The first two results for "state electoral office maroubra" on Google Australia, for instance, will return links to the official State Electoral Office Web site. However, the third is an Ansearch domain which merely "contains" links to the electoral office's site (see screen shot below).
|Click to enlarge|
Some critics argue users could be misled into thinking the Ansearch result was the real deal. They say the company manipulates the way "cached" copies of Web sites are presented.
While caching was a commonly accepted practice within the online search industry, Ansearch's technique differed because it allowed others access to its cache, said Matt Granfield, director of Web hosting and services company e-CBD, which manages around 300 Web sites for commercial clients.
Granfield had previously complained to the company about the way it cached his Web site but the matter has since been resolved.
"Ansearch is sending [redirecting] people straight to the real site anyway, but the problem is, they are getting boosted traffic figures," he said.
An additional problem he highlighted was sites like Google could have trouble differentiating between the original Web site and an Ansearch copy, and might penalise both in its ranking system. For sites which rely heavily on search engines, this could be detrimental to their business.
Ansearch chief executive Dean Jones said what his competitors chose to index was out of his control.
"If Google and Yahoo don't want that data, they can not index it," he told ZDNet Australia. "It's not up to us to tell the other people in our space what they can and can't index.
"Certainly if you're looking in Google now, there's 20 million pages from Yahoo in Google. So if we end up having several thousand pages in Google, it's not a conscious decision where we've said 'please Google go and index our cache pages'. Basically our site is open to indexing as people see fit."
Jones said Ansearch would soon be adding a form on its site where companies could request their sites be deleted from its database.
In addition, he said, the next version of Ansearch's 'spider' software -- which searches the Web to build an index -- would ignore Web sites which explicitly opted out of general search engine indexing through their public configuration files.
This isn't the first time the company's tactics have come into question. In June, Australia's domain name regulator seized more than 1,000 domains belonging to the company, claiming Ansearch's intended use did not comply with its policies.