In a remarkable expose that is sure to leave a bitter taste in the mouths of SEOs and marketers around the globe, Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land and SEOBook have unearthed a shady link buying scheme for Google Chrome, masterminded by Google itself in a direct violation of its own webmaster guidelines.
Take a look at this screenshot from HumphriesNation:
That’s a direct link to the Google Chrome download page. The post has no meat whatsoever (something the Google Panda update was supposed to discourage) and is stuffed with frivolous SEO keywords. The content itself makes no frickin’ sense. How the heck does Google Chrome help small businesses? Does it do something special that Firefox or IE or Safari can’t do?
It is, essentially, a post sponsored, or paid for by Google. Google’s webmaster guidelines explicitly state that if a site is found to be buying links, it’ll be penalized. It has penalized big brands like JC Penny as well as millions of smaller marketers in the past for the same.
The question is: now that Google’s dirty little secret is out, will the company stand up for its own guidelines and ban Chrome? I doubt so, especially since Chrome is well on its way to beating Firefox in market share and is bound to add an increasingly larger amount to the company’s bottomline each year.
There is little doubt that Google has partaken in a link buying scheme. ‘Don’t Be Evil’ is a whole lot of marketing hogwash, and if Google is to reinstate some of the lost faith, it must do right and ban Chrome for an year from the SERPs. Otherwise, it just comes across as the biggest bully in the yard that wants a finger in each and every pie.
Of course, everyone may still be wrong and this might just be a bad marketing campaign by a third party. But from my past experience with Google, I doubt it is so.
The SEOBook post has a scathing account of Google’s Orwellian policies. Sullivan is equally harsh on Google for not just buying links, but also for the garbage quality of the posts. Expect this to blow up into a major controversy. And don’t expect much sympathy for Google, or for Google to actually own up and confess it’s link buying sins.