In my day jobs over the past few years, I've worked for a MS certified training organisation. As such, we are always looking at ways to improve Google hits. Those hits, and the results of those hits, makes Google an important aspect in the marketing of my employers. Using tools like Adwords to give a better shot at eyeballs is one way. But the main Google (and MSN Search for that matter), unsponsored, results that I belie help with the way the company is perceived by the web-using public. It can also drive business in an increasingly transaction-driven commodity market.
In a recent post, Robert Scoble discusses gaming of Google, via PayPerPost. Their business model is described in a post by John Chow: "What PayPerPost does is allow advertisers to buy a blog post – often referred to as a paid plug. Instead of buying normal banner advertising, the advertiser would pay the blogger to write about their product or service. This of course raises many ethics and credibility issues.".
And Scoble seems to agree with Chow about the ethics. I agree that most of the more respected technical writers (and this includes bloggers and traditional print journalists) are not likely to go in for this.
No respected writer is going to say they like something, if they don't. I expect them to say they think something is cool (or it sucks) is because they genuinely believe it so, and certainly not because they were paid $2 for it.
Scoble asks if PayPerPost's approach is likely to lead to more sales. Of course any firm wants loads of inbound links. But Robert is probably right that if this takes off, Google will find a way to remove the bias, leading back to the status quo. We will see.