This Post is Sponsored by Google

Jan 2nd

That is what they say, typically at the bottom of the posts, in blog posts that equate Google Chrome to being the Internet & spread misinformation about how Chrome is good for small business.

  • some of those sites are paid posts and have live links in them to Google Chrome without using nofollow & talk about SEO in the same post as well!
  • some of those posts link to the example businesses Google was paying to have covered
  • and all the posts are effectively "buying YouTube video views" for this video youtube.com/watch?v=QFLP7HD1s7k

You can say they didn't require the links, that the links were incidental, that leaving nofollow off was an accident, etc. ... but does Google presume the same level of innocence when torching webmasters? They certainly did not to the bloggers who reviewed K-Mart & the Google reconsideration request form states:

“In general, sites that directly profit from traffic (e.g. search engine optimizers, affiliate programs, etc.) may need to provide more evidence of good faith before a site will be reconsidered.”

The Orwellian things about Google using the above strategy to market Chrome are:

  • Google has a clear pro-corporate big brand bias to their algorithms & layout (Vince & Panda updates + the part near the top of the SERPs for some searches that says "brands" as a filter type).
  • The more usage data Google collects the more stupid hoops it forces smaller businesses to jump through in order to compete, thereby further driving them under. (If small business owners didn't have enough time & resources for SEO, do they now also have time to get reviews, get local citations, deal with social stuff on Twitter + Facebook + Youtube + Google+ and a bit of SEO?)
  • Google polices how small businesses can even make income online. When K-Mart paid some small business bloggers to do sponsored posts Matt Cutts wrote a post (mattcutts.com/blog/sponsored-conversations/) about how he torched those small bloggers (while doing nothing to K-Mart) & equated that exercise to selling links that promote bogus brain cancer solutions. Yet Google Japan was already dinged for this sort of paid post activity & now Google is doing the same thing again.

The fact that Google is paying to spread that sort of misinformation about how their browser is helping small businesses is sort of like BP buying ads about doing tourism in the gulf. Only since Google destroying smaller businesses is something more abstract on virtual lands the PR propaganda campaign is much more effective, because (unlike oil washing ashore) people do not see what is not there. (The birds still die, but the black oil covered carcass isn't rotting on the beach).

Should you follow Google & buy ads on these sites? Are they christened & beyond reproach? I would sort of be afraid to buy exposure on the blogs where Google is buying coverage...if that latent public relations disaster eventually blows up in their face, they may assume others are as guilty as Google is & burn down the whole forest.

Google the dictator meet Google the marketer. You guys are going to get on well together!

Update: Danny highlighted how Google's Chrome ad buy created a lot of the low-quality filler pablum content that the Panda update was alleged to discourage.

Published: January 2, 2012

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Comments

January 2, 2012 - 6:49pm

I had a friend review this the minute it was published & I pulled a few of the reference links citing where Google was doing the above on the basis that he suggested the specific examples were not needed since the issue is so pervasive & they are so easy to repeatedly find.

January 2, 2012 - 11:30pm

100% agree that small businesses are being put in an awkward situation that is getting progressively worse. It is hard to imagine having the time learn and execute everything as a local business wanting to get online it simply is a massive amount to learn and keep up to date with.

January 3, 2012 - 12:35am

... not only are the paid links a violation of Google's guidelines, but the ads are irrelevant & thus almost all this new "content" being created is the very thin low-quality content that the Panda update was alleged to take care of. Danny Sullivan gave Google a rather solid lashing over that.

January 3, 2012 - 11:33am

@aaron - thanks for spotting the lack of nofollow on one of our blogger's posts. That should be fixed now. If you spot any others please let us know.

