Google has stumbled into an embarrassing sponsored marketing blunder, with campaigns for Chrome ironically contravening the very paid link rules that saw thousands of sites penalized in the Panda cull last year. Over 400 pages were spotted with the text “This Post Sponsored By Google” by Search Engine Land and SEO Book, but not using the “nofollow” link attributes Google itself demands, in an apparent attempt to buoy the search giant’s own rankings for Chrome-related content. “Not us!” Google has cried, however, blaming a third-party marketing firm that, it says, stepped outside of its bounds.
“Google never agreed to anything more than online ads” the company told The Verge in a statement, continuing that it has “consistently avoided paid sponsorships, including paying bloggers to promote our products.” Instead, it alleges, a marketing company called Unruly Media – which was retained to run the Chrome campaign – was responsible for any decisions over how promotions were run.
Unruly Media itself denies asking any of the bloggers taking part to link to Google’s sites, and claims “ there was one link in one post that was not marked nofollow.” That mistake “was corrected as soon as we became aware of it” CEO Scott Button insists.
What’s left unclear is how, exactly, Google will address the lingering concerns over Chrome’s subsequent rankings. The company undoubtedly benefitted from the links, something it was quick to react to when other sites were caught not making use of “nofollow”, and there are now suggestions that it should penalize its own pages as a result.