Uh oh. Looks like Google has been caught violating the very rules it has set forth for its search engine regarding paid links. Recently a set of blog posts have been running with the byline, “sponsored by Google”, which had lead many people to cry foul on Google’s own paid links policy and whether or not the company is adhering to it. The post in question featured a link to download Google Chrome, along with a video advertising the browser. The stink that’s been raised over the campaign is that these particular links didn’t include the “nofollow” tag that Google requires all paid links to use.
Of course, Google denies any responsibility here and lays the blame squarely on the marketing company they used to promote the browser, Unruly Media. In a statement to the Verge, a Google spokesperson said, “Google never agreed to anything more than online ads. We have consistently avoided paid sponsorships, including paying bloggers to promote our products.” When the Verge asked Unruly Media about the blunder, CEO Scott Button confirmed the campaign and said it was a mistake and nothing more. “We don’t ask bloggers to link to the advertiser’s sites. As far as I’m aware, there was one link in one post that was not marked no follow. This was corrected as soon as we became aware of it.”
Google has been known to be pretty harsh on sites that are caught buying and selling links and even going so far as to blacklist them from the search engine. Now the fact that Google has been caught in a similar scheme, whether it was a mistake or not brings into question what the search giant will do to rectify the situation. Will it penalize itself for the mistake or sweep the whole incident under a rug?
While the ramifications of how this is handled by the company might create a precedent for how purchased links are handled in the future, I’m inclined to say this is more a mistake on the marketer’s partners than by Google itself. Google might hesitate to use any more third parties to advertise its products, especially those that work closely with bloggers who may not have any regard for follow/nofollow rules when it comes to links.