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Sorry that it took me until now to comment on the situation that Danny wrote about at . I’m in Central America this week and my ability to reach the internet hasn't been great.

I’ll give the short summary, then I’ll describe the webspam team’s response. Google was trying to buy video ads about Chrome, and these sponsored posts were an inadvertent result of that. If you investigated the two dozen or so sponsored posts (as the webspam team immediately did), the posts typically showed a Google Chrome video but didn’t actually link to Google Chrome. We double-checked, and the video players weren’t flowing PageRank to Google either.

However, we did find one sponsored post that linked to in a way that flowed PageRank. Even though the intent of the campaign was to get people to watch videos--not link to Google--and even though we only found a single sponsored post that actually linked to Google’s Chrome page and passed PageRank, that’s still a violation of our quality guidelines, which you can find at .

In response, the webspam team has taken manual action to demote for at least 60 days. After that, someone on the Chrome side can submit a reconsideration request documenting their clean-up just like any other company would. During the 60 days, the PageRank of will also be lowered to reflect the fact that we also won’t trust outgoing links from that page.
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sorry, this is funny. the whole situation.
Hashim Warren
Thanks, Matt, for the transparency! Enjoy your time away.
But first, some questions:
1. Would another site's page be "banned" from Google search, not just demoted in pagerank?
2. Would another site's root domain get demoted, not just the offending page?
3. Now that Google knows how innocently a good site can get caught up in a mess like this, will the ability to "plead your case" be opened up a bit before demotion?
+1 "After that, someone on the Chrome side can submit a reconsideration request documenting their clean-up just like any other company would." :)
Good to see google walking the talk.
+Matt Cutts I can hardly put in words how much respect I have for what you and the webspam team did. The team acted with transparency and authenticity, but your response here is above and beyond. Thank you for interrupting your vacation, and remember that people do notice when others do the right thing.
I don't see why this is funny at all. It seems to me (to the extent that I understand the situation) that Google holds itself to a standard that protects non-Google clients.

Can you imagine Microsoft ever doing this in the bad old days?

The history of the tech industry here has always been one of companies exhibiting a bare faced willingness to exploit any advantage for themselves, and often creating unfair advantages through direct policies.

This is refreshing.
I really respect Google for doing this. Very impressive.
fight club schizophrenia in play!
+David Bennett Alexa rank it's a about the TLD, so it won't get affected.
For the dude that was on Tech Crunch running his mouth about how Google sucks, well told you otherwise. I said Google would take care of it and they did. Fantastic, glad G worked out the hick-ups.
+Ty Whalin That's why I don't read anything on +TechCrunch anymore. They have no professionalism when they write. +Google is, of course, not a perfect company. But they aren't a normal company either. I had full faith in Google when this story broke that they would handle it professionally and in a manner that followed with not being evil. And I can happily say they handled it in the most professional and mature way I've ever seen a technology company handle something like this. Bravo to Google. This is what makes them one of the most valued, and trusted name in technology.
+Matt Cutts " my ability to reach the internet hasn't been great "
It means you don't have time to access internet or you don't have facility to access internet? I, in India, am thinking that Americans are living life in internet. I heard that even on air in domestic flights in America, people use wi-fi. Could you please clarify? Just for my understanding.
+Khaleel Ahamed You are aware that Central America is not part of the US, and comprises many countries that generally don't have the same access to the internet as the US?
By-the-way, TechCrunch and SearchEngineLand are best viewed in +Google Chrome using the Google Translate extension.
Good response I feel by the webspam team. It couldn't go unpunished as they have already set a precedence on many occasions. I feel the quality of content was the main thing to be ashamed of, not the single followed link.
Its alexa rank only looks good because those with the Alexa tool bar are visiting the site - and most people with the Alexa toolbar are webmasters.....who are getting the message from Danny Sullivan and Matt Cutts. Alexa toolbar doesn't mean anything in overall search.
Good to see a swift response from Google on this. I hope that a lesson is learned in Mountain View: Sometimes companies get into trouble with the Google guide lines unintentionally. Please remember this next it happens for another company than Google.
Does working at Google bare resemblance to the separation of Church and State?
+Tom Conte I don't think so. +Google seems really united and the different teams seems very in contact. But I think this was a matter of doing what's right more than anything else.
Is Google being a bit overly strict on themselves? One offending link caused a 60 day penalty on the offending page? I appreciate the honesty but would this happen to a similarly authoritative site?
Boy, if this was a company other than Google getting demoted for one post for 60 days, it would be considered a VERY nonproportionate response. I see many comments saying "look how easily this happens" and wondering if Google might learn from their experience to be more lenient of others. 60 days for one accidental post doesn't look remotely like leniency.

