Reports: Google Chrome campaign violates Google's paid link policy

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A sponsored post campaign for Google's Chrome browser violated the company's paid link policy, according to reports. 

For the campaign, Google paid bloggers to write about Google Chrome and embed within the post a video that spotlights how King Arthur Flour, a small business in Vermont, benefited from using the browser. Posts featured the text “Google Chrome helped this small business in Vermont go global. What can Google Chrome do for your future?” and notified readers that the posts were sponsored by Google Chrome. One blogger, who published a sponsored post, also included a link that directed to the Google Chrome download page, violating Google's paid link policy, which was first reported by Search Engine Land on Jan. 2. The link in that post has since been removed.

Google's paid link policy forbids companies from buying or selling links to juice search rankings and advises that advertisers, who buy or sell links, to include a piece of code that specifies if a link is paid so that Google can exclude the paid link from the destination's search ranking. 

"Google never agreed to anything more than online ads. 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," said a Google spokesperson in an email. "We're now looking at what changes we need to make to ensure that this never happens again."

Scott Button, CEO of Unruly Media, which worked with Google on the campaign, said in an email that one blogger posted a link to one of Google's sites without including the special coding, called a "nofollow" attribute, that would have kept the link within the boundaries of its paid link policy. “This was an innocent accident, is something we constantly coach bloggers on, and was swiftly rectified,” he said. He added that the Chrome campaign ran in late December and “has now finished."

Button acknowledged that links from the video player could influence search rankings but said that those links for this campaign did not. 

“They could, but in our case they don't because they are all wrapped in Javascript,” Button said. “This method is one of the two methods, along with the nofollow attribute, approved by Google for ensuring that sponsored links (or in our case links from sponsored video content) don't distort search engine rankings.”

“Google paid Unruly for delivering video views on the Chrome campaign and did not pay Unruly for delivering posts, tweets, links, or any other form of editorial content,” Button said.

According to the Google Chrome YouTube Channel, the video featuring King Arthur Flour was uploaded to the channel on Nov. 26.

Search Engine Land and SEO Book first reported news of the paid link policy violation.

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