Google gave itself the tech-sector equivalent of a trip to detention, putting Chrome's search results into a 60-day probation period. The company significantly lowered the search engine ranking of Chrome's main download page, giving it a two-month disadvantage against rivals. Google has penalized other companies for similar moves, or engaging in “Black Hat SEO” to cheat the rankings. For instance, it reportedly punished JCPenney last year after The New York Times revealed it was taking part in a paid-link scheme to boost its own search results.
PR Play rating:
3. On the right track
While paying bloggers to cover a product and embed video on their sites is far from illegal, the practice remains part of an ethical gray area in the PR industry and it surely raised some eyebrows among the company's consumer base. Although Google told media outlets that it “did not authorize” the paid portion of the campaign, that explanation rang hollow and was reminiscent of Facebook's excuse that it didn't OK a negative 2011 initiative against Google.
If Google plans to identify itself with “don't be evil,” it must hold itself to a higher standard and take a more hands-on role overseeing its outsourced digital advertising.