As Andrew Girdwood points out, 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. In line with FTC and EU regulation Unruly always requires that bloggers clearly disclose any post, tweet, or other reference to the video as being sponsored. We also request that if they do link anywhere they use nofollow, both because that's best practice and also because it's in their own interest to do so. We're committed to an ethical, legal, and totally transparent approach to online marketing. It's crucial that posts are clearly market as sponsored and that links are marked as nofollow. And it's crucial that opinions belong to the author, which is why we never push an angle or opinion, and also why, occasionally, bloggers will unfortunaterly pen a post that deviates from our guidelines, as here. Where that happens, we're very happy to have it pointed out and will cure the infraction as fast as possible.

January 3, 2012 - 1:37pm

@Scott,

Good to know Unruly never requires bloggers to link back. Are they however required to actually create useful content or is the current level of crap acceptible? Thanks.

January 3, 2012 - 3:51pm

I've had a look through the search results & the only posts I've come across don't have any links to Google Chrome, just the video. There's nothing wrong with sponsoring posts per se, or requiring a YouTube video to be included since that doesn't impact SEO anyway at the moment. If you can provide any URLs with dofollow links I'd be interested to see them.

January 3, 2012 - 4:05pm

...or at least they did when this blog post went live.

Scott even mentioned having the issue "fixed" in his above comment.

January 3, 2012 - 4:05pm

[i]Google has a clear pro-corporate big brand bias to their algorithms & layout (Vince & Panda updates[/i]

Aaron, Google is trying to get corporate America to move more of their advertising online, hence the bias. They get rewarded twice, by getting adword referrals and by moving very high on organic (if you can that) search. An increase of bidding and prices as everyone tries to be a brand is a major bonus. Someone from the government should look into this, I'm sure Google has left an electronic trail since Vince.

This story though is more about buying fake buzz, not buying links or pagerank.

January 3, 2012 - 4:10pm

...the fake buzz & the wave of garbage content it created are a far bigger deal than the paid links.

In the above post I keyed off the paid links primarily because it is an issue Google has highlighted in the past & we know what their reaction was when someone other than Google was the beneficiary.

The garbage content is a blurrier issue where they haven't typically been as stern. (Lots of big news sites syndicate garbage press releases and even sites that were smoked by Panda still typically get some search traffic, though it is much less than they got before they were smoked.)

January 3, 2012 - 11:28pm

For me, the question is how could Google have avoided the bad content issue? I have four ideas on simple things that either Google or its agencies -and any other online marketer - should have done to prevent that weak content from going out on our blog

January 3, 2012 - 4:08pm

"Danny Sullivan gave Google a rather solid lashing over that."

That's Danny's token "I'm fair" post, don't buy it.

January 3, 2012 - 4:24pm

...I bet you will see many more such posts from Danny.

I think he typically starts from the position of giving them the benefit of the doubt, but they have went so far out of bounds that he has smoked them pretty hard at least 3 or 4 times. The x things I hate about Google, the "mom rule" on the toolbar, this astroturfing incident ... and those are just off the top of my head.

Keep in mind that Danny has covered search for more than a decade & has saw things like "SEO is dead" styled stories from the very start. So he tends to start from a more reserved standpoint than many others, but when Google goes to far he is willing to give them a bravo delta.

January 3, 2012 - 5:37pm

Going hard on stuff that does not matter is the oldest trick in the book.

You make a living in SEO, one way or another. If your product or service is horrible, biased or x, y, z...and I point it out, then I'm really hurting you. But if I ignore that and "slam" you on tangent stuff I give you a pass while trying to be fair: "I am fair, look at this post when I bashed Aaron...for wearing a green sweater in June";)

Google's core business is search and ads. As long as you stay away from the foundation of what holds them he's fine. Danny might even get away with saying that Chrome was slow last night or that Android needs a new upgrade. As you know many businesses depend 100% on being good terms with certain people at Google.

Got an email I can send another blatant example?

January 3, 2012 - 6:04pm

...sending it to a gmail account, or want a different addy?

January 3, 2012 - 6:17pm

Gmail is fine, I'm using Chrome for crying out loud ;)

January 4, 2012 - 8:39am

...less the TLD, @gmail

January 3, 2012 - 6:04pm

Should Googles Algo have caught this?

