Google released a statement today apologizing for the actions of a Chrome advertising campaign it commissioned and kicked off just a few days ago. As an apology, the company has deprecated Chrome's page ranking; searching for "browser" doesn't return a direct link to Google Chrome until several pages worth of results.
This brouhaha kicked off when SEO Book found that searching for the phrase "This post is sponsored by Google" returned hundreds of results, all talking up Google Chrome and all pointing at the browser's download page. Worse, many of the posts had little-to-nothing to do with Google Chrome.
This sort of behavior violates Google's own guidelines on content and had some viewers seeing red. Allegations were made that Google was paying small-time bloggers to spam posts about Chrome in order to falsely inflate its ratings and drive additional download traffic. Coming on the heels of news that Chrome's market share continues to increase, it's the sort of thing that gets nerds angry.
The story sounded odd from the beginning, given that Google's entire business revolves around Internet search. If Google wanted to push Chrome at users with underhanded tactics, it probably could've come up with something more effective than an army of second-rate bloggers with dubious writing talents and bad link policies.
Google's response, since corroborated by its ad agency, Essence Digital, is that it never intended to buy blog posts or anything of the sort. In a statement, the company said: "Google never agreed to anything more than online ads. We have consistently avoided paid sponsorships, including paying bloggers to promote our products, because these kind of promotions are not transparent or in the best interests of users. We’re now looking at what changes we need to make to ensure that this never happens again."
Essence Digital has chimed in with: "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."
As penance for its act, Google is "taking manual action to demote www.google.com/chrome 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."
The current top page of search results for "browser." Searching for "Chrome" still returns Google Chrome as a top result
While it's true that searching for "browser" no longer returns a direct link to Chrome, there's still plenty of first-page links to the company's product. Then again, the company's decision to demote Chrome is entirely voluntary. There's no evidence that Google authorized the creation of terrible blog posts as a means of promoting Chrome--the search giant's prompt response actually leaves it looking rather good.