Did Google Break its Own Code to Promote Chrome?

Google ChromeWhile Google was seen trampling sites such as JC Penney, Forbes, and Overstock, (and also Google-owned BeatThatQuote and Google Japan) for buying links or manipulating SERP rating with thin content, Google seems to have shot itself in the leg with a similar move in an effort to promote its Chrome browser. Google is facing the heat after hundreds of recent blog posts praising its Chrome Browser were listed as "sponsored by Google." Aaron Wall, of SEObook was the first to report more than 400+ pages turning up for the search query, "This post is sponsored by Google," all of which appeared to be a marketing campaign to boost Google Chrome downloads. The search result page links lead to blog posts that promoted Chrome with headlines like, “What Can Chrome Do For You?” and “Take Your Small Business to the Next Level with Google Chrome,” which directed users to the Google Chrome download page. What is more intriguing is the fact that these links are without the 'NoFollow' attribute, which means the links will pass PageRank, or link juice to the Chrome Download page helping it gain popularity, leveraging on Google's algorithmic PageRank technology.

While the truth remains that Google did not directly sponsor these posts, what it did was pay for those links and whatever link juice they got from them by contracting Essence Digital and Unruly Media, which said in a statement that Google agreed to buy online video ads with them. While the idea that Google needs a third party to run its ads when Google has its own video Ad network seems farfetched, logically it gives Google enough space to wiggle out of a crunch like it is facing today by simply shifting the blame on the contracted company. Infact it wasn't Essence Digital who set up the campaign but Unruly, a video promoter who reached out to bloggers through ads in certain online communities offering pay-per-post opportunities that asked that bloggers watch a video and decide if they wanted to do a post and embed the video on their blog for a $40 Amazon gift card credit for each of the ads.

Google Points at Unruly & Essence Media

Replying to an query by BBC, Google said that it had never commissioned Essence Digital to approach bloggers and place sponsored links. In effect, Essence Digital also issued a statement clearing Google's name; "Google never approved a sponsored-post campaign. They only agreed to buy online video ads. We apologize to Google who clearly didn't authorize this." Danny Sullivan of searchengineland.com, who followed Aaron Wall's lead, summarizes that "Google's paid for a content-light post that's not a review of Google Chrome, nor a review of how Google Chrome helps small business, pushing a video that also doesn't show how Google Chrome helps small businesses."

In its reply to Sullivan, Google said that it "never agreed to anything more than online ads. We have consistently avoided paid sponsorships, including paying bloggers to promote our products, because these kind of promotions are not transparent or in the best interests of users. We're now looking at what changes we need to make to ensure that this never happens again." Responding to widespread criticism Google also added, "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."

Google Chrome Falls Down the Search Pages

Google in effect has downgraded Chrome in its search listings, which had just about overtaken Firefox in global usage and has distanced itself from the campaign, blaming third-party marketing firm Essence Digital and Unruly Media. Google insists that inspite of it not being directly responsible for the creation of the sponsored posts it has declined to give itself special dispensation. Google's very own WebSpam team headed by Matt Cutts has taken manual action to demote www.google.com/chrome for at least 60 days after which Chrome promotion team has to submit a reconsideration request documenting their clean-up just like any other company would have to. During the punishment period of 60 days, the PageRank of www.google.com/chrome will also be lowered to reflect the lack of trust on outgoing links from that page.Cutts insisted that the reason for the campaign was "[only] to get people to watch videos – not link to Google."

But why would Google pay an agency to get bloggers to post a video if it did not attain broader benefit in return is the question dancing on the mind of the web experts. There also seems to be no answers to whether Chrome really need this self-inflicted wound in the form of the promo when it has been doing exceptionally well. Chrome almost doubled its market share from 15.6% in January 2011 to 27% in December 2011 even as Microsoft's IE dropped from 46% to 38.6% and Firefox, from 30.6% to 25.7% according to data from research firm StatCounter. Share your opinions if you have one.

Google Chrome, Sponsored by Google, Google Sponsored Post, Chrome Penalized, Aaron Wall, Danny Sullivan, Matt Cutts, Essence Digital, Unruly Media

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Google Chrome, google news, pagerank, google Promote Chrome

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