Aaron you say that smaller business's get savaged for this activity all the time.
I've seen you show evidence that big brands are excluded from harsh treatment, not just Google own brand.

Maybe Google needs to be transparent on the process of penalty flagging..via Webmaster Tools
..I'm starting to wonder if the end decision at Google still uses human editorial, not the algo, which is why
it appears to be favoritism (Big Brands)?

It would be nice if Google could let site owners get warning flags, with say a 15 day response to fix issues or respond...or at least give the owners of the site time chew out the 3rd party that violates the rules.. Maybe even a public penalty score..(Shaming) which decreases after a period of good behavior. All site owners should be able to query if linking sites are in good standing, and terminate them..not exposing domains to spammy sites. I doubt Google would do this, but it would be fair and transparent.

If a site is violating the rules or reported by competitors- Google sends its penalty bot over.

Are we sure this is not a case of a 3rd party company "Unruly" just doing its thing, with no oversight. Like all the other agencies who got caught. the response on your site above said they're a video company? Google is so big, how can it possibly keep track of everything its partners do?...you yourself say its almost hopeless for a small business to keep a handle on all the social & media platforms... This looks like a "too big" to be that stupid scenario...like JCPENNY.

IF Google built a transparent penalty process, then I will believe, otherwise Aaron and Danny Sullivan may be right.

Searchengineman

January 3, 2012 - 6:17pm

...that by creating overly harsh penalties & then creating loads of manual exceptions that they were doing human editorial & using the algorithms as a convenient excuse to lean into whenever they overstep their bounds.

Other than a few mental hoops to jump through, there is no difference between a manually driven editorial policy and an algorithm that hits a lot of sites & then has many manual exceptions added.

If you notice on the above Unruly ad campaign Google's official response was "the dog ate our homework."

When an "algorithm" goes astray they as humans have an arms-length distance from the activities & an opportunity to fix it. The algorithm is both the magic and the dog...quite convenient on a public relations perspective & on a regulatory perspective.

This is the same Google that sends out automated emails about automatically detecting funky links & automatically penalizing websites, yet when big brands come under similar scrutiny Google says "we already detected this" (but did nothing about it).

Google welcomes transparency from webmasters so that they can taste the data & better learn how to compete down the cycle, but Google claims they can't offer transparency themselves or else spammers will take advantage of it. That might sound like an authentic excuse if Google didn't get caught spamming so often.

January 4, 2012 - 11:31am

The above remark is a very apt summary of why Google excels public relation-wise. They manage all aspects of their operation so that they can take the credit for everything that's good and blame something or someone else for the bad stuff.

Of course every other company tries to do the same, but Google actually succeeds, creating a vast army of brainwashed apologists.

Even though the content of google.com is assembled from the first bit to the last by Google Inc., whenever it produces good results "it's us nice guys in Mountain View serving you", whenever it puts low-quality content first "it's those nasty spammers out there".

Thus implying that this multibillion-dollar company employing half the combined brainpower of the United States is defenseless against rogue players. But only when this helpless puppy image suits them; other times they'll sell the "you can run but you can't hide" tough guy line to discourage anything that hurts their interests.

One can observe both of these opposing takes on reality (neither of them really true) in the public utterances of their spin doctor extraordinaire, Mr Cutts.

Also, they have brainwashed legions of people (including many so-called opinion leaders) into thinking Google creates so much value for humanity that it's our common moral obligation to protect the integrity of Google SERPs.

'So Google basically offers a great, selfless service to the public?'
'Yes, definitely. They gave us so much, all honest players should fully cooperate with them.'
'Then, being some kind of public service, shouldn't they operate under a larger degree of transparency, accountability etc. than an average company, not actually LESS?'
'Oh no, they are just a company that has the right to do as it wishes.'

As long as people's minds are completely comfortable with this view of Google, no cognitive dissonance whatsoever, Google will continue to grow in power.

