Google Promotes Chrome At Cost Of Search Quality

    January 3, 2012
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

Google is the subject of some controversy related to sponsored links. They involve posts promoting Google Chrome for small businesses.

Are you OK with Google’s Chrome promotion strategy? Let us know in the comments.

As you may know, Google has strict guidelines against paid links that don’t carry the nofollow link attribute. They have been known to ban sites for the practice, and now it has been discovered that Google has been participating in a bit of this itself, at least indirectly.

Peter Kafka at AllThingsD discovered that it was not actually Google handling the campaign itself, but rather, while the company dominates online advertising, it hired Unruly Media to do so. Either way, it’s still Google’s campaign.

The whole thing was brought to light when SEOBook’s Aaron Wall discovered some paid blog posts showing up in search results. Some posts, he said, are paid and have live links in them to Google Chrome without using nofollow, and talk about SEO in the same post. He notes that all of the posts are “buying YouTube video views”. They feature this video:

The video actually links to the Chrome download page though:

Chrome download

“You can say they didn’t require the links, that the links were incidental, that leaving nofollow off was an accident, etc. … but does Google presume the same level of innocence when torching webmasters?” asks Wall.

Kafka shared a response from Unruly Media after failing to get any direct response from Google itself (he cites the holidays as a reason for this). In the response, Unruly Media CEO Scott Button says:

…we don’t ask bloggers to link to the advertiser’s site. It’s just not part of our business model. We help advertisers distribute video content and that’s what we get paid for. All links from the video player itself are wrapped in Javascript, so although Google can follow them, they don’t influence search engine rankings. Even though we don’t ask bloggers to link, we do advise them to use nofollow if they do link to the advertiser’s site. This is really important and they should do it to protect themselves as much as the advertiser.

As far as I’m aware, there was one link in one post that was not marked nofollow. This was corrected as soon as we became aware of it…

Former Googler Vanessa Fox said, “JavaScript links do in fact pass PageRank, although Google does try to detect when the links are ads and doesn’t pass PageRank when it detects that.”

Google’s Matt Cutts picked a great time to take a “digital break”:

I’m thinking about doing a “digital break” where I don’t tweet for a week. So if you see me not tweeting, that’s why. 3 days ago via web · powered by @socialditto

Here’s a sample of what Cutts has had to say on sponsored links in the past:

Clear disclosure of sponsorship is critical, and that includes disclosure for search engines. If link in a paid post would affect search engines, that link should not pass PageRank (e.g. by using the nofollow attribute). Google — and other search engines — do take action which can include demoting sites that sell links that pass PageRank, for example.

Tom Warren at The Verge reports: “Google says it is now looking at what changes we need to make to ensure that this never happens again,’ but no word on whether the company plans to penalize its own Chrome download page, a process Google follows for guideline violations.
It’s unclear if there really was only a single link that was wasn’t nofollowed, as there are hundreds of pages of results that feature the “articles” in question. But even if that is the case, and Google is not treating these results any differently than it would any other sites, there is a whole other issue.

As Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land points out, many of these posts appear to be the kind of thing Google’s Panda update was designed to eliminate – thin, low quality content. But here we see, not only these results flooding Google’s SERPs (again, there are hundreds of pages of results), but Google actually sponsoring these results.

Look at this page, for example, which ranks right at the top for “chrome small business benefits”. This is the entirety of the text, which is followed by the above video:

Many of you Moms who follow the blog here are not only working work-at-home jobs but also involved in work-at-home businesses or even a traditional brick and mortar small business. I love supporting women in small business because to me the benefits of working from home or running your own business are the same- having a flexible schedule and allowing more time to spend with your family. I know from experience, however, that starting up a business is not an easy feat, especially in today’s economy. Many years ago I started up my side business, Sign & Play, where I offer parent and child sign language classes. I had no idea where to start with getting the word out about my business and wasted a lot of money on advertising that did not work. I know all of my Telecommuting Moms out there are like me in thinking that wasting money is never a good thing. We all love saving money for our families and since the internet arrived, it sure has made that easier. Finding deals, coupons and ways to save is a whole new world now. As a small business owner, you always want to look for ways to save and wasting money can be painful. You have to prioritize spending and ensure that every dollar is spent wisely. These days, having an online presence is an essential step in starting a business, no matter how small it is. Ensuring that potential customers can find your business online is vital and a first step in establishing your web presence. This is where Google Chrome comes in, they offer a way for small businesses to get started easily and get their business name in to the online and social media world without spending a fortune.

Google Chrome helped this small business in Vermont go global. What can Google Chrome do for your future?

I’m guessing that’s not really the best result for finding out about the benefits to small businesses of using Google’s Chrome browser. In fact, I would think Google would have some content of its own, which would be much more helpful.

Chrome Benefits

There is no link in the article at least, other than the YouTube video linking to the download page.

