Google succumbs to 'evil' tendency

Google's self-prescribed motto is "don't be evil," which puts more pressure on it to follow the rules.

Google's self-prescribed motto is “don't be evil,” which puts more pressure on it to follow the rules, especially ones it wrote. So when Google broke its own search engine ranking quality guidelines by reportedly paying bloggers to promote its Chrome browser during a recent marketing effort, Silicon Valley eagerly awaited its reaction.
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:

1. Clueless
2. Ill-advised
3. On the right track
4. Savvy
5. Ingenious
Credit Google for applying the same standards to itself that it would any other company, especially as it's running tear-jerking, expensive TV ads for Chrome. Although Google reportedly contracted its Web ads to agency Essence Digital, which in turn worked with Unruly Media, customers should be concerned that staff and partners don't seem to know the company's own guidelines. After all, no one should know Google's search engine best practices better than Google.
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.

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