Flower Peddlers Embroiled in Dirty Internet War

It's the War of the Roses (Peddlers)! A flowery feud! A Google gamble, in which customers are wooed. Some of America's top Internet flower retailers are being a little sneaky in trying to become tops in Google's search results (and by proxy, your mom's heart). Who will stop them?

Oh, maybe nobody will, suggests The New York Timeswhich reports that Internet marketing experts believe Teleflora, FTD, and other flower sellers are trying to circumvent the mighty Googlorithm by buying website links on real estate, religious, and other not-at-all-about-flowers websites in order to improve their search-result rankings. "The flower companies deny it," writes Mother's Day investigations reporter David Segal. "But all four have links on Web sites that are riddled with paid links, many of which include phrases like 'mothers day flowers,' 'mothers day arrangements' and 'cheap mothers day flowers,' Anyone who clicks on those backlinks, as they are known, gets sent to the floral retailer who paid for them."

Under Google law, this sort of practice is illegal. Google wants people to earn their rankings by being relevant—not by paying for links that boost their popularity, which any rich person or big corporation can do. The company sometimes punishes businesses that try to buy their way to the top of the search results mountain by pushing them back down, which is really mean.

But so far Google hasn't penalized any of the flower companies doing battle—and possibly won't, because the flower companies maybe didn't succeed in their mission?

In essence, Google said that these companies tried to game its algorithm, but for the most part, their efforts failed, So what we are talking about here is not Internet subterfuge - it is attempted Internet subterfuge.

Then again, maybe the companies' attempts actually were successful?

... Searchmetrics, a seller of search analytics software, found that Teleflora's ranking had risen from No. 7 in Google searches for "mothers day flowers" to No. 4 not long after the company started its first major foray into link buying, in February of this year.

Because "the particulars of Google's algorithm are shrouded in secrecy," we'll probably never know the truth. At any rate, the most important question to ask yourself is why you're buying mom flowers in the first place. As my mom once said about Mother's Day flowers, long ago: "Don't buy me any flowers—they make me sneeze, then they die. If you want to show that you appreciate me, just get me some chicken wings or something." Seriously, flowers are so cliched. Why not get your mom some chicken wings, or a flower cookie bouquet? The wings and cookie bouquet people don't seem to be engaged in any shenanigans this year. Or get her something useful that will last, like a Swiffer cozy. Moms love to clean! It's in their genes.

[New York Times; image, of customs agents inspected flowers before Mother's Day, via Getty]