The quality problem is really more concerning than the sponsored link issue, though, if you ask me – in terms of general user experience. I’d rather have sponsored content that is actually useful than content that isn’t helpful at all appearing at the top of my search results.

We are probably about due for another Panda update though. We’ll see what happens.

What is your take on Google’s Chrome campaign here? Let us know in the comments.

  • Sharon

    I always used internet explorer to get to pogo to play games. Now it won’t display at all. I had to use Chrome to get in. Also, someone at ebay told me they use Chrome for certain things as well.

    • Kris

      Yeah, chrome is very anti-competitive. Certain ad networks (eg not google property) do not display in chrome browsers too. Google seems to be eliminating competition by enforcing adoption of chrome. Legal issues may arise – hopefully soon!

  • Jerry

    Google is like most big companies. They don’t play by their own rules. Is it right? No, of course not, but they’re going to do it anyway and they’ll squash anyone who wants to differ if they can. Frankly, I’m scared of them. The fate of my company lies in their hands and I don’t trust them to be honest about it, but I have no choice because they’re the big giant. They control if people see my site, or don’t, in a search engine.

    • http://seoelemental.com Wally

      It’s a good idea to be scared of them Jerry, because they will squash you. If you make one tiny mistake as an Adwords use, you get banned for life.

      There is no appeals process and if you write them several times, they just repeat that they will not accept your ads.

      Personally, it would do them some good to keep losing customers to the increasing search volumes of Facebook…although I think FB search lacks anything of value.

      Still though, they can’t continue to get away with doing whatever they want for too much longer I hope.

  • http://www.emeraldene.com.au Rob

    If you try to access the “Billing” tab on your Google Adwords account using ie9 it will throw up an error … adwords claim it is a bug with ie9 and that you need to download Chrome to access your Billing information … an intentional “bug” maybe to force Chrome downloads?!? I used Firefox as a matter of principal!

    • Conor J

      An intentional bug? Has anyone here ever tried accessing Windows Update using Chrome, FF or Opera?

      Chrome is an excellent browser IMO and this is coming from someone who has used it from the very beginning, encountered all the bugs and experienced all the advancements in the short space it’s been available.

      What’s with the Google bashing, some of these comments are borderline ridiculous.

  • http://morganservice.net Mobile Home Repair DIY

    Found this article interesting…Google has found itself in a firestorm over breaking its own policies. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-501465_162-57351356-501465/say-what-google-breaks-own-policies-for-chrome-paid-posts-update/

  • http://www.ocodewire.com Krishan

    This was coming up for a long time. Google started losing its humility once they decided to get into every business. They would have been better in case they were following the policy of live and let live. Seems the downfall has begun …… amen

  • Bob

    More evidence to break up Google. The evidence of anti-competitive behavior is abundant and blatant. I don’t know what’s taking the government so long to go seriously after them. If I were Microsoft I’d allow only Bing and other search engines on their browser. Apparently the government wants to do nothing about Google.

  • http://merchantanywhere.com Dennis Ideue

    Quit crying. Google has every right to use an advertising network it OWNS in any way it darn well wants! Google should have the right to do what it wants, and Bing should have the right to shamelessely promote Microsoft. This is AMERICA guys. If you want the State to control everything, move to Russia and stand in line for potatoes.

    • http://www.tden.com King Ralph

      That’s bull. Public companies cannot just do whatever they want especially when they engage in monopolistic practices designed to stifle competition.

    • Bob

      That’s an Oprah watching housewife logic there, Dennis. That works with a lemonade stand not with a monopoly like Google. Google can’t do as it pleases, idiot. Google could destroy the US economy if left alone.

  • http://www.LAokay.com Steven G

    The sad part is webmaster tools only reports when manual action has been taken on a site, not if Google’s algorithms have placed a penalty on a site for not using rel=”nofollow” tags on ad links. So how really is anybody going to know if they have a bunch of links on their tens of thousands of pages and forgot a few to tag them as nofollow?

  • http://inthepinkconsultants.co.uk John Gilbert

    Something needs to be done about Google but I’m not sure it is the responsibility of the government. As a business we have stopped using Google completely and have managed to slowly convert a large portion of our customers to Bing. If we simply stopped using a a business which appears out of control and seems to show no regard for it’s customers then the problem would solve itself.

    It is time that those sleeping beauties at Bing woke up and took advantage of the rage directed against Google. I stopped using Google 5 months ago and don’t miss it. Wally is absolutely right, Google can be totally ruthless but not in any way that can be seen as upholding standards. They appear to have absolutely no regards for anyone other than themselves.

  • http://www.traffichosting.org/ Traffic Hosting

    I have this vision of a small snowball rolling down the side of “the mountain”, growing larger and larger as it swallows up everything in its path, scaring the living crap out of every “living” thing in its reach because it has become so large that nothing can stop it; not even itself (as if it wanted to).

