If there's one place where Microsoft and Google have reversed reputations, it's at a search marketing conference.
When asked who they consider to be "the man," the vast majority of the assembled crowd of search engine marketers at the Search Marketing Expo in Seattle voted for Google, over Microsoft.
That's probably the opposite result that a group of consumers would give if asked generally about which company represents the establishment, noted Andy Lohr, a conference attendee and Web marketing manager for Expresscopy.com who was amused by the show-of-hands poll.
Because Google has the largest search market share, its rules for what constitutes acceptable search marketing techniques have a heavy influence over what search marketers can do. That doesn't always sit well with the marketers.
"Stop being afraid of this guy," said Jay Young, owner of Link Fish Media, while displaying a photo of Matt Cutts, head of Google's Web spam team, during a presentation. Cutts is almost legendary in the search marketing industry because he helps set the rules at Google about what constitutes Web spam and unaccepted practices for driving traffic to Web pages. Marketers that use methods Google deems unacceptable to drive traffic can get their Web pages removed from Google's index.
"They aren't the police, they aren't a government agency," Young said. "You do what makes sense for your company or your clients. If that means you have to buy links to do it, do it."
While many of the marketers in the room clearly also feel Google's influence on their practices, many of them probably don't agree with everything that Young promoted during a presentation.
He praised a marketer who drove traffic to his site by posting a made-up story about a boy who used his dad's credit card to hire a prostitute. Young called that idea brilliant. "We're not in this for morality," Young said. "We're in this for marketing."