I thought readers would want to know that Google have been in touch with me to make clear that one cannot pay to get to the top of their standard rankings. It is only possible to pay for a sponsored ad, which all of course appear above the standard list of results.
They also say in their letter “Our rules are clear: those who advertise on Google cannot promote services that provide little or no additional value to the user beyond the original or official online or automated application process.”
What do readers think? Go to Google now and search for “passport application”. Three sponsored ads come up, above the top-ranking standard result (which is the government’s site). Despite elaborate comparison charts which try to persuade the user to the contrary, a quick read of all three sites suggests to me that the service offered – for between £70 and £100 – does indeed offer “little or no additional value”. But I am quite prepared to be corrected!