Updated: Google May Have Violated Its Own Paid Link Policy With Chrome Promo Campaign
Google appears to have paid bloggers to write about Chrome in a way that violates its own paid link policy, according to Search Engine Land. If Google applied a similar penalty to those it?s doled out to past violators, the Chrome download page would be removed from its search engine results for between a month and a year. Don?t bet on that happening, though. The campaign is another example of how Google?s diverse business can lead it to trip over itself.
[Update: The sponsored blog post that linked directly to the Chrome download page has deactivated that link. Scott Button, CEO of Unruly Media, tells me "It's crucial that branded video content is clearly marked as sponsored and that links don't distort search engine rankings. Occasionally, bloggers will unfortunately pen a post that deviates from our guidelines, as here. Where that happens, we're very happy to have it pointed out, and will work with the blogger to fix it as fast as possible." However, the thin content of the sponsored posts should still make them eligible to be penalized and demoted by PageRank.]
The crux of the issue is that Google or its advertising firm Unruly has sponsored bloggers to discuss its browser and include a ?Chrome for small businesses? promo video, as first spotted by SEO Book. Some of these posts purport to be reviews of Chrome and how it aids merchants. In reality, they provide no details on Chrome features or how the browser can actually benefit small businesses. This classifies them as garbage posts ? the kind Google demoted in its Panda algorithm update. SEL?s Danny Sullivan does a deep dive into several of the sponsored blog posts if you want examples.
It would be fine for Google to have paid for links to the Chrome download page if the bloggers used the nofollow attribute. This indicates to PageRank that a link was paid for and shouldn?t influence search rankings. At least one didn?t. If you really want to voice your discontent over Google sidesteppi