I think G is taking the risk.
And you'd be right Stephen.
The risk is that if any sort of Google Gaming becomes too prevalent, especially if it's gaming something that is applied automatically by their algorithm, it starts to hurt the quality of their SERPs. And if their SERPs start to see relatively major skew it harms their relvancy and user experience.
Since Google's entire income producing business model (read: Adwords) is based upon receiving massive amounts of traffic, even a perception
that their SERPs aren't as good as they once were, or God forbid not as good as another search engine's, it's entirely possible for the entire house of cards to fall of its own weight. Quickly. FTR this is exactly why here at HRF you see us recommend people not rely on a single source for their traffic or income, because it truly is a house of cards that can get blown apart by the smallest of trouble.
You can however bet that Google is well aware of the precarious position they're in. It's something they've been in since the very beginning in fact, so they have to know it quite well. So as a practical matter one would assume they'd be watching it closely and take quick corrective action, even if they publically denied anything was happening.
The problem is it's a Catch 22 for them. Their algo and their entire approach to rankings has always relied more heavily than the other engines on backlinks and anchor text. This is what has always made them different, most would say better. So for them to rip this out of their equation to stop nefarious linking would be almost impossible. On the other hand, as long as they give so much weight to these few elements their SERPs are susceptible to significant manipulation.
They know this too, of course. The other thing they probably know better than any of us is there is no easy solution to the problem.
Edited by Randy, 02 March 2008 - 07:17 AM.