On Friday, I reported three times at Search Engine Land on a widespread penalty Google dished out over advertorials.
In short, Google penalized Interflora, a very popular UK flower seller, for using advertorials as a way to boost their site's ranking before Valentine's Day. Then we noticed that Google not only penalized Interflora but also the news sites that were placing the advertorials on their behalf by downgrading their PageRank to zero. Then later in the day, Google's Matt Cutts posted on the Google Webmaster Blog a warning that buying advertorials that pass PageRank is against Google's Webmaster guidelines.
Please be wary if someone approaches you and wants to pay you for links or "advertorial" pages on your site that pass PageRank. Selling links (or entire advertorial pages with embedded links) that pass PageRank violates our quality guidelines, and Google does take action on such violations. The consequences for a linkselling site start with losing trust in Google's search results, as well as reduction of the site's visible PageRank in the Google Toolbar. The consequences can also include lower rankings for that site in Google's search results.
Then on Saturday, Danny Sullivan covered via SEO Book that not only was Interflora using advertorials in a way that is against Google's webmaster guidelines but so is Google. They are doing so to promote Chromebooks, Google Analytics, AdWords and Google+. Danny asked Google will Google penalize Google like they've done in the past? Google said of course.
Google responded to Danny's question saying:
We'll investigate this report just as we would a report about any other company, and take the same action we would for any other company.
Google has penalized themselves many times in the past, so this would be nothing new.
I can't imagine how frustrating this is to Google's search quality team but it just shows sites make mistakes both intentionally and unintentionally. Either way, they may end up having to pay for it.
Image credit to BigStockPhoto