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Google might be paying big bucks to Mozilla to be Firefox's default search provider, but its own browser Chrome is now by some counts more popular globally than Firefox itself.

Chalk it up to a good product, and Google's improved ability to market its wares to mainstream consumers.

But is Google also using questionable tactics to promote Chrome? Surprisingly, the answer may be yes.

As detailed by Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan, there are hundreds of blog posts claiming to be 'sponsored by Google' featuring links to a Google Chrome download page. The content appears to be of the 'sponsored post' sort, which violate Google's guidelines and have been targeted specifically by recent Google updates.

Google’s paying to produce a lot of garbage, the same type of garbage that its Panda Update was designed to penalize.

But is it? Google doesn't need to buy links to boost Chrome's position in the SERPs. After all, Google could manually manipulate them. Indeed, Google's Marissa Mayer has essentially admitted that Google doesn't have a problem giving preference to its own properties.

Some have speculated that the sponsored posts are the work of an unscrupulous operator being paid for Chrome installs. But it appears that the links to the Chrome download page on these posts go directly to that page without the use of tracking links, so this theory doesn't appear to hold water.

More likely is the possibility that Google hired one or more companies to assist it in marketing Chrome online, and they turned to sponsored posts. This, of course, wouldn't make Google look as bad, but it wouldn't eliminate all embarrassment either.

After all, the fact that retailer J.C. Penney didn't know what its SEO firm was up to didn't keep Google from levying a harsh, albeit temporary, penalty.

Assuming that Google has also failed to adequately supervise the firms it outsources some online marketing functions to, the question now is whether Google will give itself the same treatment. Sadly, one would have to suspect not.

Patricio Robles

Published 3 January, 2012 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2364 more posts from this author

Comments (2)

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Scott Button

Good to see social media advertising practices brought under the spotlight.

As Andrew Girdwood points out at http://blog.arhg.net/2012/01/is-google-really-breaking-their-own.html, Unruly never requires bloggers to link to back to an advertiser's site. That's because we're in the business of video advertising not search engine marketing, so we couldn't care less about link juice. We don't ask for it, we don't pay for it, and we don't track it. What we do pay for is views of video content: our business is to distribute branded video content on behalf of blue-chip brands like Google.

Unruly is committed to an ethical, legal, and totally transparent approach to online marketing. It's crucial that branded video content is clearly marked as sponsored and that links don't distort search engine rankings. It's also crucial that where opinions are expressed they belong to the author not the advertiser - the internet is a free place and consumers control it, not brands - which is why we never push an angle or opinion, and also why, occasionally, bloggers will unfortunately pen a post that deviates from our guidelines, as here. Where that happens, we're very happy to have it pointed out, and will work with the blogger to fix it as fast as possible.

Some nitty-gritty for the interested. Unruly's video player has a very clear 'Sponsored by Google' disclosure underneath it. The disclosure itself and the video player do link back to the advertiser's site, but are wrapped in Javascript so do not influence search engine rankings. Unruly does not require that bloggers write about the video content nor do we require that bloggers provide any additional links to the advertiser's site. However, if they do, Unruly always asks them to mark the post (or any related tweet) as sponsored, too, and to mark any additional links as nofollow so that they don't influence search engine rankings. This is just good practice and is one of the things that separates Unruly from other practitioners.

To be totally clear, Google paid Unruly for delivering video views on the Chrome campaign and did not pay Unruly for delivering posts, tweets, links, or any other form of editorial content.

over 4 years ago

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3mille

Are you joking? What's so surprising in Google not respecting their own rules?

over 4 years ago

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