Google penalized its own browser’s search rankings Tuesday over a marketing campaign that went bad, the company confirmed.
“We’ve investigated and are taking manual action to demote www.google.com/chrome and lower the site’s PageRank for a period of at least 60 days,” a Google spokesman said yesterday in an email.
The decision to demote Chrome’s PageRank — the rating Google assigns to sites based on how many other sites link to them — came after bloggers Aaron Wall of SEO Book and Danny Sullivan of SearchEngineLand revealed a marketing campaign that paid other bloggers to create generic posts which linked to a video touting Chrome to small businesses.
The problem, said Wall and Sullivan, was that Google’s own rules prohibit paying for links.
In at least one case, said Sullivan Monday, a link in a paid-for blog led directly to Chrome’s download site . That particular blog post has since been taken down.
Google has been hard on others who have violated its no-paid-link rule. Last February, for instance, it buried results for JC Penny after it decided the retailer had scammed the system.
On Monday, Sullivan noted Google’s efforts to quash the practice of raising sites’ PageRank through paid links, and wondered whether Google would do for the goose what it had done to the gander.
“We strive to enforce Google’s webmaster guidelines consistently in order to provide better search results for users,” said the Google spokesman Tuesday. “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.”
Computerworld has confirmed that a search for “browser” no longer shows Chrome as the second item on the first page of results — as it was prior to the demotion, said Sullivan — but instead has dropped the Chrome download page to the sixth item on the fifth page.
Mozilla’s Firefox now leads the results of a search for “browser.”
Searches for other combinations, including “google chrome” and “chrome” still show the browser as the top-most result, but the link is to a help page that describes how to install Chrome, not to the download site.
Matt Cutts , who heads the Google team responsible for monitoring possible shenanigans, weighed in Tuesday on Google+, saying that the Chrome download site’s PageRank would “also be lowered to reflect the fact that we also won’t trust outgoing links from that page.”
On Wednesday, Chrome’s download site PageRank was 0 — the lowest possible score in the range 0-10 — according to several tools.
Cutts said that after the penalty period, Chrome’s download page could be returned to its search good graces. “Someone on the Chrome side can submit a reconsideration request documenting their cleanup just like any other company would,” Cutts said.
It’s unknown how the two-month penalty will affect Chrome’s download, installation and usage numbers.
Chrome is on track to crack the 20% share mark this month or next, and will probably pass Firefox in March to become the second-most-used browser.
During 2011, Chrome grew its share by 8.8 points to 19.1%, representing an annual increase of 71%.
Google demoted the Chrome download page search ranking, burying it on the fifth or even later results page.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer , on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg’s RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com .
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Google has demoted its Chrome home page in results for a search using the keyword “browser” following an effort to have bloggers promote the Google browser that backfired.
Now, there is no Chrome ad at the top of the results or link to the Chrome page anywhere on the first page of results on Google. It’s ranked in position 50, according to Danny Sullivan of SearchEngineLand, which first reported this news.
Google’s statement, according to SearchEngineLand, is:
“We’ve investigated and are taking manual action to demote www.google.com/chrome and lower the site’s PageRank for a period of at least 60 days.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 demotion is a response to a campaign in which bloggers were found posting low-quality content related to Google Chrome in an effort to promote a Google video about King Arthur Flour. At least one of the posts had a hyperlink to the Chrome download page, which can help a site rise in Google search results through Google’s PageRank algorithm. But paying people to include such links violates Google’s guidelines.
“So far, only one page in the sponsored post campaign has been spotted with a ‘straight’ link that passed credit to the Chrome page,” Sullivan writes. “It’s also unlikely that the campaign overall was designed to build links. But my impression is that Google’s deciding to penalize itself anyway with a PR reduction, to be safe.”
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.
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 sidestepping it’s own rules, you can complain about this sponsored post using Google’s paid link reporting tool.
The violation could have been an error on the part of the sponsored bloggers. Still, Google should have predicted scrutiny and been more careful with the instructions the bloggers received. Google’s wide footprint gives it plenty of cross-promotion opportunities. But as we saw with the Fingergate Google+ photo takedown issue, it can also make it hard for the company to consistently adhere to all of its policies.
Article source: http://techcrunch.com/2012/01/02/chrome-sponsored-posts/