First, the Buying
At the beginning of this year, Aaron Wall from SEO Book discovered that Google, or someone working on behalf of the Google Chrome account, paid bloggers to mention and link to the Google Chrome landing page. The Google webspam team eventually penalized this activity by manually demoting the Google Chrome landing page for 60 days in the SERPs as well as saying they’d lower the PageRank of the page.
In the end Google said they never intended the paid links to be a part of their Google Chrome video promotion activity and blamed Unruly Media who conducted the campaign, but we’ll never know for sure. If anything this raises the question just how seriously Google is suffering from dissociative identity disorder. You’d think the Google execs would mandate that all divisions abide by their very own guidelines for proper online promotion. But hey, they’re Google. They can do what they want, right?
Now, the Selling
This brings us to the next big question: Is Google SELLING links as well? I raise this question based on an observation I made on Google’s Science Fair Partners page.
This page provides background information on the four primary sponsors of the Google Science Fair 2012.
I first looked at this page on January 12th.
At first glance everything seemed to be on the up and up. BUT when I scrolled down and read through the descriptions of all four sponsors, I noticed that only one of the sponsors had a direct link to their website. That one sponsor was Scientific American.
I was a bit puzzled by why this sponsor was the only one to receive a backlink. At first, I figured it was a result of their CMS automatically changing the .com mention into a link, but I also noticed that National Geographic had NatGeoEd.org listed and it wasn’t a link. So I decided to take a screenshot and check it out the following day.
However, when I returned to the page on January 13th, I noticed the Scientific American link was gone BUT National Geographic now had two links!
Unfortunately I wasn’t expecting these changes to happen so I didn’t take a screenshot of the National Geographic not having the links the day before. But it was clear that a change had been made to the Scientific American link. In replacement of the link, the previous anchor text was now in brackets and the fully formed URL was in parenthesis.
Later on I discovered that the new NatGeoEd.org link was (and still is) a broken link (coded as a relative link missing the fully formed http://www.)
I’d be willing to attribute sloppy coding or their CMS to the broken .com and .org links, but it looks like someone purposefully included an anchor text link to the National Geographic website AND purposefully left off the ‘s in the anchor text (although the ‘s is specifically used in the content).
So, the obvious questions are:
- Did National Geographic negotiate to have a followed, brand-specific anchor text link from this page (which is a PR 6) as part of their deal to sponsor the Google Science Fair 2012?
- Were the other sponsors just not savvy enough to make such a request?
- What kind of sloppy code/CMS is Google using??
A simple Google search will reveal that the other sponsors have their own websites, so why aren’t they getting any backlink love? If all four sponsors had a link back to their respective websites, I would chalk the links up to Google simply providing all relevant information about the sponsors.
But why only the one link???
Why is the anchor text so specifically brand focused?
Why drop the ‘s from the anchor text?
Maybe I’m being a bit nitpicky with them dropping the ‘s, but all of this does raise the question “Is Google Selling Links???”