I think it's a great PR response on Google's part, but it just makes how hard Google bangs down the hammer that much more scary.
Bravo Google, bravo! Then people ask me why I trust Google more than other big businesses (big businesses typically being evil)...
How to screw it up and make it right. Google, I'm impressed!
Back-reason it all you want, this was the right move on Google's part. Will everyone - those making mistakes in following the rules and those making the rules - continue to learn and adjust? Absolutely. But to expect this particular incident to trigger a patchwork of exceptions is... unreasonable.

To those that ask whether [insert your favorite] would subject themselves to similar actions in similar circumstances I'd say that it's generally not very likely. Bummer that. No, +Adam Buchanan, I don't think that Google is being overly strict with themselves.

So I'll drag out that tired old platitude, "Lead by example."

Good work, +Matt Cutts and team. Keep it up.
This is just silly, no one searches on the term 'browser' if they want Chrome, they just plug in the name "chrome". Where's the penalty here?
+Debra Mastaler When you search the word "chrome," at least for me, the page that was being linked,, is not showing up as the first link. The first link leads you to how to install it. The actual page appears as a sitelink, and that's simply due to relevancy and making sure the search engine is still focused on the people and end-user.
@Ian Same for me but that sorta reinforces my point IMO. If I'm looking for Chrome that means I want to either download it, in which case the download link is convenient, or I want to read up on it. If that's the case, I simply click one of the sitelinks.

In the ads, the mom blogger post and the other posts Danny Sullivan included in his write up, none of them used the word "browser" anywhere. Look at all of the examples in Danny's post None of them even use the term.

I don't see the point of slapping Chrome for the term "browser" if it was the term "Chrome" that got them in trouble in the first place.
"In response, the webspam team has taken manual action to demote for at least 60 days. After that, someone on the Chrome side can submit a reconsideration request documenting their clean-up just like any other company would."

How can a site know if they've been demoted, manually or algorithmically?
This was a good way to handle this. I'm glad the company is organized in such a way that this is possible.

The word "browser" does have millions of searches per month. An important SEO rule is never make assumptions about what people will search. Non-technical people put words like browser in all the time. I would guess this penalty will cost the Chrome division millions of dollars in lost traffic and downloads (I know the browser is free but there is a quantifiable value to each download).
+Debra Mastaler I believe that that has to do with relevance. When someone searches for "Google Chrome" and "Chrome," they're obviously, as you said, looking on trying to download or read up on the browser.

Because now that the page is demoted, but nevertheless still relevant, it is not the first result. Instead, the instruction site is because it is relevant, plus rated as "higher quality." Therefore the page is now a sitelink. That's my understanding.

+Jay Donnell Didn't you just answer your own question? Via +Google. In the past, like JCPenny, I believe Google has publicly stated it. Otherwise, the algorithm decides by itself (and when algorithm is updated, it'll rank websites differently and updates are publicly announced as well).
Iam not surprised.Knowing about Google's history of transparency...I expected this to happen..Google ALWAYS walks the talk..You guys really are an inspiration to others.
Matt, I am so glad you took my advice and gave Chrome an NCAA type self imposed penalty. Here is my tweet on the topic: ttp://

If you talk the talk, you must walk the walk :thumbsup:

