This week, Google has been forced to penalise its own web browser, Google Chrome, in the search rankings due to its use of paid, dofollow inbound links. The links were appearing in (often poorly written – Panda update, anyone?) blog posts directing users to a video about the browser, and promoting Google Chrome as a lifeline for small businesses.
Although the links do not go to Chrome’s homepage – rather to the Chrome video – it doesn’t look good, especially coming from a company that’s penalised big names such as JC Penney and Forbes in the past for using, you’ve guessed it… paid links.
The story began with a post by Danny Sullivan on Search Engine Journal, which speculates that bloggers were paid to write about whatever they wanted, with the caveat that the Chrome video appeared in the post (Matt Cutts seemed to confirm this when he stated in a post on Google+ that the posts are a result of Google buying video ads for Chrome). It then spread pretty quickly, with many others speculating what action (if any) Google would take against itself.
And, to their credit, Google’s webspam team have acted as they would with any other company caught flouting their guidelines, and according to Matt Cutts’s Google+ post, have demoted the Google Chrome homepage and reduced its page rank for 60 days. The Chrome homepage now no longer ranks in the top 10 for “Chrome”, “”Google Chrome”, “browser” or “web browser”
So what can we take away from Google’s mistake?
Well, if Google can fall foul of its own guidelines, it demonstrates the need to be especially vigilant when it comes to inbound links to your site, and to make sure you’re not using any blackhat (using unethical SEO techniques such as keyword stuffing or getting paid links) practices in your own efforts.
Google’s problems this week show that any company, no matter how innocent its intentions, can get itself into hot water.
Rishi Lakhani has written a great post called “Learning from the Chrome Penalty“, which is well worth a read if you’d like to know more.
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