BP cleans up in search
BP is getting blasted from every corner over its efforts to deal with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
One place however where it is being most effective in cleaning up is when it comes to buying a slew of search terms on Google, Yahoo and Microsoft's Bing.
The oil giant has shelled out an undisclosed amount of money to purchase relevant phrases like "oil spill" and "oil disaster" to ensure its site dealing with America's biggest environmental catastrophe floats to the top of the search page ahead of millions of other results.
There is nothing sinister about the effort says BP, claiming the move aims to "assist those who are most impacted and help them find the right forms and the right people quickly and effectively."
"In any crisis response situation, one of the first things you do is look at what's happening on Google - it's a pretty cut and dry tactical move," Kent Jarrell, a senior vice president at Washington consulting firm APCO Worldwide who handles crisis management told CNN.
"I do it with all of my clients, because if we aren't buying the terms, somebody else is."
John Simpson over at Consumer Watchdog is worried some users will not be able to differentiate between a sponsored link like BP's and other search results.
"I question the ethics of this because while I think people understand that the ones (results) that go down the right hand column are adverts, I am not sure however that users will understand the difference between the premium ones across the top.
"I am sorry if I am a little bit of a cynic here, but its corporate spin by one of the bigest spinmeisters in the world."
None of the companies would comment on what the move is costing BP but Scott Slatin, who runs the New York-based search engine marketing company Rivington, told ABC he estimated it would be more than $10,000 a day to maintain the various search terms.
"They paid to lock themselves into the first position against the oil spill terms, essentially putting a positive message on top of the news."
Art Brodksy at Public Knowledge, which is a Washington DC-based public interest group working to defend users' rights in the emerging digital culture, is not so sure it is a winning strategy.
"Sponsored links are a fact of life on search engines but a sponsored link probably doesn't means much compared to oil covered birds."
For a totally off the chart view of BP's approach, head to Twitter where a fake BP PR account has been garnering a fast following.
The latest posting on the account says "Proud to announce we've partnered with Google to turn the Information Superhighway into a Corporate Bus Route. #bpcares" .
Proof perhaps that BP has a long way to go to win this PR battle.