Google's ads are paid for; its search results, supposedly, are untainted by commercial concerns. But French blog Zorgloob landed itself a screenshot that calls Google's purity into question. It shows what Google search results look like to a member of Google's AdWords sales team. The picture raises more questions than it answers. For example, why are there dollar signs among so-called "natural" search results? And why does Google note whether a website in its search results belongs to an advertiser? Here's the image.
The most charitable interpretation? Google's salespeople uses these results to identify potential customers. An AdWords sales rep probably looks up a product and these results indicate if each site turned up by Google's algorithmic search is also advertising with AdWords. If a site owner is not, the GG Score indicates how much that site owner would have to pay to get a sponsored link to appear near the top for that search term.
But there's a darker possibility — that this data factors into Google's website-ranking algorithms. Small website owners have long groused that their Google rankings seem to change arbitrarily, and that buying AdWords seems to be the only way to get back in Google's good graces. Until now, it's been easy to dismiss their complaints as mere whining. But if Google is actively tracking the revenue potential of websites that appear in its search results, who's to say it can't quietly tweak those results to help its salespeople meet their quotas?