Business, Finance & Economics

Google criticized for sponsored blog posts praising Chrome browser


At the time of writing, Chrome did not appear until page six of Google search results for "browser."

Google is facing criticism after hundreds of recent blog posts praising its Chrome browser were listed as "sponsored by Google."

The search term "This post is sponsored by Google" produced more than 400 paid entries from late December, search engine specialist Adrian Wall wrote on the SEO Book blog this week. Titles included "Google Chrome helps small businesses find success online."

Such posts appear to violate Google's own guidelines on how websites are allowed to boost their searchability, Search Engine Land pointed out. Google instructs webmasters to flag paid links to their site with a special "nofollow" attribute that stops the sponsored links pushing the site higher up search results, but the paid links to the Chrome download page did not have this marker.

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Google denied commissioning the sponsored posts, which it attributed to two third-party marketing agencies, Unruly Media and Essence Digital. According to a statement the company gave to The Verge:

Google never agreed to anything more than online ads. We have consistently avoided paid sponsorships, including paying bloggers to promote our products.

Essence Digital confirmed that Google "clearly didn't authorize this," while Unruly Media said that though it had paid bloggers to write about Chrome, it had not asked them to link to its download page.

Google says it will make up for the mistake by deliberately lowering its product's position in search results. The official Chrome website's PageRank value will be lowered for at least 60 days, Google told Search Engine Land, with the consequence that people searching on for "browser" will not find Chrome until around page five of Google results.

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