Google seems to have started 2012 in the worst possible way. First there was a scandal about how Google, through a video advertising promotions agency, was apparently buying links to promote its Chrome browser.
Personally I felt this was much ado about nothing, and that Google penalised itself only so it would be seen to be doing something. In essence Google never paid for any links, but merely paid for video ads to be distributed among bloggers – the link was an editorial decision by one of the bloggers who posted the video.
This sort of thing is not against Google’s own guidelines, but Google still penalised itself under the guise of being “held to a higher standard“. If such a thing were genuinely worthy of a penalty in Google’s search results they might as well shut down the entire internet, as you could probably find a similar link in almost every established website’s backlink profile.
But that was just the start of it, as then another revelation was made by Rishi Lankani about how Google appears to be manipulating +1 upvotes in its Google+ social network, in an effort to make AdWords ads more likely to be clicked on.
This bit of news has not attained the level of media attention of the Chrome link buying saga, but I feel it’s much more newsworthy as in essence Google is distorting +1 upvotes to generate extra revenue, encouraging AdWords clicks that might not otherwise happen.
And today there’s a new revelation made by the BBC about how Google was profiting from illegal AdWords advertising. Apparently Google was showing ads for illegal products including fake Olympics tickets, fake ID cards, and cannabis. Not only that but Google kept showing those ads after they were notified by the police of an investigation in to the matter, and only dropped the ads when the BBC’s investigative reporters followed up with them.
What makes this worse is that Google has been caught doing the exact same thing in 2007 and 2011. You’d have thought they’d have learned their lesson, but I suppose when 99% of your profits come from AdWords advertising you’re keen to maximise that revenue – the law be damned.