Type 'web browser' or 'Internet browser' into Google's search bar and you'll notice something missing from top results: Google's own popular browser, Chrome.
Google is purposely demoting search results for Chrome, after Aaron Wall of SEO Book revealed that the company appeared to have paid for sponsored posts promoting its browser. The company said it will demote Chrome for at least 60 days.
The marketing campaign, which was first reported at SEO Book, pointed out that bloggers were being paid for generic posts linking to a video promoting Chrome. The sponsored posts fall afoul of Google's own policy of paying for links:
Google and most other search engines use links to determine reputation. A site's ranking in Google search results is partly based on analysis of those sites that link to it. Link-based analysis is an extremely useful way of measuring a site's value, and has greatly improved the quality of web search. Both the quantity and, more importantly, the quality of links count towards this rating.
However, some SEOs and webmasters engage in the practice of buying and selling links that pass PageRank, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites. Buying or selling links that pass PageRank is in violation of Google's Webmaster Guidelines and can negatively impact a site's ranking in search results.
Google maintains it did not approve the campaign. “We have consistently avoided paid sponsorships, including paying bloggers to promote our products, because these kind of promotions are not transparent or in the best interests of users,” Google said, according to the Washington Post. “We’re now looking at what changes we need to make to ensure that this never happens again.”
As Search Engine Land reports, Google says it's being harsher on itself than other offenders: "While Google did not authorize this campaign, and we can find no remaining violations of our webmaster guidelines, we believe Google should be held to a higher standard, so we have taken stricter action than we would against a typical site," part of its statement read.
But Google has leveled harsh punishments in the past: When the New York Times revealed JC Penny was using a 'link scheme' to come up first in search results, Google quickly plummeted their search rankings, sounding a warning to others about repercussions of trying to game Google's system.