Your friend,

Remarkably, I believe you guys at google on this one. You don't do everything right, but this doesn't seem like the kind of thing you'd do wrong.
It'd be nice if you'd respond to +Hashim Warren 's post near the top of this thread.
Of course, how may free links on quality blogs will you get tomorrow as bloggers rehash this story to no end.
I am not sure if this is the case everywhere, but I searched Google Chrome in Google and surprised to see that home page of chrome is not ranked on top 10 search results, instead of that page, support page in ranked on #1.
This is good to see, however it begs the question why Google don't take quicker action about other paid linking activity.
This is called Transparency. A better example can rule the world. Thanks to +Matt Cutts and webspam team for showing positive respect on quality guidelines.
Awesome,The king must be subject to the law.
The Chrome team might not like you any more :-)
Keep up the good work and please do more against advertising spam on websites. I hate websites where you have to find the relevant content between the ads.
so +Matt Cutts who was the poor webspam team member who drew the short straw to call you while you were on holiday...
+Hashim Warren I'm not Matt, but perhaps I can answer your questions regardless :)

1. Would another site's page be "banned" from Google search, not just demoted in pagerank?
Generally speaking, we only remove pages or sites from the index if there are significant issues with regards to our webmaster guidelines with the website itself. As mentioned in "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." -- there's also a blog post on this topic at which covers some of the possible negative effects.

2. Would another site's root domain get demoted, not just the offending page?
As mentioned in "We try hard to be granular in our actions when protecting our users and search quality, but if we see a very large fraction of sites on a specific web host that are spammy or are distributing malware, we may be forced to take action on the web host as a whole."_ In a case like this, it's easier to be granular since it's based on a very specific action.

3. Now that Google knows how innocently a good site can get caught up in a mess like this, will the ability to "plead your case" be opened up a bit before demotion?
You can always explain what happened in a reconsideration request. As Matt mentioned, it's important that you document your efforts in getting any known issues cleaned up in your reconsideration request. There's more on reconsideration requests at . I realize it's not often that the community at large will find and diagnose an issue with a website in this way, but if you're unsure of what your site has run into, you can always post in our webmaster's help forum to get more input. While you may not always get answers from Googlers there, the replies there will often point you towards issues that can be resolved, and in many cases, in the right direction.
It's Something Really Absurd !!
Thanks For the Transparency Sir !!
I wonder if Google did this on purpose to show webmasters that even they must abide by their own rules. This would certainly gain trust on their part....IMO.
A classic case of Google painting themselves into a corner - priceless :)
Your consistency is admirable, Matt. Thanks for showing how it should be done.

However there's another issue recently brought to light that I think is much more dangerous - it's potentially a bug in Google+ (and not really applicable to your area of expertise within Google) but can be interpreted as a cynical form of ad manipulation. Read all about it here:
Nice transparency, and a great penalty/solution :-)
So if I understand this correctly, it was only 1 sponsored post (out of 400) that was passing pagerank that was against the guidelines? Since the writer was being paid to write an article about Google Chrome they decided to insert the link editorially and that's what has generated this penalty? Would there have been a penalty applied if that 1 post had not linked to Chrome and it was just 400 paid spammy posts? The whole thing seems strange. Polluting the internet with poor content and spamming the video is ok but one link (which the author deemed relevant in this case) is not? I don't get it someone please clarify.
Nice reply Matt, if only the spam team could move so quickly to deal with the mountains of other reports the web would be a happier place and central American holidayswould be more relaxing :p (joke)

Have to ask, why it was PR zeroed, and not just blocked 9as has been done in the past) from passing PR? I guess it certainly shows that no-one is above the wrath of webspam team! That'll teach them not to buy you socks for Christmas.

P.S. I have some decent High PR domains available if you want to 301 them to get some PR back (edit: another joke) sock or no socks, I can't risk the wrath
Honestly, I do not know what to think about this. On one side, it is nice to see that Google applies their policies to their own web pages. But then, Google IS the search engine, you do not need Google to find Google. Google does not need to play the SEO game to be visible. I know, the Chrome team is not whole Google, but you can occasionally see the Chrome ad on when you are not using Chrome. And you'll still find Chrome when searching for it. So, Google publicly punished Chrome, without doing any significant harm to it. It sounds a bit hypocritical.
I agree with +Ehsan Abdul Hamid Rahmatulla . Why should Chrome be demoted when it is obviously a legit site with tons of very high quality links pointing to it?

Something is wrong with a process that penalizes the Chrome page, but can't produce a useful "new york hotel" search result page for me.
I see a lot of people reacting to Googles response.
I see a lot of "congratulations" etc.

