Google has penalized a company that it backs financially in search results, by taking manual action on it for apparently violating its guidelines.
Last year, Google launched Google Capital, a growth equity fund to fund growth-stage businesses. The eighth company it invested in was Thumbtack, a site that introduces people to "qualified professionals" in hundreds of categories to help them complete projects. Customers answer questions about their needs, and Thumbtack connects them with these professionals.
Search Engine Land reports that it has confirmed with Thumbtack that it received a manual action for "unnatural links to your site," and that it has seen a "huge decline" in Google referrals as a result, which has impacted the leads that the professionals in its network receive. The company also claims to have never paid for any links.
Those who have analyzed the situation believe this solicitation for links (which someone shared in the Moz Q&A forum) might have something to do with it:
As others have noted, this might fall into what Google considers a link scheme, which is against its guidelines.
It has to be embarrassing for Google when it has to penalize a site that it is directly supporting. Still, it's not as embarrassing as the time Google had to penalize its own Chrome site.
Images via Thumbtack, Imgur