Is the BBC buying their way up Google’s “organic rankings”?

Rupert Murdoch claimed that Mountain View redirects users from Google to the BBC web site: “The BBC has been paying US internet search engine Google for the right to use key words and phrases that put it on top of results lists. […] The BBC paid Google so that people looking up details of the Mercury Prize, for instance, would be directed to a BBC website“. Is this SEO or SEM?

To put the claim in context, News Corp is embarked in a number of skirmishes against BBC for a share of the publicity market on TV in the UK and against Google to monetize the content of news site.

The news could be read as an entirely legitimate purchase of Adwords by the BBC. It is unclear whether paying to put the BBC on top of results for certain keywords is referring to any sort of SEO self-inflicting practice against Google’s own Terms of Service.

I carried out a quick research and the results suggest that SEM is not part of the BBC tactics:

1. The BBC is not buying the keywords mentioned in the article, eg. Speech Debelle and Mercury Prize

2. The BBC is a notorious pinch-penny in Adwords spending.

The most plausible explanation is however that the piece of news was written by a journalist that either does not have a clue about the permanent tension between SEO and SEM, or that he/she knew all too well.

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