The US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation has asked major United States search engine operators to examine how moving services are using search results to try “bait-and-switch” tactics on potential victims.
The committee found that customers who use search engines to locate moving companies are often subjected to the same tactics: they are confronted with “soundalikes” for reputable moving companies that are actually brokerage firms that charge exorbitant fees to set up the move. Unaware and trusting the search results, many victims have been pulled in and charged hundreds or thousands of dollars more than necessary by these unscrupulous companies.
The Senate involved the search engine providers because these companies seemed to appear at the top of all search engines with alarming regularity, leading to the conclusion that the companies had found a way around the natural safeguards that existed to prevent spam and disreputable vendors from exploiting the search engines.
Upon investigation, one issue that emerged was irrelevant linking strategies on the part of these companies. They were linking to tens of thousands of sites that had nothing to do with moving, thereby driving up their own traffic.
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The committee’s report and >press release was announced last week, and oddly enough, Google’s Penguin Update does not seem to have filtered these results, even though this is exactly what the program is designed to do. What may be even more surprising, however, is that instead of demanding unreasonable action, the Senate seems to be willing to allow the search engines to work separately or collaboratively to solve the issue on their own. If this is indeed the case, it would be a rare instance of the government allowing the experts to do what they do best without interference.
There is some precedence for this approach. In the past, when industries have brought search engine problems to the attention of the major search engine providers, immediate action was often take that solved the problem. Search engines have only their reputations as the providers of quality information to keep them in business, so it is very important that they address issues such as this one immediately.
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Source: Search Engine Land, US Senate Committee Asks Google, Yahoo & Bing To Fight Bait-And-Switch Moving Scams, Danny Sullivan, September 26, 2012.