What I don't see is people discussing the actual issue,
that being that a part of Google decided to take questionable steps to market their stuff online.
It's not just the link (there was only 1 that passed PR to the site?).
It's the low quality content and the campaign itself.

This means that someone at Google (Chrome is part of Google) decided to take actions that may have been contrary to Googles own Web Guidelines.
Which is worrying.
That sort of thing doesn't really happen "by accident".

Yes, they have responded.
Yes, they have taken satisfactory action.
But would they have if no one had made a big noise about it?
It wasn't big enough to have been automatically flagged ... so they may have gotten away with it.
If that is the case ... how many times in the past have Google taken advantage of their position and it not been caught?

Is the punishment sufficient?
We don't know whether it is an actual PR Reduction, or just the public version being reduced.
We don't know if it will cause enough of an adverse affect to seriously harm their rankings.
We've seen the bigger boys/girls get slapped before, and they tend to survive well enough, where as a moderate/minor site would be crippled.
So does the punishment fit?
Why was there such manual intervention, and why was a decision made?
Surely there are proceedures in place to follow and make the decisions for you?
Surely there are set punishments for this sort of thing?

Please note that I'm doing this at personal risk.
As so far, when I publicly criticize G publicly in a Googlers post ... I end up being muted/uncircled/blocked.
So for those of you thinking of hammering Google, please consider carefully before doing so.
They are more than willing to hide behind the "this is a personal account" excuse!
Bashing G may result in harming yourself.
Thanks, +John Mueller ! Do you think that Google will take a hard look at their demotion process after this? If Chrome were a small business this type of demotion would be disastrous. And it's a small business that is most likely to hire a third party marketing firm like Chrome did here.
A nice move even if it is basically just meaningless pr, given that Chrome still has a prominent download link if you go to google in ie.
+Lyndon NA Google thought they were buying online video ads. They didn't know that this was what was happening and the advertising firms, Unruly Media and I forget the other one, offered statements that were in line with this.

And I have seen a ton of critical comments. In fact, even a Googler criticized Google. But Google knows that is how they get better, by listening to criticism, and leaves this as a very open way to discuss. I think your last few statements about the muting and being hurt is unfounded.
+Ian Tang
What you say makes sense ... barring 2 points;
1) We only have their word for it :D
2) Makes no difference.

You are responsible for your site.
If you hire a 3rd party that do questionable activities - it is still down to you, and your rankings may still be forfeit.
There are tons of people in the Google Webmaster Forums who have issues caused by external/3rd party SEOs.
They do not get leniency.
They do not get a free pass.

So why should Google?

As for the "unfounded" part.
I see nothing for you to base that opinion on - where as I have experience.
Pretty much sums up your position, does it not?
> However, we did find one sponsored post that linked to in a way that flowed PageRank. Even though the intent of the campaign was to get people to watch videos--not link to Google--and even though we only found a single sponsored post that actually linked to Google’s Chrome page and passed PageRank, that’s still a violation of our quality guidelines

+Matt Cutts or +John Mueller please can you be very clear about exactly which guideline was broken, and by whom? I think it's important that the community as a whole understands this in order to avoid making the same (or a similar) mistake.

Is Google penalising itself for buying a link? It did not buy a link. The blogger chose to put the link there of their own free will and received no payment, directly or indirectly, from Google for doing so.

What Google should be penalising itself for, if anything, is for endorsing an environment in which thin content is created simply in order to serve ads alongside or in that content - the "sponsored post" referred to in Matt's response. Many such sponsored posts were created in this campaign, but Google only penalised itself for one of them, the one that contained a link that Google did not pay for. Does the fact that Google did not penalise itself for the other sponsored posts mean that those posts were sanctioned and that sponsored posts generally are OK, even if they contain very thin content?

