Current Magazine

Google Downgrades Itself in Search Results After Paying for Blog Posts Advertising Chrome

Posted on the 05 January 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost

Google downgrades itself in search results after paying for blog posts advertising Chrome

Storm clouds over Google HQ. Photo credit: Stuck in Customs

Google was left rather red-faced on Wednesday after being caught breaking its own rules on sponsored links”, the inclusion of a direct link to a download page in exchange for payment. The discovery that Google, through a marketing company, paid bloggers to post a video about its browser Google Chrome has led the search engine to downgrade Chrome in its listings.

The issue was first spotted by Aaron Wall of Search Engine Land, an online publication for the latest search news, research and analysis, when his search for “This post is sponsored by Google” produced over 400 blog entries featuring a Chrome promotional video for small businesses. These posts would artificially increase the popularity of Chrome in Google’s PageRank technology, which decides which sites top search results.

Not their fault?  Google claimed no knowledge of the commissioning and passed the baton of blame over to marketing firm Essence Digital. Essence Digital issued a statement admitting, “Google never approved a sponsored-post campaign. They only agreed to buy online video ads…. We apologize to Google who clearly didn’t authorise this.” But was Essence just the middle man? It seems there may be another player in the form of UK-based marketing company Unruly Media, responsible for recruiting the bloggers. Founder and CEO Scott Button hasn’t exactly put his hands up: “Unruly never requires bloggers to link to back to an advertiser’s site.”

“Slapping themselves on the wrist.” Despite their pleas of ignorance, Google are not giving themselves any special treatment and have downgraded Chrome in their search listing for at least 60 days, after which a reconsideration request can be submitted. This is in keeping with the Google rule of excluding from its search results websites which provide only advertising rather than original content. Fox News highlighted Google’s historical stringency on this: The policy has previously been enforced with not just Forbes and JC Penny, but also one of Google’s own companies, Beat That Quote.

“While Google did not authorise this campaign, and we can find no remaining violations of our webmaster guidelines, we believe Google should be held to a higher standard, so we have taken stricter action than we would against a typical site”, said a Google statement sent to Search Engine Land.

Bloggers have a responsibility, too. The trouble began when the bloggers, or one blogger at least, went beyond the call of duty and provided a link to a download page for Google Chrome – without the crucial “no follow” attribute, which prevents the link from being picked up by Google’s ranking algorithm. Unruly Media’s defence is that they ask bloggers to add this message, but TechCrunch’s Josh Constine argued it should be mandatory rather than simply requested. He attacked the whole idea of sponsored links by claiming that authors have a responsibility to their readers to be genuine when reviewing products.

Waste of time anyway…  Outrage has also been directed at the quality of the blog posts, which despite their subject, contain no details on Chrome features or how they benefit small businesses. On his CNET blog, Stephen Shankland (who describes the situation as “awwwk-ward”) questioned how the “low-grade content” of the posts would help Chrome even without the link to the download page. Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land said, “That’s perhaps the bigger problem with this campaign, much more disturbing to me. Google’s paying to produce a lot of garbage.”

No publicity is bad publicity.  In the midst of this controversy it was announced that Chrome is expected to become the world’s most popular browser by the end of 2012. Sam Gibbs on Gizmodo rather cynically asked, “Will it [the downgrade] affect Chrome’s visibility on the web compared to Firefox and IE? Probably not. But does it reinforce the ‘don’t be evil’ mantra? Yep, but only as long as someone’s watching in the media.”


Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Google Chrome 19: Final Version with Synchronization Tabs

    Google Chrome Final Version with Synchronization Tabs

    The Google Chrome browser version 19 with the main new synchronization tabs and also, improvements to the JavaScript engine and a rumor around the arrival of iO... Read more

    The 24 May 2012 by   Yogeshvashist98
  • Google Chrome for Windows 8 Metro Ready to Release

    Google Chrome Windows Metro Ready Release

    With the more mature preparations Windows 8, various companies began to prepare an application that is compatible with Microsoft's latest operating system. One... Read more

    The 11 June 2012 by   Hpmurah2u
  • Google Chrome on iOS. All That?

    Google Chrome iOS. That?

    As an avid Chrome user – it is the best browser by far – I have been anticipating an iOS version for a long time. I really don’t like Safari and as I don’t... Read more

    The 29 June 2012 by   Techdrink
  • SEO: Instant Pages in Google Chrome

    SEO: Instant Pages Google Chrome

    Been instant search results? Now to be reckoned with instant web pages offered by Google. The first system, called Google Instant, displays search results as an... Read more

    The 25 May 2012 by   Yogeshvashist98
  • Google Chrome Browser Now on Your Andorid Phone

    Yup..Few days back Google announced Chrome browser for Android powered phones. Application can be downloaded from Android market. Sadly, it is available only fo... Read more

    The 15 February 2012 by   Bonirulzz
  • Lex’s Back to School Style Rules

    Lex’s Back School Style Rules

    I have been out of school for four years. So those first day jitters are something that are now a distant memory. While I don't miss classes, professors, and... Read more

    The 03 September 2015 by   Alexa Alfonso
  • Rattle Me Bones Review & Competition

    Rattle Bones Review Competition

    Here is our new and rather spooky board game from Drumond Park. It's a really fun family game which can be played both young and old. The age recommendation i... Read more

    The 03 September 2015 by   Evette Garside

Add a comment