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Official US Government Sites Ranked Lower than Imitator Companies by Google Search

https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-45913581

Recently, Google’s search rankings became the subject of a BBC article, specifically regarding misleading results for travel visas to the US.

Some context:

British travelers to the US must apply for authorization through the US Dept. of Homeland Security’s ESTA  (Electronic System for Travel Authorization). The US Government has an official website for this process, and charges $14.

However, many companies have popped up that charge from $80 to $100 for the same application, which they simply forward to the US Government and make the difference in profit. In addition, they are intentionally misleading consumers by having official-sounding names and logos that imitate the official logos.

The Story:

The recent controversy arose when the BBC discovered that those imitator companies were ranked higher than the official government website, leading to a lot of travelers being misled into paying higher prices. When pressed by BBC, Google admitted that the search results were determined by their algorithm, and they did not take special effort to pin official/government sites to the top of search results. The BBC reports that some of the ads have since been removed, but some remain.

This is related to the class material because the misleading search results rankings are due to various SEO techniques to increase the PageRank, as well as these companies spending a lot of money to purchase the ad slots that come right before actual search results.

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