Google Sends Chrome Browser to Search Penalty Box for Sponsored Shenanigans

Paul Lilly

Trying doing a search for "browser" using Google. Notice anything odd? Yep, Google's Chrome browser is suspiciously missing from the front page search results, which is exactly where you would expect it to be. Instead, you have to flip through several pages of search results to find a link to Chrome's homepage (it was on page 7 at the time of this writing), representing a self-inflicted demotion as Google attempts to police itself.

What happened was Google violated one of its own guidelines with a sponsored post campaign initiated by its marketing partner, Unruly Media. The campaign consisted of sponsored blog posts and video placements for Chrome first discovered by SEO Book's Aaron Wall and broken down into great detail by Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan . In short, there were over 400 pages spotted on the Web with text "This Post Sponsored By Google" in violation of Google's own 'Paid Links' guidelines .

"We’ve investigated and are taking manual action to demote and lower the site’s PageRank for a period of at least 60 days," Google said in a statement to Search Engine Land. "We strive to enforce Google’s webmaster guidelines consistently in order to provide better search results for users. While Google did not authorize 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."

The mere fact that Google was caught in a controversy of buying paid links to pad search results is disturbing, and the timing is especially suspect as Chrome continues to close the gap with Internet Explorer in global market share usage. At the same time, it's encouraging that Google took strict action against itself, even though it appears it was another outfit who dropped the ball.

"We want to be perfectly clear here: Google never approved a sponsored-post campaign," Essence Digital, a mediary between Google and Unruly Media, said in a statement on Google+ . "They only agreed to buy online video ads. Google have consistently avoided paid postings to promote their products, because in their view these kind of promotions are not transparent or in the best interests of users.

"In this case, Google were subjected to this activity through media that encouraged bloggers to create what appeared to be paid posts, were often of poor quality and out of line with Google standards. We apologize to Google who clearly didn’t authorize this. only agreed to buy online video ads... We apologize to Google who clearly didn't authorize this."

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