Search and destroy


Search engines are not only making money by placing paying brands and businesses at the top of the lists as “sponsored links,” some are deceiving users. When it comes to paid placement, companies appearing highlighted or within the top three on the results list is likely to be there thanks to a large search engine optimization (SEO) budget.


searchGoogle and Yahoo aside, many search engine providers are causing this marketing practice to appear teetering on an ethical balance beam. The only thing keeping them from falling off is open and honest transparency in paid placement links that are clearly marked to make consumers well aware they are clicking on paid advertisements and not necessarily the best or intended match for their search.


The whole idea of search engine marketing (SEM) is really very ingenious. Calling paying brands “sponsored links” is clever; they’re more like “featured sites,” and paid placement seems to have many benefits beyond traditional advertising.  

According to the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization’s annual survey, marketers are beginning to make the shift from print advertising in newspapers, magazines and direct mail to search engine marketing (SEM) mainly because of its efficiency, opportunity to lessen risk and easy-to-track ROI.

But when will marketers cross the line into unethical SEM? To me, excluding disclaimers or not distinguishing sponsored links borderlines an act of deception. Today’s marketing professionals are making it harder and harder for consumers to recognize real journalism from paid advertising and many are feeling betrayed be companies.


IMC professionals must be sure to consider the relationships they’ve worked to build or are trying create more so than the bottom line when it comes to SEM. Be transparent, tell the truth and do not harm!


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