Please elaborate further on exactly what this penalty was for. Thanks. :)
You find one sponsered post passing juice in a way that you claim/know Google didn't instruct people to use when promoting the Chrome content and as a result you penalize Chrome's SERP position. That seems like you buckling under pressure from the net rather than doing the sensible thing. Honestly amazed someone higher up hasn't stepped in and given you a Google slap for it.
+Guy Verona Fortunately some people at google know PR better than you. They don't need their rank for chrome as desperately as you seem to think they should. They do, however, need our loyalty.
I honestly don't see why anyone would be impressed by this action? Generate good PR? I guess amongst IMers (who Google really need to impress dont they), for the rest of the world it's not even a blip on the radar. Penalizing a site you know didn't do anything wrong because of something a different site did doesn't make sense to me. Unless of course Google was actively trying to buy links/traffic via thin content (which Matt claims he knows wasn't the case).

Can I now nuke my competitors SERP results by creating a bunch of blogs, claiming im posting a sponsered post and then throwing in a do-follow link? Seems pretty silly if so.
+Alan Perkins I believe the penalty is right.
If you have a contract with somebody for advertising, if that person brakes the rules and you don't react to it it's clearly your fault, as it means you agree with it.

If their partners broke the rules of the contract, they can be sued and made to pay for the damages their actions caused. However, I don't think there is any chance for this to happen.
Not only do they need our Loyalty, Trust and faith,
they also get to use this as another marketing vector.
As here we all are, throwing words like "chrome" and "browser" around - and some people may even be linking to the various posts, maybe even the chrome browser page...
Well played Google. You have to live by the same rules that you require others to follow. Even if this move is only for show it was the right thing to do.
+Matt Cutts you wrote: "Even though the intent of the campaign was to get people to watch videos--not link to Google".
In this case you know the intent, but how you can evaluate the intent when penalizing non google source ?
Is not arrogance to assume the intent of others ?
+Andrea Pernici
Alot of what G looks at/for is based upon intent.
It may be one of the reasons why they are not so nit-picky about things until it hits a certain volume.

Only when you hit X out of Y does it really look like you are actually really trying to manipulate the SERPs (yes, small cheats get by easily enough).
+Lyndon NA but in this case (according to Matt) it was only one link (which is surely a tiny percentage vs the tens of thousands of links that Google Chrome has). Plus it was supposedly not Googles intent to spam. Yet still penalty. How does that work?
This is why a Google controlled software economy is better than a software economy controlled by any other company in the world. Respect !
I commend Google for their responsible action. Even though it's not their fault some people don't use 'nofollow' attribute.
+Guy Verona
Google has made it quite clear that you are responsible your site and it's marketing. If you use an outsourced/3rd party that breach the guidelines - your site/rankings are still liable to be impacted.
That is regardless of whether "you" personally intended the breach or not.

+Alireza Sefati
Going back to intent - how is Google meant to know the difference between your paid review and editorial link, and a paid link within content?

I'll be fair here (Google employees pick yourselves up) ... it is an incredibly difficult task.
There is real intentional spam, there is unintentional spam, there is misguided spam, there is slightly over-optimized and looking a little like spam ........ and they have to draw the line somewhere.
Lets not forget that some of these guidelines are "old" and have been around for what, nigh 10 years or so (this month?) - so cover from a time that was very different.
So they have to draw that line - and stick to it.
They move it over time ... cover new things, use more data ... make the liner finer/better ... but it's still a lot of "grey" in there to deal with at times.

G have to be seen to be following their own rules.
They have to be seen to take it more seriously than any other.
They have to ensure that they don't damage the trust/faith that people have in them.
So they have taken this action.

