee at all the FUD, you're wrong (well, maybe except for Eric Schmidt) I fully believe there is such compartmentalization inside Google that one group doesn't know what the other group is even doing (see also: AdSense and organics, many examples, the most recent of which is the organic team pushing Responsive Design when AdSense still doesn't approve serving responsive ads)
MOST of the sites I oversee (my own and my clients, generally between 250 and 300 of em in a huge variety of niches) do not run AdWords. Most (but not all) do pretty well in the organics, whether or not we run AdWords. All my AdWords clients run heavy AdWords spend EVEN WHEN they rank well in organics, and they run it (and PLA ads - formerly Google Shopping) on the same keywords they rank for organically. Some of the are brands, none of them are big brands (although we compete against big brands) We aim for total domination of the page, that's why we focus on organics, on PPC and on product ads.
If I'm doing this on my small scale (and succeeding in some areas), you best believe that the big brands are throwing HUGE amounts of time, money and personnel at it as well. Plus they have the added advantage of name recognition, and other channels (TV commercials, print ads, direct mail, etc.) SO OF COURSE THEY RANK. Whether or not Google gives them a pass is pretty much moot; they don't need Google to give them a pass.
Big brands always have had advantages that need to be worked around; blaming it on Google's preference is real convenient, because it lets you off the hook for finding those work-arounds.
And none of this takes into account the crapstorm that would fall on Google, from users and from governments, if they were to let it be obvious that paid ads influence organic results (without due disclosure) Really, I'd believe Google was totally evil before I'd believe they would be that stupid.
GOOGLE DOESN'T CARE ABOUT SITE OWNERS OR WEBMASTERS. The sooner you get that into your head, the better. They should add that to every hosting agreement in the world.