The web and the webmaster community are still raging about the Google’s paid links story from the last few days and now, i can also report about the official response from Google: Although the company doesn’t take full responsibility for the story (mostly put the blame on third party companies), it took a manual action against Chrome’s homepage for at least 60 days.
The story was broadly exposed and distributed by Danny Sullivan two days ago after he revealed that Google is engaged in a (video) marketing campaign for its browser Chrome, that stood against Google’s own guidelines- It involved a paid links campaign that would affect Chrome homepage search rankings, which is a clear violation of the Webmaster Guidelines. The campaign also produced many low-quality pages, a thing that Google fiercely fighting against.
Essence Digital: Google Never Approved Sponsored Links
Apparently, Google hired the digital media agency, Essence Digital, to run a video marketing campaign for advertising purposes (which is legitimate) and Essence Digital used the video advertising company Unruly to launch this campaign. Unruly was the company that in practice implemented and run the dubious controversial paid links campaign, while two companies separated between Google and the campaign itself.
Yesterday evening, Essence Digital released a statement about the story where they essentially took all the hit while clearing (at least partially) Google: “Google never approved a sponsored-post campaign. They only agreed to buy online video ads.” Essence Digital didn’t settle with just that and additionally posted an official apology to Google: “We apologize to Google who clearly didn’t authorize this.”
Unruly: We Don’t Ask Bloggers To Link
Meanwhile, the second marketing which, Unruly, which in actual fact run the campaign also posted a response from Unruly CEO Scott Button to AllThingsD regarding the story, where they are denying asking from bloggers to link to Chrome’s page: “We don’t ask bloggers to link to the advertiser’s site. It’s just not part of our business model.”
Questions and Doubts
Although Essence Digital response seems logical and reasonable, it still doesn’t answers the most important question- Why Google needs to hire a third party advertising company for a video campaign? Google has its own Video Ads product that is one of the biggest on the web and can effectively advertise legitimately Chrome all over the internet. So why rely on another advertising company?
Google: Manual Action Against Chrome Page
Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s webspam team has posted a response to the story and elaborated how the webspam team is reacting to it: He first saying that Google only intended to advertise Chrome in videos and didn’t intended to buy links to Chrome’s page. However, because of the webspam team did found links to Chrome’s page, it still counts as a violation of Google’s quality guidelines.
As a response to the violation, the webspam team will penalize Chrome’s page for at least two months: “The webspam team has taken manual action to demote www.google.com/chrome for at least 60 days.” After this period, someone from the Chrome staff should submit a reconsideration request, proving that they fixed their violation issues.
From what i have examined, Chrome’s page was indeed demoted for its main keyword- For the search query “browser” where it used to rank one of the firsts, it is currently ranks only on the 42nd place, as you can see at the following screenshot: