In an article that reads more like a plot-pitch to the BBC for a new crime drama, Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land explains how Google ran an elaborate ‘sting’ to prove that its search arch-enemy, Bing, was copying its results. You should certainly take the time to read the original article but if you’re in a hurry, here’s the main thrust.
In 2010, Google suspected Bing of using Internet Explorer or a mechanism in the the Bing search toolbar to collect search queries being carried out by users on Google. The Google search results for these queries were allegedly (a nod there to my Lawyer – if I had one) copied by Bing in its search results.
But how to prove this? Google had a great idea. They made up 100 or so random search queries that had little meaning and no results on either Google or Bing (one of these was ‘hiybbprqag‘). Then, and this is the clever bit, Google gamed its own search results so these queries returned Google’s specially created ‘honey pot’ pages in the No.1 slot even though they had no relevance to the originating query.
All they had to do now was to get a few Google Engineers to search from home for these so-called synthetic search queries using Internet Explorer and click on the links to the honey pot pages in the results. This they did on 17th December and by 31st December some of the honey pot pages started appearing on Bing for the same synthetic search queries.
So far Microsoft has not denied Google’s allegation.