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Google doesn't like paid links, sponsored posts and low-quality content.
So it was quite surprising, and embarrassing, to learn this week that Google was associated with all three in an apparent effort to promote its web browser, Chrome.
That left Google with little ability but to respond and explain itself. And yesterday it did just that.
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.
Yesterday was Mother's Day, but the flower companies that cash in on special occasions apparently weren't just delivering flowers to mom.
According to the New York Times, Teleflora, FTD, 1800Flowers and ProFlowers were busy delivering paid links to Google in an effort to boost their rankings.
When investing in or buying a company, taking a peek under the hood is all but required. Anything else, of course, is sort of like going to Vegas and betting a huge chunk of your retirement on black.
Generally, due diligence includes looking at a company's financials. From the top line to the bottom line, prospective investors and acquirers need to know how healthy a company is and where it appears to be headed. But when investing in or acquiring an online business, should investors and acquirers be paying more attention to the SEO profiles of the properties they're considering?
Recently, Google has stepped up its effort to improve the quality of its SERPs. But despite its effort, which seems as concerted as it is genuine, one thing is clear: there's only so much that can be done.
Google can't uncover every paid link, and even after cracking down on content farms, there are those who think it hasn't done enough.
The Bribery Act 2010 comes into force this Spring and this could land paid linking strategies in even more hot water than they are already.
Times are tough for traditional publishers, particularly print publishers. Thanks to the internet, print revenue is down and content is, in many markets, increasingly little more than an abundant commodity.
But that doesn't mean publishers aren't trying. Companies like MediaNews Group, for instance, which is the second largest newspaper company in the U.S. as measured by circulation, are trying to capitalize on the digital opportunity by experimenting with new models and investing in new ideas. Underneath the surface, however, things don't look so good.
If you ever lamented the fact that Google never seemed to penalize big brands for their shady SEO practices, 2011 has been an interesting year.
Faced with increasing criticism over the quality of its search results, Google has started cracking down on some big names. Last week, for instance, it took action against J.C. Penney for what appeared to be a paid linking scheme carried out by a third party vendor.
It's been a bad week for J.C. Penney, which found itself penalized by Google and scrutinized by the media after a paid link scheme apparently orchestrated by an outside vendor -- now fired -- was uncovered and detailed in the New York Times.
Not surprisingly, J.C. Penney isn't sitting idly by. It's defending itself.
The phrase 'black hat SEO' probably conjures up images of shady, fly-by-night operators doing anything they can to game Google. It probably doesn't conjure up images of large, established companies and respected retailers.
But common wisdom about black hat SEO isn't necessarily accurate. Case in point: J.C. Penney, a major retailer that has been in business for more than 100 years, was just busted for what appears to be a paid link scheme concocted by a third party SEO vendor.
Google may be the dominant search engine in much of the world, but that doesn't mean it's perfect. To the contrary: there are plenty of examples which indicate that Google struggles to detect even the most unsophisticated web spam, and as a result is driving its users to sites that they'd probably rather not go.
Increasingly, Google's flaws in this area are attracting attention. While it's not yet clear if the attention is a reflection of the fact that consumers are finding that Google's results aren't meeting expectations or an indication that Google's glow has simply worn off, it is clear that Google has a lot to lose if it doesn't pay attention to web spam.
Google Instant certainly ranks as one of the biggest user experience changes Google has implemented since it launched Google search more than a decade ago. And for that reason, it has attracted a lot of press attention, and sparked a significant amount of conversation among search experts.
But is Google Instant really little more than a convenient distraction that masks Google's flaws? Some are essentially arguing just that.