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Has Google Ever Penalized Itself Over Bad SEO?

Whenever Google rolls out updates to its algorithms that effect search result pages, many feel disillusioned, dismayed that they are being t...

Whenever Google rolls out updates to its algorithms that effect search result pages, many feel disillusioned, dismayed that they are being treated unfairly whereas the 'big fish' always seems to get away. Well, that isn't usually the case, and we're going to bust the myth today by demonstrating some instances where Google has been hit by its own penalty against bad SEO. Amusing as it may sound, it's actually true. No one is above the law, or their own law in this case :)

You might be saying to yourself; why would Google even make SEO mistakes, considering that it is itself defining SEO rules. The web search quality department is just one part of Google. It involves other departments as well, such as marketing, which might have made mistakes while promoting a Google product or service. Here are some instances where a Google department did bad SEO, and paid the price for it.

1. Cloaking on Google AdWords help pages

Happened back in 2005. Someone at Google had hidden content on Google AdWords help pages in a way meant to help those using Google’s own internal search tool. This amounts to cloaking, which is strongly discouraged. Cloaking is when you show some content to users, but show an entirely different version to search engines, or also when you hide something from plain view of the readers.

Of course, this was picked up by Google's search crawlers, and the first ever penalty on Google itself was imposed - by itself! As a result, the concerned pages were removed from Google.

2. Paid Links on Google Japan

In 2009, Google Japan admitted to buying links to help promote a Google widget. Buying links is strictly against Google's SEO guidelines. So when the Spam team at Google came to know about it, they dropped the page's PageRank from 9 to 5. Google Japan was able to recover after almost an year, when it rose to PageRank 8 again.

3. Cloaking on AdWords help pages (again)

Google caught AdWords Help pages doing the same mistake of cloaking content in 2010. As a consequence, Google penalized the AdWords help pages so they no longer ranked well for searches on topics like “AdWords help.”

4. Beat That Quote

Google acquired the financial service, 'Beat That Quote' in 2011. However, it was discovered that the service had been buying paid links, which is against Google's guidelines. When Google discovered the problem, a penalty was immediately imposed, which lasted two days. A day later, it was imposed again.

This effected the service so much, and it sank in rankings so low that it could not surface even for its own name. This is probably why you might never have heard of this service. Previous owners must be mighty glad the penalty wasn't imposed when they themselves were running the show.

5. Chrome Paid Links

One of Google’s big sins is when people buy links in hopes they’ll generate better Google rankings. However, Google found itself buying links in 2012 as part of a campaign to promote its Chrome browser. The links were obtained as part of a video campaign that was run involving two different promotion companies.

The companies and Google made apologies all around, saying the links were more accidental than intentionally sought. No matter: Google decided however it happened, it was a violation that required the Google page for Chrome to be penalized. It was knocked out of the top rankings for searches on “Google Chrome” for two months.

So there you have it. Five instances of Google punishing itself. If you have anything to add to this story, we'd love to hear it!



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Experience Lab - Online business creation and development guide for bloggers and startups: Has Google Ever Penalized Itself Over Bad SEO?
Has Google Ever Penalized Itself Over Bad SEO?
Experience Lab - Online business creation and development guide for bloggers and startups
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