Debate continues to rage on internet forums and message boards among search engine optimization (SEO) professionals, who say that Google intentionally hampers searchers looking for localized search results relating to SEO firms.

While experts say that the relationship between Google and search engine optimization (SEO) practitioners has always been a complicated one – SEO as an industry would not exist as it does without Google – the more recent revelations about Google’s handling of local searches for SEO companies have further stirred the pot.

A Google employee posting as "Joel H." on the Google Maps help forum confirmed that Google actively downplays local results for "web design / SEO queries," according to Search Engine Roundtable. That website says that Joel H. asserts that this practice is an "accurate representation of user intent."

Search engine optimization (SEO) professionals, however, are unlikely to be mollified by this explanation. Search Engine Land’s Matt McGee writes that the practice amounts to "profiling" SEO firms, a sentiment echoed by web developer Michael Gray at the Wolf Howl SEO blog. Gray says that Google "[assumes] all SEO’s are guilty of being link brokers."