Google, the largest search engine in most parts of the world, has penalized the ranking of the homepage of its own Chrome browser from the search results of relevant keywords, such as Chrome and browser.
The move comes after the Mountain View, CA-based, company was found purchasing sponsored posts for Chrome on blogs, with a link that wasn’t tagged as “nofollow.” The move essentially punishes Google for violating a rule it sets itself.
Google did not buy a paid link per se. It bought it through Unruly Media, an ad agency specializing in the distribution of online videos, which purchased blog posts with an embedded promotional video about Google Chrome.
As with other Unruly Media advertorial campaigns, bloggers are free to write unbiased articles to accompany the video, with no requirement to link to any websites. In the case of Google’s campaign, most bloggers did not link to Chrome’s homepage. Only one was found to be doing so, without a “nofollow” tag, and that apparently is enough to justify a penalty, according to Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team:
I’ll give the short summary, then I’ll describe the webspam team’s response. Google was trying to buy video ads about Chrome, and these sponsored posts were an inadvertent result of that. If you investigated the two dozen or so sponsored posts (as the webspam team immediately did), the posts typically showed a Google Chrome video but didn’t actually link to Google Chrome. We double-checked, and the video players weren’t flowing PageRank to Google either.
However, we did find one sponsored post that linked to www.google.com/chrome in a way that flowed PageRank. Even though the intent of the campaign was to get people to watch videos–not link to Google–and even though we only found a single sponsored post that actually linked to Google’s Chrome page and passed PageRank, that’s still a violation of our quality guidelines, which you can find at http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=35769#3 .
In response, the webspam team has taken manual action to demote www.google.com/chrome for at least 60 days. After that, someone on the Chrome side can submit a reconsideration request documenting their clean-up just like any other company would. During the 60 days, the PageRank of www.google.com/chrome will also be lowered to reflect the fact that we also won’t trust outgoing links from that page.
This isn’t the first time
In 2009, Google Japan was also found to be purchasing paid links to promote a new product. Google wasn’t acting very kind to its Asian cousin either, dropping its PageRank from nine to five. Google.co.jp is now ranked at eight (out of ten).
In a Senate antitrust hearing last September, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said that Google doesn’t cook its search results to favor its own products. The actions Google took upon itself in both the above cases could be a testament of that.