Helen Popkin
updated 6/8/2010 12:45:51 PM ET 2010-06-08T16:45:51

The company responsible for the worst oil spill in U.S. history took the high road when faced with the increasingly popular and brutally hilarious fake Twitter account @BPGlobalPR … or so it seemed.

This, industry observers agreed, was the best course of action for the company. “The PR department at BP's job is to describe — accurately — what they are doing,” Ad Age’s Josh Bernoff wrote in a recent column. “Any attempts to spin are pointless and will backfire.”

Turns out, BP is attempting to spin its story in a far more proactive and decidedly modern way. The company may be spending up to $10,000 a day to pay for “oil” search terms that redirect Google, Yahoo and Bing Web search users to the company’s official website, according to ABC News.

Currently, searches via these engines for terms such as “gulf spill,” “oil” or “oil spill,” return a sponsored link to BP’s official website  at the top of the list with the text, “Info about the Gulf of Mexico Spill Learn More about How BP is Helping.”

“We have bought search terms on search engines like Google to make it easier for people to find out more about our efforts in the Gulf and make it easier for people to find key links to information on filing claims, reporting oil on the beach and signing up to volunteer,” a BP spokesman told ABC News.

Notably, paid results are obvious on the three search engines, and appear in a color box set apart from standard search results. According to one study however, at least 30 percent of people will click on a paid link. So BP’s paid link gambit is receiving criticism as an attempt to control the flow of information.

A quick review of blog headlines covering BP’s attempt at cleaning up the Web reveals just how well this latest news spill is working out for the company. For example:

  • “BP Buys Up Search Phrases To Keep You From Snooping On Its Heroic Clean-Up Efforts” — The Consumerist
  • “BP Using Google To Manipulate Public Opinion” — The Huffington Post
  • “BP buys Google, Yahoo search words to keep people away from real news on Gulf oil spill disaster” — Political Spin Examiner

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