The Google Honeypot Sting

Recent accusations from Google have accused Bing of using their MSN/Bing Search Toolbar to watch search picks on Google and then using them to strengthen MSN/Bing search results. In a classic “honeypot” string operation, it seems that Bing has been caught with their bot’s hand in the Google cookie jar.

In a “he said/she said” battle, the two companies have accused each other from employing similar strategies repeatedly in the past. Google has regularly copied innovations that first appeared on Bing, such as image search, personalized backgrounds and navigation schemes. To accuse Bing of doing such a thing seems a bit preposterous. Even worse is the fact that Bing is categorically denying any attempts to ever copy search results from Google.

In a heated discussion that is far from over, Yusef Mehdi (Senior Vice President of Online Services for Microsoft) stated that:

"We do not copy results from any of our competitors. Period. Full stop. We have some of the best minds in the world at work on search quality and relevance, and for a competitor to accuse any one of these people of such activity is just insulting."

"Google engaged in a "honeypot" attack to trick Bing. In simple terms, Google’s “experiment” was rigged to manipulate Bing search results through a type of attack also known as "click fraud. That’s right, the same type of attack employed by spammers on the web to trick consumers and produce bogus search results. What does all this cloak and dagger click fraud prove? Nothing anyone in the industry doesn’t already know.

As we have said before and again in this post, we use click stream optionally provided by consumers in an anonymous fashion as one of 1,000 signals to try and determine whether a site might make sense to be in our index."

Read Full Interview Here

On the Google front, it certainly did not take Matt Cutts long to refute Mehdi’s comments. In a post on the Google blog (along with a 40 minute video), Cutts stated that he is not necessarily accusing Bing of "piggybacking" Google, but refutes their claim that "we do not copy results from our competitors." He then shows that if you type in "ygyuuttuu hjhhiihhhu" in to Google and Bing, you will get the same results."

Certainly each other has at some point and (if not continually) been at fault for employing such tactics in the past. I think the bigger question here is why Google is trying to make this such a public issue? Is it an attempt to try and drag Bing through the mud in an attempt to capture a portion of their market? Or is it a diversionary tactic? Only time will tell. I am sure we shall see the comments flying back and forth between the two groups before this is over. But then, is not all fair in love, war and search engine monpolies?

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