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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Qatar Internet: Google Gets it Wrong with Visa HQ

The primary aim of a successful search should be to return the most useful result to the searcher. So it's interesting that a Google search should return Visa HQ as the number one result to a search for Qatar Visas made in Qatar.

Screengrab: Google search for
Searching for visa information for UK residents in the UK returns this advice:

"Citizens of United Kingdom residing in United Kingdom have to apply for a visa to Qatar in person at the nearest consulate of Qatar in United Kingdom."

Screengrab 2: Visa HQ result for Qatar Visa for British CitizenOf course, as hardened Qatar travellers will realise, the advice is wrong. British citizens arriving in Qatar, so long as they have not been resident in Qatar for the last two years, can get visa on arrival at the airport. Officially they should be on Qatar Airways plane, but in practice this does not really seem to matter.

This is not just a mistake by Visa HQ - similar searches for other countries return exactly the same advice. Even the search for Qatar Visa for a Qatar citizen looking for a visa to Qatar!

"Citizens of Qatar residing in Qatar have to apply for a visa to Qatar in person at the nearest consulate of Qatar in Qatar."

Screengrab: Visa HQ result for Qatar Citizen searching for Qatar Visa to QatarWhat is happening here is that Visa HQ is gaming Google. Providing a free service is a well known way to get highly ranked in Qatar, enabling websites to then sell their services - in this case visa services (provided for US and Canadian citizens only). With a vast array of countries, Visa HQ appears to provide a huge amount of information for those searching for visas. In fact, though, the visa information we had returned was false or nonsensical, and obviously computer generated.

HQ is also a brand - and Google rates brands, as this quote from SEO Book blog shows:

"The internet is fast becoming a "cesspool" where false information thrives, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said yesterday.

'Brands are the solution, not the problem," Mr. Schmidt said. "Brands are how you sort out the cesspool.' "

Which is why you sometimes get a pile of rubbish on a brand site like Visa HQ rating above a valid web page such as Qatar Embassy's visa page, a government site providing valid visa information from the source, as well as our own regularly updated visa page.

Also see: Qatar Visas | Qatar Immigration: Turned Away at the Gates | Qatar Visa Forum | Police Clearance for Qatar

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