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Chrome Sponsored Post Campaign Violates Google’s Own ‘Paid Links & Panda Update’ Guidelines

Here is another from Google, the company who claims to fighting against “paid links” and “thin” content, is itself running a Chrome browser campaign involving both. SEO Book, who spotted the campaign, said clicking “This post is sponsored by Google” brings back over 400 pages written apparently as part of a Google marketing campaign.

Google promotes pad links and thin contents via Chrome campaing

The campaign clearly violates Google’s guidelines against paid links. And, the head of Google’s web spam team, Matt Cutts, who has been quite vocal that sponsored posts shouldn’t be a way for people to gain links in response for payment, that any links in such posts should use the “nofollow” attribute to prevent them from passing credit to Google’s ranking algorithm. The Google’s sponsored post doing exactly that:

“some of those sites are paid posts and have live links in them to Google Chrome without using nofollow & talk about SEO in the same post as well! some of those posts link to the example businesses Google was paying to have covered,” wrote Aaron Wall.

The crux of the issue is that Google or its advertising firm Unruly has sponsored bloggers to write about Chrome and include a “Chrome for small businesses” promo video. What’s that got to do with the purported focus of this post: “Google Chrome Helping Small Business.” The author is saying nothing about how Google Chrome has helped her business or any business she knows of. Instead, Chrome only gets mentioned at the end, with text that seems pretty boilerplate to this campaign.

This classifies them as garbage posts — the kind Google demoted in its Panda algorithm update.

For those, want to voice their discontent over Google sidestepping it’s own rules, can complain about this sponsored post “http://www.humphriesnation.com/2011/12/27/helping/” using Google’s paid link reporting tool.

Danny Sullivan does a deep dive into several of the sponsored blog posts writing about how Google’s Chrome ad buy created a lot of the low-quality filler pablum content that the Panda update was alleged to discourage:

“the arrow in the screenshot below points to a link leading to the Google Chrome download page. This is a straight link, not blocked with nofollow. It only appears in this post because the post is part of a sponsored campaign by Google, as noted at the bottom of the page. Therefore, both the author and Google itself are in violation of Google’s guidelines and risk being banned by Google,” said Sullivan.

The video itself is also a link. It’s not hosted on YouTube, nor does clicking on it bring up a video page. Instead, it leads to the Google Chrome download page, through a JavaScript link that Google would understand.

Google violates paid links and thin contents panda algorithm guidlines

Google Chrome campaing violates paid links and thin content (garbage posts) panda algorithm

Update 01/04: Chrome page no longer ranks for “browser” after Google applied a sponsored post penalty against the page. Google has acknowledged that they own the campaign but “not what the company says it signed-up for.”

Google blames “paid link” policy violation on agency Unruly, which in turn blames sponsored blogger. “a blogger paid to publish a Chrome video is responsible for violating Google policy, not Google or its ad agency Unruly Media that sponsored the post. However, Google says it never authorized Unruly to run a sponsored blog post campaign in the first place.”

“Google 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,” stated Google.

Here is Google’s statement:

“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.”

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