Google Chrome Paid LinksThis 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”

That being said, the Chrome homepage is still ranking, but only as a sitelink under the Support page:Google Chrome Paid Links - Search Results

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.

Further reading:

Team Hallam Top Tips: Link Building – some tips on how to do it properly!

Unethical Google Advertising: Competition, monopoly and fairness

Why Won’t Anyone Link to My Website?


2 responses to “Google Chrome Lands in Hot Water for Paid Links”

  1. Susan Hallam Susan Hallam says:

    Poor Google…

    Essence Digital has issued a public apology for overstepping the mark with the campaign, and cleared Google of all responsibility.

    Here’s there statement that that Essence Digital put onto Google Plus:

    There’s been some recent attention in the news involving a Google campaign (see linked article). Here’s some context on what happened.

    We want to be perfectly clear here: Google never approved a sponsored-post campaign. 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.

  2. Susan Hallam Susan Hallam says:

    And, I see that Matt Cutts has also provided an overview from the Google Web Spam team perspective, and the decision to impose a 60 day penalty. Matt’s post is on Google Plus (, so thought I would copy his text here:

    From Matt:

    Sorry that it took me until now to comment on the situation that Danny wrote about at . I’m in Central America this week and my ability to reach the internet hasn’t been great.

    I’ll give the short summary, then I’ll describe the webspam team’s response. Google was trying to buy video ads about Chrome, and these sponsored posts were an inadvertent result of that. If you investigated the two dozen or so sponsored posts (as the webspam team immediately did), the posts typically showed a Google Chrome video but didn’t actually link to Google Chrome. We double-checked, and the video players weren’t flowing PageRank to Google either.

    However, we did find one sponsored post that linked to in a way that flowed PageRank. Even though the intent of the campaign was to get people to watch videos–not link to Google–and even though we only found a single sponsored post that actually linked to Google’s Chrome page and passed PageRank, that’s still a violation of our quality guidelines, which you can find at .

    In response, the webspam team has taken manual action to demote for at least 60 days. After that, someone on the Chrome side can submit a reconsideration request documenting their clean-up just like any other company would. During the 60 days, the PageRank of will also be lowered to reflect the fact that we also won’t trust outgoing links from that page.

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