Google has apologized for a promotion in Japan that violated the company's own search guidelines.
"Google Japan is running several promotional activities to let people know more about our products. It turns out that using blogs on the part of the promotional activities violates Google's search guidelines, so we have ended the promotion. We would like to apologize to the people concerned and to our users, and are making an effort to make our communications more transparent in order to prevent the recurrence of such an incident," Google marketing manager Koji Baba said, according to a translation in Asiajin. (It generally agrees with the Google Translate version.)
Google didn't say exactly what violated its rules, and didn't respond to a request for comment, but Asiajin believes that it has to do with a promotion under which bloggers were paid to write about a new Google Japan feature. The site pointed to several blogs about the feature that disclosed their relationship with CyberBuzz, "one of the biggest pay-per-post agencies in Japan."
Update 2:20 p.m. PST: Google said the problem was in fact that Google had hired CyberBuzz, which was paying for blog postings. The practice violates two company policies, and the company is trying to get the bloggers to remove the posts in question, according to spokesman Gabriel Stricker. The violations are as follows, he said in a statement:
First, we have strict policies against doing anything that would artificially promote the ranking of our own properties. Having outside blogs write about our promotion and link to our site may have had an impact on ranking, which is not acceptable under our own guidelines.
Second, we believe in being open and direct with our users, and we don't condone these kinds of opaque communications. Our internal guidelines are committed to transparency, and this wasn't sufficiently transparent at all.
Because of the way Google's PageRank algorithm works, external links to a site can elevate its position in search results. Google spends a lot of resources trying to protect against people in effect buying a high search rank.