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BP Buys Oil Spill-Related Search Terms

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BP Buys Oil Spill-Related Search Terms

Technology

BP Buys Oil Spill-Related Search Terms

BP Buys Oil Spill-Related Search Terms

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In a contemporary version of message control, BP has bought the rights to be the first advertising link you get when you search "oil spill" and similar terms on Google and Yahoo.

"Google allows people to buy ads, and BP wants to make sure that if you're doing a search for their name or things that are related to their name, that they are getting out in front of a consumer in the way they might run a big ad in The Wall Street Journal," the editor-in-chief of SearchEngineLand.com, Danny Sullivan, tells NPR's Robert Siegel. "This is how things are done on the Internet."

Sullivan says that BP, which is struggling to contain the massive Gulf spill and its public relations fallout, seems to be targeting any search with the letters BP — whether it's "BP oil spill," "BP I love you," "BP I hate you."

It's unclear, Sullivan says, how much BP may be spending with Google for these sponsored links.

"We haven't had a chance to drill down how much they might be paying per click," he says. "And it's difficult. But it's thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars over the campaign, almost certainly."

What's more, some of the law firms that would like to represent plaintiffs against BP are also placing sponsored ads, such as BP Oil Spill Class Action: "We represent businesses that have incurred damages from the oil spill."

Sullivan notes that it's not necessarily a new phenomenon for law firms to chase cases where the damages could be really high.

"It is a sign of how things are continuing to change. They are putting up virtual billboards on Google and the other search engines as well," he says.

Meanwhile, Google says the ads do not affect its search and news results, Sullivan says.

"They really say they maintain a church-and-state separation, and that seems to be the case," he says.