    Then it finally reaches the bottom of the mountain and slows to a halt….then the sun comes out, melts it down and all that is left is the debris of everything it had destroyed…except for the small seeds of new growth.

    A little melodramatic, I know. I think I need to back off the caffeine! (It could happen;)

  • http://www.flowerpotman.com Mike

    One rule for Google and another for the rest of us dependants.
    They keep reminding us “Google is free” they can do what they want, can’t they, what can we do, seo for bing?

  • http://www.philippineswebdesign.com John

    Reading the comments here and on YouTube, I can see allot of people have some very good points. Chrome is overrated in my opinion! I have used it, tried it and uninstalled it. FF is still my browser of choice. That’s that great thing! WE HAVE A CHOICE! Google is just like any other HUGE company, they are trying to make $$$! Personally i think the Video production was GREAT! BUT…It has NOTHING to do with Chrome…I just didn’t see the point of trying to convince people the only way to do great business was to use Chrome…There is nothing in Chrome that i cant do in Firefox…The video makes no sense to me…In my opinion.

  • http://www.ngecis.com/ ngecis

    like this…

  • http://www.seonorthamerica.com Tom Aikins

    Google will do what all semi-monopolies have always done: hunker down and play hardball for as long as they can get away with it. If they are not forced to change by either the marketplace or the government they never will and instead will continue to try to increase their influence and domination.

  • http://www.w3computing.com Computing Tutorials

    Wow.. Google wiped entire blogger site after this post I guess.. This is what we all see

    Sorry, the page you were looking for in the blog Telecommuting Moms does not exist.

  • http://www.rcpsecure.com/govisiochat/ Bobby Kirsten

    C’mmon guys lets not discard what google has done for us…I am a web developer working for AAkron LLC. For years we’ve been creating great web apps, I’m sure just like me there are thousands of developers out there who was never happy with the performance of the current web browsers especially the one which almost every people on the planet was using (you know what I’m talking about right)…WELL when CHROME arrived it kind of relieved millions of developers, to me it’s the perfect ever platform to browse the web with ultimate ease and perfect security. For instance I have recently bought the omegle script from these guys here: http://www.rcpsecure.com/govisiochat/ and it works like a real charm on Chrome.


  • A M

    Google is behaving like any other monopoly would. First they had a good product, good ideas. Then they became arrogant thinking that they have the best product and the best ideas and now they are on the way down.
    They became complacent, people are going to start to dislike them and that’s how things work.


  • http://www.jonique.co.uk/ Lisa

    It just shows what google can do when it has the power.

  • Taz

    oh isn’t it funny the telecommuting mommies link is now dead.

    Nice one Google – penalize webmasters for what you do yourself!

    Even sneakier with that nonsense post and then promoting chrome? Google should be held accountable

  • http://fishoilproducts.com Business Blog

    do agree with this blog post100%: the web browsers people use to search for products and services relating to marketing and advertisement is definitely very popular these days: I honestly feel that people should take the time to choose and select the best web browser such as Google crome – are you recently discovered that Google chrome browser::: in actuality it was a mistake offered by a person that actually thought this browser was not easy to hack, in other words spyware viruses Trojan horses and rickets would rather bomb Internet Explorer browser and the Firefox browser with viruses targeting that application::; I am a proud user of the Google chrome browser,” this web browser works very fast,” okay if you’re one of those people that like to use drag and speak like nuance,” I have something to tell you………… the Google chrome browser works excellent when you’re speaking into the Nuance Dragon speak tool while your cursor is in bed into a Google chrome browser,” this helps me create effective landing pages for my websites while I optimized the headlines and some head elements of my social bookmarking websites and search engine optimization.

    Thank you very much

  • http://www.facebook.com/notes/security-camera/alert-logitech-wireless-outside-cameras/286375034734522 ALERT LOGITECH

    Thank, But we as a beginner, whether it can do

  • http://www.prima-posizione.it/ dechigno

    Google’s behavior is identical to Italian government: “creates laws that do not comply then!”.

    Perhaps Google has forgotten that true strength of web isn’t its search engine but all website’s contents. So the true power is not Google but the webmaster … enough that all the bottom part of the robots.txt (User-agent: Google-Bot Disallow: /).

    Game Over, dear Google! :-)

  • http://www.seonetworker.de Seonetworker


    the sponsored post the article referrs by “Look at this page, for example, which ranks right at the top for “chrome small business benefits” is being removed.
    You can see it here:

    Take care,

  • Erik

    In one hand, google holds a ton of products to sell. In the other hand, they control a tool that can put those products in front of billions of people. All they have to do is clap. I don’t think the small penalty they gave themselves will keep regulators away. The bigger issue is when they tinker with the algorithm to feature results on google properties.


  • http://bet-ibc.com/ ibcbet agent

    I think Google is in some kind of transition…even the quality of searches has lowered and I’m staring doubts of their free products

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