Google's delisting of BMW's German web site from its database shows the stupidity of both parties and the stupidity of search engine optimization (SEO) the way it is practiced today.
Google's mission, as it is often declared by CEO Eric Schmidt, is to deliver the right search result to the user--the first time. Let the search engines optimize themselves--web sites should focus on the user and not the searchbot.Yet it has delisted the BMW.de web site because it had some invisible text on its pages that would make its site show up higher in search results.
So how will Google deliver on its mission? Wouldn't BMW earn a high rank of importance anyway because it is one of the largest car companies in the world? It is still of importance to many Google users but Google won't serve it up to its users!
Why did BMW use a very clumsy (and ancient) technique to show up higher in Google's search results? Probably because other, less important car sites were showing up higher in the search rankings than they deserved.
[This has long been a frustration of many companies: Google will list a small competitor much higher than their site--yet it is not reflected in terms of relevance and importance and number of customers.]
My view has always been: optimize your web site for the users--not the robots.
Then you will have users coming back, time and again and you won't have to rely on search engines to bring you your traffic because the users will know where you live. And they will share you with their communities and you will grow based on merit not on how well you've fooled the spiderbots.
If you have to rely on search engines for your traffic then you have a big problem because you become forced to play the SEO game and you risk being completely delisted.
Instead, put your efforts into making your web site a better experience for the users. Yes, do the basic SEO that Google recommends to webmasters--but then focus on content, content, content. That type of investment will payoff long term in multiples far higher than money spent on the latest "safe" SEO techniques, which change every few months when Google optimises its search algorithms.
Let the search engines optimize themselves.
If Google cannot figure out that the BMW.de web site is important, and that German internet users are more than likely going to be interested in it as a destination because there is a large population of BMW drivers--then it is failing at its job. And internet users will realize their experience at Google search is becoming less satisfying and they will move onto other search sites.
If we allow Google (and the others) to optimize themselves, it would save a tremendous amount of effort expended worldwide on SEO techniques that either try to trick Google's search engine to list a site higher than it deserves to be, or just to list it in the position where it ought to be.