Tehre is also the possibility that they are milking it for publicity, attempting to endear themselves further, show that they are whiter than white, warn off otehrs about buying links (accidental or otherwise) etc.
Perhaps Google bombing does work :-)
I tend to agree with side that thinks Google's done well to have taken a good look at the off-site manipulation, took ownership of Chrome's extremely minor violation, resolved it and moved on. I too give them credit as a corporation for admitting their error and fixing it promptly.
the amount of press / links Google is receiving from all of this is probably greater than what the campaign provided in the first place ... all in all, Google comes out on top regardless of what happened ... this is funny though and makes me giggle every time I think of it!
It only shows that this part of the algo is not fair enough, it does penalizes uncountable websites that does not have the intention to buy exposure as a mean to gain links, as it happened to Chrome. I dont see why Chrome website should suffer any penalty if it wasnt the intention.
A very honest gesture! That's how "integrity" is displayed!
While I appreciate the leadership and integrity shown by imposing a penalty, is it too much to ask what the exact infringement was? Otherwise how can any webmaster learn from and follow this leadership to determine how to behave with their own site?
I respect the decision taken by the google spam team against their own product. To be honest that shows a clear sign of integrity and transparency of the company.
I think Google's response demonstrates integrity. And I'm sure it wasn't easy to arrive at. Bravo.
Good work. The search result rightness can not be violate. Also Google's reply is very quickly.
This is a good crisis management post thank you for your answer +Matt Cutts
But what i've learned from this is that promotion is a natural weapon for marketers and sometimes the goal is not to manipulate google's algo because share a link in the entire web for a lot of people doesn't necessary mean "game google". What i think finally is that it wasn't necessary to take manual action to drop the PR of the google chrome page because maybe these "sponsored post" could be helpful to a bunch of real people. If you click on this link (initially a google chrome post pointed by Danny Sullivan), you will reach to a 404 page (bad experience for users) and google's ultimate goal is to satisfy users right.
In fact, This is a google product so i can give any lessons to the spam team in this particular case unfortunately. Wise and complete answer anyway :)
It's the best publicity Chrome has ever got - brilliant PR planning :)
I read the campaign was realized by an agency that was hired by Google - so they made this mistake not following their clients own 'rules'.
Now, it's great of Google to show equality to all - but on the other hand, when my business gets thrown out of the serps because of an agencies failure - this is also not fair. Same with Google/chrome... in a way...

so there should be a way of clarifying - at least for small and medium size businesses - that the mistake was made by the agency. In worst case a competitor could do so.
Good PR move by demoting the site - people like seeing accountability (even if there is only one bad link). Good for anti-trust as well - I'm sure the FTC would've eaten this up otherwise.
If a sponsored post linked out to another website without asking that webmaster (followed link), could this in theory lead to a penalty? No doubt lots of great links will be generated to Chrome ala JC Penney. Happy New Year to the Webspam team!
So why were you guys using Essence Digital in the first place instead of your own ad network?
I am so sorry to hear you are having troubles with your Internet access. I bet you are in the middle of the Mayan jungle to not be able to have access to a good connection. Enjoy Central America :)
I'm not sure I buy that only one link was flowing page rank, but I didn't look into it that much myself. From the sounds of it, there was a lot more than that. I think the 60 day ban is purely a PR stunt to show Google is truly acting fair but would never have happened if it wasn't made public. Remember, never make Google look foolish.

On another note though, only one specific link and that gets the site banned for 60 days? That would be really harsh if it was my website, for only having one bad link (especially if it wasn't of my approval). If there was entire campaigns, sure but one link?
Nice chrome download button on the new number one organic result (owned by google) and a all new adwords campaign (paid by google?)
There's many different ways of increasing your website ranking or PageRank - a Google term for website popularity. However PageRank is determined on the quality of the back link (among other factors) and so getting a back link from a high PageRank blog is hugely beneficial to the PageRank of your website.
My breath is taken away on this one.  I just don’t know what to say.  I’ve got to take a step back and wonder if it’s just me or has the whole world lost their minds?

We have a company that accidentally did something wrong.  They ran a campaign to try and improve traffic and knowledge about their product.  Matt Cutts penalizes them for and his followers cheer and praise him for that.

A business that didn’t try and do anything wrong but accidently crossed a line is punished?

The hell with the business owner that struggles to make it in an economy that isn’t improving.  The world has changed.  We no longer find information in the libraries and we no longer make purchases decisions based on the yellow pages.  

With many people out of work and unable to make ends meet, it’s the small business owner we look to for help.  The whole time Google forces him/her to sit on their hands.  Unable to move as Google now sits in the center of our universe daring the business owner to make a move.
My gut feeling this is a publicity stunt, the whole thing was planned out.
X King
Maybe one day, Google will become the biggest spammer.

If you say content is the king, why do you need to worry about the links?
Why is Google Plus not a big icon on the new tab page of Google Chorme? Surely Google employ enough smart people to notice this? Tighten up your ecosystem if you want to extract cash from it!
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