January 3, 2012 - 9:59pm

Funny how a lot of these blog posts have been pulled by the bloggers - if there's nothing to hide, why delete the blog posts? One that got deleted is quite interesting actually:-

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:gh1Vp3Oy-M0J:www.an...

Dofollow links to all kinds of Google properties.

January 4, 2012 - 1:11am

...they claim there was only 1 paid link in 1 post that was an offending post. Yet part of their payment scheme takes into account PageRank & the example you just shared is a different site than the 1 that was mentioned elsewhere and had far more than 1 paid link in it.

Google is great at public relations though.

Some people are even considering them as doing the right thing for arbitrarily tweaking their PageRank display on the toolbar for the page (without seriously impacting rankings). As Michael VanDeMar stated, for them to treat their site like they treat some others it would need a -50 penalty across the board.

January 5, 2012 - 6:24pm

The Article was not that bad.
.. I kind of feel sorry for the blogger, was not her fault.

January 4, 2012 - 8:30am

Another thing - Google are putting the blame on another company they outsourced this marketing campaign to, as if Google don't somehow ever check to see what the marketing company is doing (or that the marketing company actually give them reports on what they've done). I find that hard to believe. I wonder if we can also pass blame when we get penalised for paid links? "It wasn't me, it was an SEO company I hired, and I stated to them to only do white hat SEO, please re-instate my site back into the rankings, thanks". I didn't think so.

January 4, 2012 - 8:38am

...when J.C. Penney or Overstock.com tried passing the blame it wasn't good enough for Google.

Those sites had multi-month penalties & those penalties were sitewide (rather than just impacting 1 specific page).

January 4, 2012 - 6:23pm

I assume Google is not the only company who have used Unruly Media? They have a bunch of case studies of big brands on their site and there's likely a lot more of them out there..

January 5, 2012 - 1:07am

...don't run search companies & write "thou shalt not" posts about link buying.

January 5, 2012 - 6:14pm

http://videos.webpronews.com/2012/01/aaron-wall-google-broke-own-policy-...

You don't seem to think that this - will likely affect Google much.

I was thinking about this that the Webspam team + Algo has so much power, that they in affect have become the supreme court on the web. They've taken away the breakfasts of many Affiliate's because of content decisions, while people keep coming up with examples of Google of breaking it's own rules - indefinitely.

Perhaps a separation of Church and State. Needs to happen-- Google the Business vr Google the Search Engine. That the divisions operate in isolation & Autonomy to prevent conflicts of interest & can't be bullied by Google the Business.

I do not disagree with Google cleaning up the web of spam - there must be a lot of pressure on all of Google to make sure that Google properties succeed..that's the problem. Isolate the SPAM & Algo Team & create a fair system of transparency, for all companies. Google should consider doing this before the US government interferes and makes an even bigger mess, like the SOPA nonsense.

Searchengineman

January 6, 2012 - 5:27am

...but I think being able to embed their business interests in "the algorithm" is too valuable for them to want to be able to give up on it.

Even as they spend billions per year buying marketshare they can claim that their high marketshare is primarily driven by a superior quality service.

Look at how a few years ago Google highlighted business models that might merit a low landing page quality score in AdWords & then Google entered almost all those markets aggressively.

I have had this mental model for spam: "if Google can remove you from the ecosystem & insert themselves and nobody notices then you are spam." You won't ever hear a Googler agree to that publicly, but too many of the trends line up to be ignored.

January 7, 2012 - 5:28pm

i bet google love you

February 28, 2013 - 7:00pm

I think google is just swindlers. Sorry to tell it, but lot of cheat everywhere on google/m cutts/etc and only big brands have a top ranking. Even top10 now not real, it top 5-15 or top10-20 now. All other is adwords & google affiliate sites.
Shame!

February 28, 2013 - 7:06pm

i even just checked 'google chrome' keywords, it still ranks at top1. But google tell something about 60 days penalty... cheaters?
Also in google sponsored posts was follow links to google, google checkout, etc. no any words about this pages...

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