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Google Downgrades Chrome in Search Results

Published on January 6, 2012
Tags: SEO

We have written before about the impact that Google updates are able to have on many websites, with Panda/Farmer being a notable example of this, as well as about the growth of the Google Chrome browser. You may also remember that, last year, we mused about what might happen if everyone decided to conduct a little experiment and block Google from Chrome’s own Personal Block List.

Now, with a certain irony (or just bad luck on Google’s part), we now have a chance to see what happens when one of Google’s own services is downgraded in its search rankings. In this case, we are talking about the Chrome browser, which has been at the centre of a dispute over the past week or so as a result of a promotions campaign.

The story behind this is that Google hired a company to promote its increasingly popular Chrome browser. As a result, promotional videos were produced and placed on a range of blogs. This is all fine, but the problems arose when at least one of the bloggers failed to include the ‘nofollow’ text that is required by Google when placing paid links – Google has a rule that states paid promo material should not be used to move links up in its search index, so bloggers including links to Chrome downloads broke the guidelines.

It seems as though this rule breach was completely unintended: Google had contracted the work out to a third party, specifying what they wanted, but ended up getting something different to what they asked for. For a few days, it was unclear exactly what would happen to Chrome as a result of the rule-breaking; the mistake may have been innocent but there have been reports of other sites being downgraded previously for similar errors.

In the end, Google decided to temporarily downgrade the Chrome browser in its search index, stating that even though the issues with the blogs and promo videos have been rectified, the company holds itself to a higher standard and so action has been taken as a result. The web address www.google.com/chrome has been demoted for at least 60 days and the PageRank of that page has also been lowered. Google has reported that after the 60 days are up, the process will continue as it would with any other company: Chrome will need to submit a request for the case to be reconsidered and document the action they have taken to clean up the issue.

You can currently see evidence of this action yourself: if you go to Google and type in ‘browser’ and then scroll down the page, you shouldn’t see any evidence of Chrome in the results. In fact, at the time of writing, we had to go to the top of page 2 of the search results to see a paid ad for Chrome, and we were on page 7 before we found the first organic Chrome result.

This downgrade has to be something of a blow for Google, especially as Chrome is becoming more and more popular – and the promo campaign means that people are more likely to be searching for it.

Other browser news

It might only be the start of 2012 but it has been something of a busy week for browser news – this time, it is news that web designers and developers have been waiting for: IE6 seems to be finally on its way out.

Microsoft announced this week that Internet Explorer 6, the browser it has been actively trying to get rid of for quite some time, is now used by less than 1% of the US online population. To celebrate, they had a cake baked. As a result of the significant decline of IE6, Microsoft has said that web developers can now treat the browser as a low priority, freeing up designers and others to focus on more up to date technology.

This is good news for Microsoft, which has been battling with IE6 for years, but even though many countries have now moved on to later technology, IE6 is still popular in other places – a notable example is China, where around a quarter of web users are still on IE6. This suggests there is still some way to go before the death knell of IE6 can be sounded once and for all. We look forward to seeing the cake that gets made for that one.

By Chelsey Evans

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