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BMW, Google Go To War

WWW- The German website of BMW, the carmaker, has been removed from Google’s search results as part of the web company’s crack down on the manipulation of its search engine.

Google confirmed on Monday that BMW.de had been removed from all search engine results. A spokeswoman said the company could not comment on specific cases but said: “We cannot tolerate websites trying to manipulate search results as we aim to provide users with the relevant and objective search results”.

The website used “doorway” pages, which can be employed to trick search engines into leading their users to websites that are not directly related to the search terms.

Marc Hassinger, spokesperson for business and finance communications at BMW Deutschland, said the BMW.de doorway pages only redirected users to relevant pages – for example, one doorway page that frequently used the German word for “used car” redirected users to a page about BMW used car sales. He said this was done so that German web users searching for a second-hand BMW car dealership would find an index of dealerships around the country.

“We can’t see a ‘manipulation’ which they said was happening regarding those websites,” Mr Hassinger said.

Matt Cutts, a software engineer at Google, wrote last month in his weblog that the company would begin to take a tougher line on web spamming by non-English language websites.

On Saturday Mr Cutts wrote that BMW.de had been removed, for violating the guideline: “Don’t deceive your users or present different content to search engines than you display to users.”

However Mr Hassinger said the “doorway” pages had been removed last Thursday after BMW noticed criticism on some blogs.

“Nevertheless Google has decided to spread this information which has created this, I’d almost say, media hype,” he said. “They spread it on Saturday, a few days after the pages had been taken off. They hadn’t talked to us beforehand which we found a bit surprising.”

He said there had been talks between BMW and Google and that he was confident the website would soon be re-included by Google.

Mr Hassinger added that only 0.4 per cent of BMW.de’s traffic came from search engines such as Google, because most people wanting to visit the site either knew or could guess the correct address.

Mr Cutts also wrote on his blog that Ricoh.de, the German website of the Japanese electronics and office equipment company, would be removed from Google for similar reasons. The website could not be found on a Google search on Monday, but Google’s spokeswoman said she could not comment on whether that site had also been removed.

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