Google Demotes Chrome PageRank Following Paid Link Fiasco

    January 4, 2012
    Chris Crum

Following the previously reported upon controversy surrounding a marketing campaign for Google’s Chrome browser, Google has apparently decided to devalue its Chrome landing page (in terms of PageRank). At least temporarily.

Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land acquired a statement from Google, which says:

We’ve investigated and are taking manual action to demote 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.

Later, Google’s Matt Cutts jumped on Google+, while trying to take a “digital break” for a holiday in Central America. I his post, he said:

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.

Other Googlers have responded to Matt’s explanation on Google+. Here are a few of the responses:

Jason Morrison:

Great explanation from +Matt Cutts. This is embarrassing, but a good illustration of two things:

1. Why I like working at Google. The Search Quality Team tries to apply the Webmaster Guidelines fairly – even on other Google products.

2. Why you should pay attention to what any marketing, advertising, or SEO companies might be doing on your behalf.

Obi Felten:

Was mortified yesterday to read Danny Sullivan’s story, and sad that he thought we were paying bloggers to promote our Chrome films in such a crude and horrible way. Having been in Google marketing for over 5 years I can testify that we don’t do advertorial or pay bloggers! It’s one of the things that makes me love my job here, we let the products speak for themselves and don’t overpromise. So this was pretty shocking. It was a media buy that went very wrong, we never agreed to do anything else than paid video ads – but clearly we need to be more on top of our media buys. As Matt explains in his post we’ve demoted the Chrome page in the search rankings in response.

Marcus Foster:

This is the kind of integrity and transparency that makes me proud to work at Google. Show me another company that would have acted in this way.

James Bogosian:

This was the right thing to do. Glad to see we did it.

Of course, the whole search quality aspect wasn’t discussed in Matt’s post. One of the posts from the Chrome campaign, which I referenced in another piece, which has pretty “thin” content, is still ranking for “chrome small business benefits”.

I don’t think Chrome losing its PageRank will help quality there, though it is still at the top of the page, via AdWords.


Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.