Google searches for “browser” no longer reveal the Google Chrome homepage, because the globally popular search engine decided to apply a penalty against the browser’s website after coming under fire for its sponsored post campaign.
The Mountain View, Calif.-based company actively fights paid links and junk content under its Webmaster guidelines. However, earlier this week, SEO Book’s Aaron Wall noticed a Google search for “This post is sponsored by Google” displays over 400 websites written by Google marketing campaigns.
Bloggers were found posting low-quality content related to Google Chrome to promote Google content, and at least one of the posts had a hyperlink to the Chrome download page. Hyperlinks can help a website rise in Google search results through Google’s PageRank algorithm.
According to The New York Times, Google penalized JC Penney, Forbes and Overstock last year due to paid links and similar guidline violation issues. Search Engine Land suggested that Google should penalize its own Google Chrome download page to be fair.
Well, that is exactly how Google responded.
There is currently no Chrome advertisement above search results nor a link to the browser’s website found anywhere on the first page of Google. Instead, a link to Chrome is found at a much-lower No. 50 spot.
Google said there were no “remaining violations” of its guidelines, but its spam fighting team reduced the PageRank value of the Google Chrome homepage as adequate punishment for the previously reported violations.
Lowering the PageRank value is not equal to removing or banning the website from Google, as the search engine has done to violators in the past, but a lower PageRank value will reduce Chrome’s ability to connect with certain search terms.
“We’ve investigated and are taking manual action to demote www.google.com/chrome and lower the site’s PageRank for a period of at least 60 days,” said Google in a Jan. 3 statement to Search Engine Land. ”We strive to enforce Google’s Webmaster guidelines consistently in order to provide better search results for users.”
Google claimed that it did not “authorize” the pay-for-post campaign, but that the company should be “held to a higher standard.”
“So we have taken stricter action than we would against a typical site,” Google explained.
Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan said Google’s decision to penalize itself was most likely “a PR reduction, to be safe.”