Major Publishers That Have Been Punished by Google

If there’s one thing that Sergey Brin and Larry Page understand, it’s that they would never have been able to build their empire if it weren’t for that inconspicuous little search bar with the goofy name that won the world over.  One of the reasons why Google quickly became popular was due to its ability to provide the best, most relevant, most natural results for its users’ queries.  The company built trust.  If black hat SEOs were to have their way, the trust would’ve been destroyed.  Google, in its divine wisdom, created an entire department, now headed by Matt Cutts, dedicated to fighting webspam.

One of the most prevalent forms of webspam that Cutts’ team has been cracking down on is paid links, or link schemes.  According to Google:

Buying or selling links that pass PageRank can dilute the quality of search results . . . Buying or selling links that pass PageRank is in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results.

Over the years, the tech giant has penalized scores of websites for what it considers foul play. No publisher is too small—or too big—to avoid incurring the Wrath of Cutts.  Take a look at some of the major players who’ve taken a hit due to their unsavory activities.

The BBC

BBCtopWhat were they doing wrong?

Believe it or not, in March 2013, the world’s largest news organization received a notice of “detected unnatural links” from Google.  As it turned out, there was an individual article that contained unnatural links.

How were they punished?

Google penalized the one specific page that contained the article in question.

How was it resolved?

Since the page that came under fire was never revealed, it’s not certain.

The Washington Post, Forbes, Engadget, and Sun-Times

wapologo

What were they doing wrong?

These major news sites were selling links to buyers who wanted to raise their Google rankings the quick and easy way.  Paid links are a big no-no, and in October of 2007, Google started hounding both the buyers and the sellers.

How were they punished?

Instead of penalizing them through search rankings, Google lowered their PageRank values.  This meant that the value of the links they were selling were reduced.  The Washington Post, Forbes, and Engadget all experienced a diminishing of their respective PageRanks from PR7 to PR5.

How was it resolved?

It’s assumed that after the hits to their metrics, the sites cleaned up their games. The Chicago Sun-Times is back to being PR7, and The Washington Post, Forbes, and Engadget are now ranked as PR8.

Rap Genius

rapgenius

What were they doing wrong?

Rap Genius had been engaging in link schemes via their affiliate program in order to manipulate their ranking.  They had unnatural links on articles published on their site that would then be Tweeted by Rap Genius.

How were they punished?

The lyrics site took a major hit to their traffic right before Christmas 2013.  Google made it so that if a user would type “rap genius” into the query box, rapgenius.com would not appear in the first page’s search results.

How was it resolved?

Rap Genius’s founders issued an apology—albeit a somewhat immature one where they tossed their competitors under the bus as well—and cleaned house.  The penalty was lifted after 10 days.

Google Itself

google

What were they doing wrong?

Despite Matt Cutts’ stance against sponsored posts and paid links, it looked like Google engaged in some pretty hypocritical activity during its marketing campaign for Chrome.  Though it’s technically not a publisher, Google had two different promotional companies create and publish crappy content that would feature do-follow links to the Google Chrome download page.

How were they punished?

In January of 2012, Matt Cutts made it so that searches for “chrome,” “chrome browser,” and “browser” no longer ranked on the first page of results. A search for “browser” would previously yield Chrome in the 2nd spot on the first page, but after the penalty it was found to rank at 73.  And this isn’t the only time that the company has penalized itself.

How was it resolved?

Google and the two promotion companies issued apologies, but the penalty lasted for two months.

The Moral of the Story

It’s pretty simple: as long as you follow the Commandments of Cutts and you play by Google’s rules, you’ll be fine.  Remember that even if paid or unnatural links are only on one page of your website, it’s enough to be penalized for.  So keep it clean and keep it natural.

About the author

Victoria Castrillo

Victoria is the Digital Media Assistant at CopyPress. She graduated in 2012 from the University of Florida, but she's pretty much the worst alumna ever due to her complete inability to keep track of how the football team is doing. In her free time, she enjoys reading about anything and everything, learning different languages, and spending quality time with her loved ones.