It sounds great. A program that guarantees top listings for local searches on Google, Yahoo and Bing. An “officially approved” one in “cooperation” with those search engines. But it’s not so, say Google and Bing.
The “Local Paid Inclusion” service launched officially today. The site’s home page pitches:
Local Paid Inclusion is a Google, Yahoo and Bing contracted service and is offered as an approved official program in cooperation with those search engines.
Local Paid Inclusion promotes a local business’ profile page, like those found in Google Places, Yahoo Local and Bing Local, into a top position on the search result page for up to 30 keywords per profile page.
This is a NEW program offered by Google, Yahoo!, Bing and 18 other major directories and indexes that places a business profile into a premium area above all other local profiles. Combine this with all of your other optimization programs to maximize your traffic.
What this means is local businesses that participate can essentially pay for the top local ranking position!
That copy reads like the type of email I’d normally delete as spam, if my spam filter didn’t catch it first. But since the service is backed by Bruce Clay, Inc. — a long-standing company in the SEO space — it really causes a double-take.
Clay dropped me an email late yesterday saying the service was going live, but I missed that (I have a lot of email I’m getting through) until some of the fireworks on Twitter erupted after his Facebook post went up and a story that Search Engine Watch did about the new service appeared
But Bing tells us:
Bing has no interest in paid inclusion into the local algo that artificially impacts ranking of algo results…. Microsoft does not have an agreement with UBL today.
UBL, for Universal Business Listings, appears to be a company that Clay is working with on the Local Paid Inclusion product.
As for Google, it tells us:
We are not working on any program that enables a site to pay to increase ranking in organic search results.
I’ve asked Clay for a further explanation, and we’ll update, when we hear more.
Postscript: Clay’s told me that he’s taken down the site while he investigates things further with UBL. Again, we’ll update, when we hear more.
Suffice to say, the claims are pretty unbelievable to me. I’ve also been seeing a lot of discussion about this on Twitter. So, in hopes of perhaps calming some concerns….
The idea that any one of these search engines would guarantee placement outside of their clearly marked advertising areas is pretty far-fetched. It’s not the way they’ve operated. The idea that all three would unite to do this in cooperation with an third-party company? Crazy.
So anyone believing this, or worrying about it, I’d relax. The denials above should be enough to do that, but they clearly aren’t for some people. But rather than the search engines having gone insane, it’s more likely there’s some massive confusion going on between UBL and Bruce Clay, Inc.
I get the impression that UBL — which I’ve never looked at closely — may provide data into local listings at the major search engines. Many companies do this type of thing. It doesn’t provide them any types of super-ranking powers. Some companies may try to stretch these type of relationships into some sort of endorsement by the major search engines. They shouldn’t be taken that way.
I get the impression (and this is solely my impression from afar, looking at all this), that Bruce Clay, Inc. is confused about what UBL can actually provide.
The idea that any company is going to guarantee an organic result simply makes no sense. It would be especially tricky in the local space. Google’s local results change significantly based on the city someone’s searching from. It literally becomes impossible to guarantee any ranking in that type of situation.
Postscript 2: UBL has posted:
Universal Business Listing denies any association with articles and news reports about a “paid inclusion” business listing service. The company has made no such announcements or claims, particularly in regards to Google. It has no product announcements pending.
Bruce Clay Inc is a reseller of UBL’s existing business listing syndication service and is not currently testing any new service from our company.
The site itself didn’t make a connection with UBL over this service, but the Search Engine Watch article did — and Clay himself also suggested a connection when he emailed that he was checking things with UBL. So, I’ll check with them further, too.